The Eighties – A Documentary
Recently watched The Eighties – A Documentary on Netflix. My wife and I are hooked on documentaries and we will watch one on almost anything but this one, covering one of the decades that we both grew up on was a no-brainer.Add to that the fact that Tom Hanks is one of the executive producers and it was put out by CNN and we were really ready to be entertained.
This is actually a mini-series that aired in 2016 and has now made its way to Netflix. The title says it all: The Eighties. Everything from MTV to Reagan, AIDS to technology. All of those phenomenon, both pop-culture and otherwise, that made one of the most impactful decades in modern times. The creators of this series make a great argument that the eighties set the trends, the technology, the entertainment that we would still be following today. So much has changed from the 80s but once you dig into this series you may find that less has changed than you think.
- Raised on Television – Prior to the 80s, there were like 3 stations. You watched what they had on or you didn’t – those were the options. All of sudden in the eighties, you got to have choices. Stations dedicated to niche markets and topics, sports centered, news centered, music centered. There was a channel for every taste and a taste for every channel.
- The Reagan Revolution – Ronald Reagan, love him or hate him, was one of our most influential political figures of the last 40 or 50 years. His policies, his handling of the cold war, his fiscal structure – all of it made the 80s a time of rise for the upper class and a very tough time for those in the middle to lower ends of society. His policies still affect us today and have since he left office. All of that being said he was one of the first presidents to really make himself seen on mass media all the time. You had channels devoted to politics and news and they loved to put a camera in Reagan’s face just to see what he might say or do.
- The Fight Against AIDS – People born past the outbreak of the AIDS epidemic don’t remember how scary, how devasting and how much bad information was being pumped out. In particular, the terror that people felt was palpable. AIDS is still very much a threat, but during the 80s it was something to strike fear in the hearts of everyone and to really divide the nation over.
- Tear Down this Wall – Communism took its first big blow as the cold war started to wind down and the Berlin wall was torn asunder. The footage of the people of East Germany and West Germany coming together to remove this literal barrier… those scenes, that footage, is worth the time spent watching this series.
- The Tech Boom – The personal computer, the video game – all of those pieces that we take for granted today – came out and grabbed hold of our culture in the 80s. The computer was this clunky piece of tech that no one really understood why they needed. Video games were the first pieces of tech that we could interact with. Tech was and still is king.
- Greed is Good – Financial gains and losses were also a trademark of the 80s. Wealth grew, poverty grew, Wall Street grew. Finance became much bigger and had a bigger impact on the culture than any point since the Great Depression.
- Video Killed the Radio Star – I want my MTV. Back when MTV actually showed music videos, they changed the way that we decided what music was popular. The music wasn’t always good but the videos were always entertaining. I think they missed some of my favs but they did a good job of cramming the change in music into one segment of this series. If you think that MTV was made for everyone from the start, think again. They take a good look at the lack of diversity that MTV faced to begin with and how Michael Jackson had to blackmail his way onto the channel.