The '70s

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/seventies_chic_small.jpg
Camouflage for the 20th and three quarters century

Nite Owl: But the country is disintegrating. What's happened to America? What's happened to The American Dream?
Comedian: It came true. You're lookin' at it.

Ah, the Seesaw Seventies/Sordid Seventies: A time when love was free, peace was the sign of the times, people were shouting "me, me, me" through self-esteem, self-discovery and individual identity, and polyester was the fabric of choice. A period in history where the men wear polyester leisure suits with flaring trouser cuffs and huge ties while sporting heavily sprayed and manicured hair, sideburns included. Not to be outdone, the women wore feathered, Farrah Fawcett hair above their slinky dresses with no bras underneath. Black people sported a huge, poofy Funny Afro as a Take That! to past straightening practices. Heck, even white people had afros if they could grow them! Most people spent at least 92 percent of their waking lives at the disco or behind the wheel of a car big enough to tow the Titanic. Disco music with a tense "waka-chu-waka" beat often plays during chase scenes, or on pornos.

Elsewhere, Western Terrorists (and the Arab ones) are trying to blow up people, the US is still losing in The Vietnam War, and the blockbuster movie is invented, twice. Media Technology reaches a turning point, as 8-track audio cassettes and the first VCRs (U-matic in 1971, Betamax in 1975 and VHS in 1976,) appear for the first time, as do the first Laserdiscs (1978), the very first optical disc storage medium, and the very same technology that would later make CD, DVD, and Blu-Ray possible. However despite the new media technology, the old media technologies, namely the LP and Film are both still king as they had been for most of the 20th century. Movies such as Taxi Driver and The Godfather begin to deal with subjects once considered taboo due to the loosening censorship laws, and pornographic film becomes legal. The world learns the meaning of Kung Fu thanks to a tough little guy from Hong Kong named Bruce Lee, while Evel Knievel Ramp Jumped everything from cars and trucks to double-decker buses and river canyons.

Television is changed forever by such ground breaking shows as All in the Family, M*A*S*H, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Saturday Night Live and Monty Python's Flying Circus. Meanwhile gentle family shows like The Waltons, Little House on the Prairie and The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams found their own audience while The Fonz was ruling the kid's imagination while giving Robin Williams his big time start as the master comedian in Mork & Mindy. Meanwhile, Star Trek: The Original Series is Vindicated by Cable and develops a sizable fanbase, spawning a juggernaut franchise that would not die for... well, ever. While the kids have made the best of The Dark Age of Animation with Saturday Morning Cartoons like Superfriends and Scooby-Doo, they at least had PBS's breakthrough kids shows, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and Sesame Street in their vibrant glory of its youth before they graduated to The Electric Company (1971), Zoom and Big Blue Marble. Traditional TV genres like the variety show had their last hurrah like Sonny And Cher and Donny And Marie while The Muppet Show became a universally hailed worldwide success.

The Bronze Age of Comic Books begins, featuring death, politics, and "ethnic" superheroes for the first time ever since The Comics Code crippled the medium in the 1950s. That happened when Stan Lee wrote a government requested anti-drug Spider-Man story, which the code was dumb enough to refuse to authorize, forcing Lee to diplomatically defy them to considerable praise.

Punk Rock and Disco, two genres of music which continue to influence music to this day come out during this decade, as does the first primitive electronic music under such bands as the German Kraftwerk, Yellow Magic Orchestra from Japan and Suicide from New York City. The break up of The Beatles however was the defining moment of the music era as it created a power vacuum for any aspiring musician to make it big. The early years of the decade nonetheless, are considered to be the zenith of Hard Rock (and rock music, in general), as easy listening was off the charts and modern pop music wouldn't drive rock from the "top-40" until 1976. Alternative Rock, Heavy Metal and Rap Music took their first steps here too.

While this began late in The '60s, the '70s also changed the world completely, shaping it to its form nowadays. The Cold War slows down as American and Soviet relations improve for the first time since 1945. American distrust for authority while brewing during the war, suddenly appears in the wake of the Watergate scandal. Crime and grime are on the rise and respect for law and order - from both criminals and their victims - begins to decline in favour of the good old fashioned "heads blown off" method.

The botched Apollo 13 mission (1970) (Although the feat of getting the astronauts home alive was hailed as a Crowning Moment of Awesome for NASA), the Munich Olympics massacre (1972) and the American defeat in Vietnam (ended in 1975) broke forever the sense of security and confidence Westerners had from 1946, although it began to crumble with the assassinations of John F. Kennedy (in 1963), Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy (both in 1968). Munich was notorious for introducing mass awareness of terrorism and the fallibility of basic security, and it was just the beginning. The energy crisis has Westerners running out of gas for the first time, showing the world just how dependent we all are on the Middle East, thus the post war economic boom that dominated The '50s and The '60s ends in recession, turning the American manufacturing Belt into the "rust belt". The welfare state-based economy begun with the New Deal loses support and gets replaced by the next decade with the lassez-faire "New Economy"; heavily dependent of the banking industry, with its effects of mass speculation making finances more exciting — and risky.

The environmental movement gains rapid speed as a result of the fuel shortages. In 1970, the first Earth Day is held, and in 1971, Greenpeace is founded. Many people worry that the world is on the edge of an environmental catastrophe. Among other things, people go informal with ties and suits being thrown away (except for going to work: "casual fridays" began in The '90s) and fashion rules being eliminated stating that "there are no rules in fashion"; the animal rights movement also has its origin during this period; political correctness is born as well as Moral Guardians raise their voice; single parenthood transitions from taboo to become commonplace while gay rights gain steam; women become an important part of the workplace; divorces quickly begin to outgrow marriages and couples begin to live together without marrying at all.

Covers roughly the period from the Kent State Massacre of 1970 to the election of Ronald Reagan politically (replace with Margaret Thatcher if you're British). Culturally, roughly speaking, it started with the Tate-Labianca murders and the Altamont Free Concert in 1969 and ended with Disco Demolition Night on July 12, 1979. The most representative years are 1972 through 1978: the years before that still have some baggage left over from the '60s (and, in some cases, even the '50s), while at about 1977 the tropes begin to shift: the sideburns get shorter; mass entertainment (movies especially) moves in the direction of pure escapism for the first time since the mid-'60s; the "women's-lib" movement goes mainstream and loses most of its earlier radicalism; and the (then) avant-garde musical styles of punk, New Wave, heavy metal, and (to a lesser extent) rap start to slowly eclipse the more proletarian or petit bourgeois styles of hard rock, R&B, and soft pop. Much of the sleaze and cynicism of the earlier part of the decade also begins to fade by this time: While disco is sweeping the nation, the Watergate legacy is repudiated by the election of the almost ridiculously idealistic and pure-hearted Jimmy Carter as President, and the rise of the Moral Majority within fundamentalist and evangelical Christian sects does a creditable job of rolling back (for a time, and to a degreenote ) the sexual carnival of the '60s. But, needless to say, neither lasted beyond 1979 (the Carter administration, if not dead on arrival, clearly died with the hostages crisis), setting the bases for the turbulent 1980-1985 period.

A convenient Butt-Monkey or Hate Sink for modern observers, being with The Oughts the decade everyone loves to hate (or hates to love), although some consider The Roaring '20s, The '50s and The '80s to be Old Shames. It doesn't help that other "uncomfortable" eras like The Great Depression, The '60s and The '90s have had their redeeming qualities. In later decades however, there have been attempts to rehabilitate the time period in the public mind by portraying more of its liberalism and cultural diversity.

See Also: The Roaring '20s, The Great Depression, The '40s, The '50s, The '60s, The '80s, The '90s, Turn of the Millennium and The New '10s.


Popular tropes from this time period are:

  • '70s Hair
  • Absolute Cleavage: For men, it's the hair; for women, you know...
  • The Alleged Car: Pollution control systems were in their infancy so stalling, sputtering, and backfiring were often the order of the day. Lemons: The World's Worst Cars makes note that during the seventies, "quality control" took a nose-dive. Noted auto journalist Peter Egan once dismissed the entire decade as The Era of Stupid Design while Dave Barry theorized that the first generation of American subcompacts were a Batman Gambit to discredit the very concept of a non-aircraft-carrier sized car.
  • Awful British Sex Comedy: While these originated in France, the Brit Percy and Confessions series became the Trope Codifier for low-budget softcore comedies, which also sparked imitators in Italy, Spain and Argentina. The hard-R comedies of the late '70s and early '80s, such as Animal House, were Hollywood's response.
  • Be Yourself: The main driving force of The Me Decade.
  • But Not Too White: Bronzed skin was at its peak as a beauty standard, at least until the public awareness of the health risks such as skin cancer. Though cosmetic companies quickly jumped on this opportunity to market fake tans. The main reason tanning halted in the '80s was the trend of neon makeup, which shows up brighter on pale skin.
  • The Blockbuster Age of Hollywood surged late in the decade from the ashes of the New Hollywood.
  • The Bronze Age of Comic Books
  • Buccaneer Broadcaster: Illegal radio stations operating on boats to avoid prosecutions where still popular, but new government laws caused many of them to shut down. Many left to join mainstream radio stations, who'd already started to play more pop music that young people would enjoy.
  • Cold War: Still going on, though new peace treaties made this a less hostile time period between the two superpowers.
  • Commune: News about young people joining communes and being brainwashed by religious cults were still in the news, with the Jim Jones cult and the hundreds of deaths that it caused as the most disturbing example.
  • Dance Sensation: A staple early in the decade, reaching its' peak with 1975's "The Hustle", one of the songs which popularized disco music.
  • Darker and Edgier: The 1970s are usually seen as the hangover after the happy expectations everybody had during the golden sixties. The seventies were dominated by terrorist bombings, the Watergate affair, serial killings and the economic crisis. This was also the decade when people realized pollution was becoming a serious threat to nature. The happy peace loving hippie movement slowly petered out and was replaced by more commercialized trends like Glam Rock, Arena Rock, bubblegum pop and Disco. More drug-related deaths were reported, with Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison as the most famous examples. The death of Elvis Presley in 1977 also proved that the old Rock & Roll genre was now officially dead. Punk Rock came in as a nihilistic reaction against all this stuff, but even they quickly became commercialized as New Wave Music and Post-Punk made their entrance.
  • Double Feature: Two movies for the price of one was a mainstay in popular culture.
  • Dork Age: Considered to be this from The '80s until late into the Turn of the Millennium.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: The Trope Namer was produced from 1971 to 1980.
  • Exploitation Film: Examples existed in earlier decades, but the genre is associated most with the 1970s, when entire new subgenres came into existence, like biker movies, cannibal movies, nunsploitation movies, slasher films,...
  • The Fashionista, as stated in a Vogue 1970 issue, there are no rules in fashion, and following the failure of the midi skirt as the de facto fashion statment, a fashion storm that embraces diversity started, and left a mark for future designers with different flavours of style in the catwalk, then leaving a disaster on the next decade.
  • The '50s: Nothing says The Seventies like nostalgia for The '50s, as evidenced by American Graffiti, Grease and Happy Days, and a slew of other shows.
    • The trope would repeat itself in a similar way when nostalgia for The Seventies became all the rage in The '90s, even if this time it was little more than an excuse to get closer to the '50s (except for the ocassional Disco Dan).
    • The New '10s have featured a somewhat more sincere nostalgia for this decade, and with '90s nostalgia becoming Serious Business will likely bring the trope to a full circle.
  • Foreign Culture Fetish:
    • For Americans and much of the West, everything that are Chinese stepped into the scene after China slowly reopened its doors to the world, and President Nixon visited the country in 1972. The country brought forth stir-fried noodles, qipaos chopsticks, pandas, Buddhism, Confucian and Taoist thoughts, acupuncture, and most especially, kung-fu!
    • The decade defined this trope regarding the embrace of ethnic diversity. Everyone daring enough would have worn clothing with African, Asian, Native American, Middle Eastern, or Eastern European motifs in it. Some would wear their respective motifs to embrace their heritage, and others would share each others motifs as a sign of globalization and openness.
    • For non-Americans, America, especially New York, was the financial and cultural hub of the decade.
  • Funny Afro: Hairstyle worn by many black people.
  • The Generation Gap: Still prominent.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: The short period of stability, economic growth, and liberalism from the end of The '60s onward in the Communist Bloc allowed a bit of openness to Western media, which made a lot of East Europeans to adopt the fashions of the age (Russian Humour also stabbed with the sharp point of irony the fashion of flaring bellbottom trousers and '70s Hair), but they clung to them even 30 years too late, inasmuch as an average Russian from the early 2000s may think outfits with knitted sweaters and ties, jeans with fringes, checkered coats with elbow patches and handlebar moustaches, homes with bizarre pattern furniture, bars with pinball machines and nightclubs with disco balls are perfectly acceptable. Only by the mid-2000s the middle aged generation gradually abandoned them.
  • Glorious Mother Russia: With every man a KGB agent and every woman a Brawn Hilda, with a few Sensual Slavs thrown in for good measure.
  • Granola Girl: Concerns about health and environment led to the inception of "healthy products", although this would not really take off until The '90s.
  • Gratuitous Disco Sequence: How do we spice things up? By having people do some disco dancing halfway through, of course.
  • Greaser Delinquents: The subculture essentially died out in the last years of The '60s, save for a few holdouts in the Midwest, and what was left of that died out in the early 1970s. However, portrayals of greasers in fiction and pop culture start to pop up during this decade as nostalgia for The '50s starts to set in. The most famous greaser delinquent in fiction, The Fonz, is a pop culture icon of The Seventies.
  • It's All About Me: Well, it's not called The "ME" Decade for nothing. Tom Wolfe, coining the term, said that the '70s were the "Third Great Awakening." People acted more out of self-interest, contrasted with the pulling together for the common good of The Great Depression and World War II generations, the conformity of The '50s and the communitarianism of The '60s counterculture.
  • I Was Quite a Fashion Victim: In late works about this decade.
  • Jive Turkey: Black people speaking in jive were a staple of popular culture back then.
  • LGBT Fanbase: A phenomenon making its public revival after the beginning of the modern gay rights movement and the easing of mandatory media/postal censorship.
  • Limited Animation: Most of the worst products of The Dark Age of Animation would come out during this decade, and were strictly kids stuff, except for the occasional odd exception, like Ralph Bakshi's films (along with international and independent animation from Sally Cruikshank, NFB, Will Vinton, etc)
  • Lighter and Softer: When compared the decades before it and after (at least the first half of it).
  • Martial Arts Movie: Kung fu movies broke to the mainstream thanks to the success of Bruce Lee.
  • Messy Hair: Many people worn long hair, until punk became popular.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: Actually, a new unisex bedsheet was introduced during the decade, mainly for Fanservice, during bedroom/sex scenes in R-rated movies; unlike the L-shaped His 'n' Hers Bedsheet that falls to the man's waist and covers up the woman's bust, the unisex version also falls to the woman's waist and leaves her bust uncovered.
  • Moral Guardians: Focus on the Family was founded in 1977 and the Moral Majority was founded in 1979. Also the New Right movement, which cleaned up the excesses and debauchery of the decade, only to make their own excessive messes by the following decade.
  • Music of the 1970s: Continuing with the last decade's move on experimentation, this decade gave out two styles: loudness and glamour, which would give out a crazy yet effective blend by the following decade. What we got are:
    • Afrobeat: The genre originated in the 1960s, but became very popular in the 1970s.
    • Disco: Became an underground hit in gay Afro-American night clubs, until it hit mainstream with Saturday Night Fever, which completely invented a lifestyle to it that had nothing in common with the original disco culture. By 1980 the disco fad ran out, creating the trope Deader Than Disco.
    • Funk: Still very popular, with James Brown and Sly and the Family Stone as frontrunners and new groups like Parliament, Funkadelic, Earth, Wind & Fire taking Afro-American culture by storm.
    • Jazz: Came back with a modest surge of popularity due to 1920s/1930s nostalgia, even more complex improvisations, and blending in with other genres such as Rock, Funk and Soul.
    • Glam Rock: Between 1970 and 1976, with David Bowie, Lou Reed, T Rex, Sweet... As the major examples.
    • Heavy Metal: In its earliest stages. Especially Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper and Judas Priest.
    • Hip-Hop: Near the end of the 1970s the genre became notable, with The Sugar Hill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" (1979) as the first mainstream rap hit.
    • J-Pop: First started getting it real start here with artists like Candies and Miyuki Nakajima.
    • New Wave Music: Emerged alongside punk rock (see below).
    • Progressive Rock: Started in the 1960s, but is closely associated with the early 1970s, until Punk Rock completely made it unhip, pretentious and ridiculous.
    • Proto Punk: Started in the late 1960s, but only started getting more popular when Punk Rock broke to the mainstream and its influence on the genre was acknowledged.
    • Psychedelic Rock: Started losing its popularity around the mid 1970s, when Punk Rock and New Wave Music came about.
    • Punk Rock: Started as a movement at large during this decade.
    • Reggae: Still only popular in the Carribean at the start of the decade it finally caught on in the rest of the world thanks to the enormous succes of Bob Marley.
    • Ska: Experienced an unexpected revival in the United Kingdom, with British bands like Madness and The Specials adapting the style.
    • Soul: The popularity of soul started fading out near the mid 1970s, when Disco became the new fad.
  • New-Age Retro Hippie: Hippies were very prominent in the early 1970s, but after 1974 they became less noticeable.
  • New Hollywood: Some of the most artistically interesting and daring Hollywood movies were made during this decade.
  • Nice Shoes: Platform shoes were highly fashionable during this decade.
  • No Fame, No Wealth, No Service (when it came to clubs like Studio 54)
  • Older Than They Think: You may relate open shirts and bell-bottoms to disco... but both styles were originally popular fifty years before.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Every article of clothing was REALLY pimped-out during this decade no matter what Fashion Designer, brand, or style you're into; whether you're into the light and free hippie, the glittery Disco, the frivolous Glam Rock, the edgy Punk, the exotic and ethnic, or the glamorous retro scene.
  • Porn Stache: The stereotypical '70s man had either that or a full beard.
  • Pretty in Mink: Aside from the pimp coats, sheepskin and white rabbit jackets for ladies became popular.
  • Real Is Brown: The palette for the decade is generously filled with browns, oranges, and earth-tones; a middle ground for the space-agey hues of The '60s and the hi-contrast neon shades of The '80s.
  • The Roaring '20s: Not all nostalgia was for The '50s. Even the days of jazz and bootleg booze got their slice of the cake in this heavily nostalgic decade.
  • Serial Killer: Several of the more infamous ones (Ted Bundy, David Berkowitz, John Wayne Gacy, BTK, The Zodiac, etc.) became active during the decade.
  • Spoon Bending: A popular magic trick popularized in the 1970's, now associated with psychics and the paranormal.
  • Sweater Girl: Came back from The '50s with a vengeance.
  • Two Decades Behind: Many elements from the 50's and 60's stood specially in the first half of the decade.
  • Trope Makers: With TV and a reformulated Hollywood still influencing media, we got:
  • Unkempt Beauty: Continuing from the late 60s, the hippie-influenced bare-faced healthy tan look was the mainstream look for many women after being fed up with makeup as an essential part of feminine beauty. In response, the cosmetics industry created products resembling that "no makeup" look. Of course, heavy, glittery makeup would be reserved for evenings at the disco. Or for punks. Or for the next decade.
  • Vapor Wear: Bras were out. Visible nipples were in.
  • Western Terrorists: Terrorism was a major threat in the 1970s, with Muslim terrorists from the PLO, El Fatah and the Muslim Brotherhood making themselves known. But they weren't the only ones. Left wing terrorist groups such as the Baader-Meinhof movement, aka the Red Armee Fraktion, scared Germany and controlled most of the news headlines. In Northern Ireland The Troubles brought the country on the verge of civil war, with terrorist attacks by the IRA.
  • Who Wears Short Shorts?: Everyone wear hot pants!
  • World of Badass: The decade defined Badass.
  • Wuxia: Became more popular in the West.

Works that are set (but not made) in this time period are:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 

    Comics 
  • The final issues of the 1980s series The New Adventures of Superboy suggested that Smallville had finally reached the 1970s. The remainder of the book's run saw a plot (unfinished thanks to the book's cancellation) about Smallville's businesses, including the Kents' general store, being threatened by the construction (under shady circumstances) of its first shopping mall. The last issue of the run also sees Lana Lang ask Clark to go with her to see a concert by the Carpenters. Shortly after the title's cancellation, 1985's Superman: The Secret Years (a miniseries telling how Superboy finally changed his name to Superman) had a flashback to Clark's final year of high school, explicitly set in the early '70s. The miniseries itself sees a college-age Clark asked by a roommate to go with him to see the "new Woody Allen film" Annie Hall.
  • Stray Bullets
  • Sunny Side Up, published in 2015, takes place in the 1976 and serves as a fictionalized Autobiography of its author, Jennifer L. Holm.

    Films 

    Fanfiction 

    Literature 
  • The Big Book Of The 70s (referred to as "the decade where nothing happened", although the chapter on the birth of terrorism is particularly harsh in hindsight)
  • The Julie Albright stories of American Girl were set in San Francisco in 1974 (as much as "Julie Finds a Way" for Nintendo DS and "Julie Saves the Eagles" as a (PC ONLY) CD-ROM game). Unfortunately, the American Girl "Julie Albright" video games were now discontinued partly due to the re-branding of a newer book series. While the (PC ONLY) children's CD-ROM game, "American Girl: Julie Saves the Eagles", is available for download at a abandonware website here, its DS counterpart, "American Girl: Julie Finds a Way", can still be found through web stores such as Amazon and eBay.
  • A great deal of The Dark Tower series by Stephen King
  • The unnamed Harry Potter prequel, which takes place three years before Harry's birth, thus was set in 1977.
  • The Lovely Bones
  • Replay - spans 25 years. Several times.
  • Fyra systrar by Solveig Olsson-Hultgren.

    Live-Action TV 

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 

    Western Animation 

Works that were made in this time period:

    Animation 

    Anime & Manga 

    Comedy 

    Comic Books 

    Comic Strips 

    Companies 
  • Chuck E. Cheese
  • Apple Computer got its start during this time too, although it wouldn't be a serious competitor to IBM until the mid-'80s.
  • Nike adopted its iconic "swoosh" logo in the closing years of the decade.
  • McDonald's brought fast food to the masses, introducing breakfast items on its menu for the first time and opening its first foreign restaurants (first McDonald's in Great Britain in 1974). The Big Mac hamburger (introduced in 1968) first became popular at this time. Ronald McDonald (who had gotten a classy makeover in 1967 with the now-familiar yellow jumpsuit and striped socks) was joined in McDonaldland by his friends Birdie, the Hamburglar, the Grimace (originally an octopus-like creature who loved milkshakes) and the Fry Kids. Mayor McCheese is a relic of this era, nowadays only turning up in parodies.

    Eastern European Animation 

    Films 

    Han-guk Manhwa Aenimeisyeon 

    Literature 

    Live-Action TV 

    Magazines 
  • High Times. Started in 1974.
  • Hustler. Started in 1974.
  • National Lampoon. Started in April, 1970.
  • Playgirl. Started in 1973.
  • Soldier of Fortune. Started in 1975.

    Music 

    Music genres 

    Pinballs 

    Pro Wrestling 

    Radio 

    Rides and Attractions 

    Tabletop Games 

    Theatre 

    Theme Parks 

    Toys 

    Video Games 

    Western Animation 

Alternative Title(s): The Seesaw Seventies, The Me Decade

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheSeventies