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The '80s

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'Twas a good decade for pop culture.note 

"Legend has it that man once washed his jeans in pure acid!"

The Excessive Eighties: a time where you wake up before you go-go when you want to kick off your Sunday shoes as you walk the dinosaur like an Egyptian for 500 miles, hear doves cry or feel the Punky power like a virgin while you moonwalk the Thriller.

All the men were preppies who wore pastel suits with narrow ties, drove sports cars that Lee Iacocca personally stood behind and traded stocks on Wall Street — after all, as Oscar Wilde said, nothing says success like excess. (Unless they happened to be teenagers, in which case they were Totally Radical or studied Karate and learnt the meaning of "Wax On, Wax Off".) Everyone had huge hairdos, enough make-up to sink a ship and power suits with shoulderpads big enough to knock the giant mirrored sunglasses off anyone who walked within a three foot radius of them. And those without them had flat-tops and wore gym clothes and break-danced on top of cardboard. Millennials (then known as "Echo Boomers" and later "Generation Y") started being born, one day to become the young adults of The Turn of the Millennium.

Computing technology first became a true cultural force in this decade, starting a trend that would keep on snowballing to this very day. The Eighties was the decade of cell phones literally sized and shaped like bricks, jokes about being unable to program VCRs, the death of Betamax, and the beginnings of personal computers and gaming consoles beginning to proliferate inside homes, perhaps one of the trends from this decade with the largest of cultural implications. Cable television also took off big time, with MTV, TBS, HBO, and CNN becoming household acronyms, though the video itself was all grainy, low-definition analog. However, this still looked better than the often-fuzzy antenna-based picture before cable.

Conversely, the eighties were also the high water mark of analog culture. CD players were a new and exotic technology. Heck, digital watches were still a (relatively) new and exotic technology. Most people still got their music on LP or cassettes (though the CD format would begin to overtake both late into the decade) and their news from newspapers delivered in the predawn darkness by Free-Range Children. The Commodore 64 was the most common personal computer and an actual PC cost as much as a used car, especially if it was equipped with one of those new and exotic five or ten megabyte hard drives. The internet was still confined to academia, the World Wide Web was still just a pipe dream, and what little connectivity existed was through Electronic bulletin board services (BBS) accessed over analog phone lines using screeching 1200 or 2400 baud modems.

In the US, it was also the secondnote  wave of The Japanese Invasion, the inklings of which started in '78 with the dub of Battle of the Planets, continuing on with Space Battleship Yamato ('79), Voltron ('84), getting even more hardcore with Robotech in '85, and hitting its apex with the nationwide release of AKIRA ('88). Japan additionally managed to break through in the US via the gaming industry, with the success of Nintendo's Donkey Kong and wider success of the Nintendo Entertainment System leading Japan to become the leading theater of the video game industry in the US following the North American video game industry crash in 1983. Names like Capcom and Konami became major players in the software side of the industry with loads of smash titles that would eventually grow into major franchises, and while western developers were still around and making games for Nintendo's system, it was the Japanese industry that served as the key focal point.

While other hardware developers would fail to adequately crack Nintendo's dominance for most of the decade, that all changed in 1987, when a joint venture between NEC and Hudson Soft resulted in the creation of the TurboGrafx-16, which became a surprise success in its native Japan and outsold the NES, spurring Nintendo into action in creating a competing system to keep their place in the industry intact. The following year, Sega would introduce its own TurboGrafx rival, the Sega Genesis, with its 1989 debut in the US managing to both successfully stamp out the TurboGrafx's presence in the west and present the first real challenge to Nintendo as a hardware manufacturer. This battle, however, wouldn't truly take hold until the first years of the next decade, in part because it took Nintendo until 1990 (in Japan) and 1991 (in the US) to release their own new system.

Despite major successes in animation and video games, though, the Japanese Invasion never quite managed to crack any other fields of popular media in the same way. The closest anyone got was in music, via both the flash-in-the-pan success of Pink Lady (which promptly collapsed after NBC tried to capitalize on them via a disastrous variety show in the spring of 1980) and the longer-lasting but ultimately forgotten success of Yellow Magic Orchestra. While YMO's legacy would persist through their huge influence on later Synth-Pop musicians, they themselves would be reduced to a cult favorite at best decades later; such was the fate of most other Japanese media, in large part due to the wider difficulties in attempting to localize them for western audiences compared to video games and anime.

On the homefront, the 1980s produced a rash of pop-cultural icons that today are looked upon, at worst, with Affectionate Parody, and at best, as the national ideal. The conservative political culture of the era meant two rather contradictory things for the production of pop-culture; on the one hand, the surge of private enterprise together with new media technologies allowed corporations such as Hasbro an unprecedented ability to build massive franchises around their products, typically with a TV show and accompanying toys, but on the other hand, Moral Guardian complaints would challenge the ethics of making a show that was "essentially one large commercial" in addition to railing against any work of media that didn't meet their rigid standards. The result was the rather spoof-worthy And Knowing Is Half the Battle segment common to many mass franchise shows, shoving an Anvilicious moral into the action. Fortunately, these were conveniently located after the actual plot, so kids could just turn it off at that point and run down to buy the toys. Besides, the segments make great joke fodder. The prominence of moral guardians during this decade would have considerable ramifications in later decades, with "mature" content being galvanized as the artistic ideal from the 1990's onwardnote  and companies who appealed to the idea of "family-friendliness" (most notably Nintendo) facing nothing short of ridicule once the conservative culture of the 80's gave way to 90's and 2000's cynicism.

Ironically, given its modern reputation as a breeding ground for nostalgia bait, the 80's were probably one of the most nostalgia-heavy decades in modern history, at least prior to the 2010's. Specifically, the 80's were extremely kind to The '60s, owed to the fact that this marked the point where the Baby Boomer generation (who, as the name implies, consisted of far more people than previous generations) reached adulthood and entered areas of the workforce where they could make their longing for their childhoods known, aided by the conservative culture of the time that emphasized the supposed glory of "the Good Old Days." Ronald Reagan, for instance, ran on the promise to "Make America Great Again," perfectly encapsulating the public sentiment at the time that society had strayed from a supposed Golden Age from decades prior that historians will be quick to argue didn't actually existnote . Of course, the phenomenon wasn't a right-wing-exclusive one: even left-wingers held a considerable sense of longing for two decades prior, though often for different reasons than the other side of the aisle (e.g. an emphasis on the sociopolitical progress made during that time).

Nowhere could this 60's nostalgia be more vividly found than in music: every veteran 60's act who achieved considerable levels of popularity during that decade were either still going strong in this decade or made a high-profile comeback, and production values throughout the decade were rife with 60's callbacks, from the heavy emphasis on reverb to the prominence of sax and horn parts (now achievable through synthesizers and samplers) to the amount of acts who flat-out covered old 60's hits. Even the Alternative Rock crowd, famous for their rejection of mainstream music standards, took heavy inspiration from 60's rock, albeit with none of the emphasis on synths and horns that mainstream musicians had and with some modifications to get rid of the more poorly-aged aspects (no weird stereo mixing here, for one). This was perhaps most apparent with The Smiths, who not only harked back to 60's rock and Baroque Pop in their songs, but also featured cropped and color-altered stills from 60's movies on their album covers; in fact, the band broke up in part because frontman Morrissey's huge emphasis on 60's throwbacks was getting on everyone else's nerves.

Most significantly, Beatlemania reemerged among the general public following the high-profile assassination of John Lennon and how the consequent shock of it resulted in his surviving bandmates taking the time to tie up loose ends and rebuild burned bridges between each other before it was too late. The second wave truly galvanized with a series of highly important business decisions in the waning years of this decade: in 1987, the band's entire UK back-catalog was released on CD for the first time (consequently cementing those albums as the "canon" ones, much to the confusion of Americans who only had the butchered Capitol Records albums to go off of), in 1988, the band was inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and oversaw the release of Past Masters, a two-CD compilation of all their non-album singles, and in 1989, Paul McCartney finally fully embraced his Beatles heritage and cleared up the last few legal entanglements that had forced Apple Records into dormancy, enabling them to resume activity for the first time in ages. While the second wave of Beatlemania would continue into following decades (hell, it's still going on to some extent), it was most prominent during the 1980's, acting as a vivid microcosm of the sheer weight 60's nostalgia held during that time, with record companies going back into the vaults to reissue other '60s acts on CD as fast as possible to sell to affluent Baby Boomers.

Politically, in the first part of the decade, Cold War tensions continued to escalate. The US did things like invading Grenada and the Strategic Defense Initiative. Some accuse this of being an intentional move by the West to render the economically inept Soviet Union infeasible by drawing its resources away from things like infrastructure and feeding its people, which market economies could accomplish easily. While this is, essentially, what ended up happening (though more complicated than that in real life; in Eastern Europe the decade's real deathblow to communism was considered to have been all the new media technology), the fact that the other possible outcome of such a strategy was global thermonuclear annihilation had a profound impact on Western media tropes.

The second part of the decade, however, couldn't be more different. Mikhail Gorbachev, spry for a CPSU leader at age 54 (this was the only time in the Cold War that the Soviet leader was substantially younger than the American), shook up the by-then sclerotic Soviet leadership upon taking power in 1985. Gorbachev restructured the economy (perestroika) for "accelerated" development (uskoreniye), encouraged openness (glasnost), made tentative moves towards democracy (demokratizatsiya), and went Karting with Reagan. For a hot second in 1988-89, it seemed like the USSR had reached a final rapprochement with the West. And then came its fall.

What is now being called "Geek Culture"note  was, at the time, just a very loose assortment of non-mainstream fragmented interests and esoterica; not yet the monolithic commercial label that has become more corporatized in recent years. The conclusion of the original Star Wars trilogy was immediately followed by an explosion of a diverse amount of subgenres, cult shows, films and other media as different from each other as could be. The "Star Wars fatigue" of the early 80s saw audiences receptive to many new and completely different offerings. There was literally something for everyone without one thing trying desperately to be too many things for too many people. This decade also saw the official introduction of Doctor Who outside of Britain through its memorable run on public television. Comic book fans discovered the diverse world of Independent Comics and Manga as refreshing alternatives to the Big Two (Marvel and DC). The cartoon shows of this decade were memorable for being well drawn and purely escapist, adventure driven and moving away from the Illustrated Radio format of the previous decades. Literary science fiction returned to being fun after the overall style of New Wave Science Fiction began to grate on readers and age into irrelevancy with its authors. Douglas Adams is one of the most significant authors to launch off the post New Wave era in written science fiction with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Most obviously, dystopian Speculative Fiction, particularly set After the End 20 Minutes into the Future, enjoyed a surge; enter Cyberpunk. On the other hand, Star Trek became a defiantly optimistic mainstream Sci Fi mainstay with the feature film series and its return to live action TV with Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Throughout this era, there came new problems like the spread of AIDS, which created a public health panic that dealt first a body blow to the gay community, with anti-gay people treating them as modern lepers (even though that community took the danger seriously far sooner than others), as well as ending the sexual liberation movement of the previous two decades by presenting an STI that couldn't be easily swept away with antibiotics (not that antibiotics would last forever, given later findings on drug-resistant strains of pathogens). However, the epidemic paradoxically later proved a partial blessing in disguise for gay rights as stricken people like Rock Hudson were shoved out of the closet, forcing the public to realize that LGBTI people were all around them, much like themselves. The Eighties also had the highest murder rate in U.S. history, almost twice what it is today. As for society as a whole, well, the left and right weren't quite the sodium-and-water combination that dominated the bulk of the '70s, though the dominance of conservatism with the Reagan and Thatcher administrations and the continuing fallout from the political blunders of the preceding decade (i.e. Watergate & Vietnam in the US and a severe economic recession in the UK) still kept them at odds with one another.

Politically speaking, the decade lasted roughly from January 20, 1981 with both Ronald Reagan's Presidential inauguration and the end of the Iran Hostage Crisis 20 minutes later to the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989 and the Soviet Union dissolving on December 26, 1991, amounting to almost 11 years. Sometimes Margaret Thatcher being elected Prime Minister in 1979 is considered the start, especially in the UK. Culturally, the decade lasted roughly from Disco Demolition Night on July 12, 1979, the murder of John Lennon on December 8, 1980, and the launch of MTV on August 1, 1981 to the release of Nirvana's album Nevermind on September 24, 1991 and in 1992 with both the rise of Grunge and the emergence of the heroin chic fad. It's worth nothing that Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and/or Tom Cruise were involved in 9 of the 10 highest grossing films of the decade.

It's currently the Eighties in much of Fictionland, making for an impressive forty-year nostalgia lag, though nostalgia for the early Nineties has been rapidly picking up steam since the beginning of the new Twenties.

See Also: The Roaring '20s, The Great Depression, The '40s, The '50s, The '60s, The '70s, The '90s, Turn of the Millennium, The New '10s, and The New '20s.

Popular tropes from this time period include:

  • The Aggressive Drug Dealer: Crack cocaine and heroin caught on big during this decade, along with their pushers, hence the establishment of this trope as part of the larger "Just Say No" movement.
  • The Alleged Car: the "Malaise Era" of cars continued apace, with a mass changeover to front-wheel-drive adding a lot of new, untested driveline components to the existing stew of cost-cutting/"take this job and shove it" quality control and analog emissions controls whose prime directive seemed to be getting a few more years out of existing carburetor tooling (the switch to EFI really gathered steam at mid-decade). Japanese cars had none of these problems, but protectionist "voluntary" import quotas in America and throughout Western Europe constrained supply of those and meant that list price was a starting point for dealer markup, not bargaining down from.
  • Amazonian Beauty: The beauty standard of the decade, owing to the consciousness of health and fitness during that era, with actors like Brooke Shields and models like Cindy Crawford showing their athletic, healthy tone.
  • Animated Adaptation: Of practically everything, including films, TV shows, comic books, video games, action figures, dolls, plush toys, music videos, and real-life celebrities!
  • Anime: Called "Japanimation" at the time, the medium started becoming somewhat popular in the US in the '80s (although it would take until the second half of the '90s until it truly exploded in mainstream popularity).
  • Audience-Alienating Era: The decade was considered this back in the 1990s and most of the 2000s. Even today it often competes with the 50s and the 70s for this crown.
  • Awesomeness Withdrawal: The end of the original Star Wars trilogy exited on a high note, and everyone assumed that the Star Wars Saga had said all it had to say (in film anyway; the expanded universe of comics and novels was a completely different story). There was a "Star Wars fatigue" at the time which made audiences well receptive to all that was new and different. This is why the 80s was the most diverse period for creators of multimedia.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: What could make a character be more badass than the concept of powerdressing emerging from this decade?
  • Big Ol' Eyebrows: Thanks to Brooke Shields, bushy, natural eyebrows were stylish for women. One rare notable exception was Cyndi Lauper, who had flapper-esque pencil-thin brows. This would be followed by extreme plucking and tweezing and penciling to the skinniest brows in '90s and early 2000s. Then in The New '10s, glamorous thick eyebrows came back with a vengeance, though much more groomed than the unkempt brows of the '80s (which were often the only part of '80s makeup kept "natural.")
  • Boyish Short Hair: Even though massive manes were definitely the mainstream, a lot more women and girls were sporting short (though still just as poofy and ridiculous) haircuts, especially compared to the early '70s and its love of long hair and feminine bobs. Businesswomen wore Power Hair to match their power suits, and female New Wave and punk musicians often had the same spiky, dramatic haircuts as the men.
  • Canada Does Not Exist: A wave of low-budget cop and action-adventure dramas start being produced in Canada, but primarily for U.S. consumption. This leads to the weird phenomenon of shows which take place in a "nowhereland" that is neither fully the US nor completely Canada.
  • Conspicuous Consumption: This was the decade where it was cool to spend big, with malls taking off and making shopping a recreational activity. Credit card usage also took off here.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Thanks to the movie Wall Street, an enduring image of this time. Part of the economic climate of the time were Ronald Reagan's reforms and the Black Monday crash of 1987.
  • Cyberpunk: Kicked off by Blade Runner and Neuromancer.
  • Dance Sensation: Michael Jackson, anyone? Or Flash Dance? And Foot Loose? Dirty Dancing? Jazzcercise? Aerobics? Hip-Hop?
  • Darker and Edgier: Even though this was a fun decade for many people, it also had many negative sides:
    • Crack cocaine was created and many people became destructively addicted to it; to make matters worse, the turf wars between dealers and gangs decimated many black neighborhoods in big cities.
    • The sexually transmitted disease AIDS became an epidemic. The first two cases of patients dying from AIDS had taken place in 1959, but there are only a handful of known cases dating to the 1960s and 1970s. At least 121 AIDS-related deaths took place between 1980 and 1981. By the end of the 1980s, the disease had spread worldwide and there were over a million known patients. And in the U.S., the initial stigma of AIDS as a "gay disease" contributed to unfair ostracization of its victims and LGBT people in general.
    • The beginning of the (currently ongoing) "war on drugs" resulted in skyrocketing incarceration rates, hundreds of thousands of people ending up behind bars for nonviolent offenses.
      • By contrast, everyone could get behind the big crackdown on the deadly Drunk Driver traffic menace, which finally got taken seriously in a Dude, Not Funny! way.
      • Likewise, smoking found itself marginalized still more with the health menace of second-hand smoke becoming common knowledge, causing a groundswell of efforts to discourage the habit and isolate smokers.
    • An enormous crime wave hit America at this time: this is where NYC got its image as a crime-ridden Hellhole of apathy and darkness, and why so many action movies starring Cowboy Cops were popular.
    • More generally, the 1980s were the time when the American middle class began losing ground in terms of GDP share as more people became part of the upper class. Socio-economic inequalities more or less kept in check for a half-century started growing again, creating an increasing polarization between economic classes.
    • The arrival of MTV had a downside as well. Music videos became so dominant that any artists who played instruments were now expected to create a music video for every hit single they released, because otherwise it would not receive airplay. For some serious artists this was a huge setback, because they were now expected to "act" and "look good" on camera to appeal to the record buying public. By the end of the 1980s many music fans couldn't imagine a music record existing without some kind of video attached to it. Thus several pop stars who looked attractive but couldn't sing or play a note on their instrument were launched to make quick bucks.
    • In the first half of the 1980s, many people across the world felt frightened because President Reagan ordered more nuclear missiles to be placed in Europe to defend the US against the Soviet Union. He also endorsed a brilliant plan, "Star Wars", to protect the USA in space against a possible Soviet attack...the actual intention was to force the Soviet Union to spend more than it could afford. Fear for a Third World War and nuclear testing lead to numerous protests and protest singles. Only when Mikhail Gorbachev became Soviet leader in 1985 did tensions between the USA and USSR start to diminish.
    • The Chernobyl disaster (1986) also lead to a universal fear for nuclear power disasters, especially when a huge radioactive cloud flew over Europe, having disastrous effects on the local farming industry. Since then the place has become a Ghost Town and a place where plants and animals have won back ground on humans.
  • Denser and Wackier: Especially compared to the 70s: the fashion and the big, big '80s Hair is just the icing on the cake. Music becoming more expressive than ever before, cartoons being Merchandise-Driven toy commercials, and the general aesthetic also being more expressive is what many remember from this era.
  • Double Standard Rape: Female on Male: A common way of introducing romance subplots in '80s movies.
  • Drugs Are Bad: A growing awareness of the dangers of recreational drugs (especially the above-mentioned crack cocaine) led to government-sponsored programs designed to teach kids to "Just Say No", which led to this message becoming near-ubiquitous via the Very Special Episode and Public Service Announcement.
  • Dystopia: Dark, crime-ridden 20 Minutes into the Future or oppressive alternate universes were big in '80s films/TV shows.
  • '80s Hair: If you were in a (popular) metal band or were a female country singer, you wore it one way and one way only: big. This was also the decade in which the mullet really went mainstream (though the actual name "mullet" was only coined and applied retroactively in The '90s).
  • Erotic Film: As porn theaters started to close and moral guardians fought pornography, erotic movies went underground again. They did manage to make back their profit thanks to the success of video rentals and sales.
  • Foreign Culture Fetish:
  • Football Hooligans: For the UK at least. It became such a problem that Margaret Thatcher put together a cabinet just to tackle them. Measures put in place then led to Hillsborough. These days the problem has been virtually eradicated, although the trope appears quite often in foreign films set in the UK where football is involved, and Hooligans continue to cause problems in places not the UK (mostly South America).
  • Freeze-Frame Ending: Extremely popular during the decade, especially with sitcoms. This would go on to be parodied in later decades.
  • Fur and Loathing: The notion that it was bad to wear fur gained traction in this decade.
  • The Generation Gap: A new kind of generation gap was created, with left-wing hippie parents trying to understand their right-wing, materialistic yuppie children.
  • Hollywood Action Hero: The 1980s made iconic stars out of muscled Rated M for Manly actors like Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris, Dolph Lundgren, Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme. The Indiana Jones franchise could be counted too, though less testosterone heavy. For a black example, Mr. T comes to mind.
  • Hotter and Sexier: Madonna's very sexualized imagery set a trend for many female pop singers in her wake.
  • I Was Quite a Fashion Victim: Applying to works looking at this decade in hindsight, a survivor of the so-called "decade fashion disaster" might confess to this. The fashion statements were so overly radical, more extravagant and less flamboyant than the decade before, it had to be toned down and grunged up a lot a decade later.
  • Japan Takes Over the World: A staple of the decade, particularly in Cyberpunk works. Often seems a little silly now.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to the more revolutionary and sociologically progressive 1960s and 1970s, the eighties were pretty tame. Virtually all products (film, music, toys, TV shows, etc.) were heavily Merchandise-Driven and not subtle about it. As a result, most of it is very clean, safe, family friendly and didn't take many artistic risks.
  • Limited Animation: Cartoons still suffered from being shoddily animated, though a slight improvement from Hanna-Barbera or Filmation Domestic Only Cartoons that dominated the 70s as animation began being outsourced to Japan and South Korea. Most 80s cartoons were also notoriously thinly veiled toy commercials or extremely saccharine schlock to appease Moral Guardians. However, the situation began to change midway through the decade with Disney finally entering the TV animation market with big budgeted and well-written productions like Adventures of the Gummi Bears and DuckTales (1987) and setting off the The Renaissance Age of Animation as the competition realized they had to raise their own standards.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Despite being an age of mass conservative hysteria, the decade still gave rise lots of androgyny in the fashion and entertainment industry. Many fashion trends were unisex, and it was becoming accepted for women to wear suits, leather jackets, hairstyles like mullets and undercuts and of course, shoulder pads. Musician/model Grace Jones is a good reference. Meanwhile, among the most influential male musicians of the 80s were David Bowie, Prince, Boy George and Pete Burns of Dead or Alive, all of whom put on flamboyant and effeminate clothes and acts, especially by the standards then.
  • Merchandise-Driven: Virtually every original cartoon made in the eighties seems to be this way — Thunder Cats, M.A.S.K., Centurions, Strawberry Shortcake, Rainbow Brite, The Real Ghostbusters, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, The Transformers, Care Bears, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983), Jem and the Holograms, My Little Pony...
  • Montage Ends the VHS: It's when a commercial VHS tape has trailers, intros or just a compilation montage promoting a line of tapes at the end, after a movie or episode it contains is over.
  • Mood Whiplash: See Lighter and Softer and Darker and Edgier. The perils of Conspicuous Consumption in a nutshell, for one.
  • Moral Guardians: The Moral Majority was very strong in the USA and backed by the Reagan government. They attacked Heavy Metal, Goth Rock, pornography, video games and gay culture as threats to the youth. In the UK, the Thatcher government also forbade a series of gory horror movies called the Video Nasties for the same reasons. By the end of the decade, many moral guardians started to lose their power, as many televangelists in the US got caught up in sex and tax fraud scandals.
  • Music of the 1980s: With the introduction of electronic instruments, the death of Disco, and the rise of MTV, music got more expressive, and more excessive, in this decade, especially with Hip-Hop coming to the scene. Genres include:
    • Alternative Rock: A College Radio staple that began a rise to prominence in the latter part of the decade and gained the favor of critics and listeners looking for an, ahem, alternative to Hair Metal and the standard fare on album-oriented-rock stations. R.E.M., The Cure, Depeche Mode and New Order were at the forefront, scoring major hit singles, and the former was the first of many notable major label transitions that heralded the genre's big breakout shortly into the next decade.
    • Battle Rapping: Became famous during this decade.
    • Black Metal: Got its start during this era.
    • Charity Motivation Song: From late 1984 and 1985 on, when "Do They Know Its Christmas?" and "We Are the World" came out respectively.
    • Concept Video: Though music videos already existed in the 1970s many were just a concert performance. The success of Michael Jackson's Thriller popularized music videos with interesting visuals and an actual storyline. All other music artists made music videos and by the end of the decade most young people couldn't even imagine a song existing without a cool video attached to it.
    • Conscious Hip Hop: Popularized by Grand Master Flash And The Furious Five.
    • Death Metal: Got its start during this decade.
    • Dirty Rap: Popularized by Schoolly D.
    • Funk: Still popular in the early 1980s, with Prince and Michael Jackson as prime stars.
    • The Golden Age of Hip Hop: From the late 1970s, blossoming throughout the 1980s until the early 1990s.
    • Goth Rock: Joy Division, Bauhaus, and The Cure popularized gloomy music.
    • Hair Metal: The most popular metal genre in the 1980s, one that dominated rock until the arrival of Grunge in the 1990s made it the ‘90s equivalent of disco.
    • Heavy Metal: Became targeted as the new dangerous threat to the youth of America, with supposed satanic messages hidden in the lyrics.
    • Hip-Hop: Broke to the mainstream during this decade, with Grand Master Flash And The Furious Five, Run–D.M.C. and Beastie Boys as the frontrunners.
    • House Music: Near the late 1980s, club house music became more prominent, resulting in styles like Techno in the 1990s.
    • Idol Singer: Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, Kylie Minogue, just to name a few...
    • Music Video: For better or for worse, we have to credit MTV for bringing this. MuchMusic introduced them to Canadian audiences.
      • Fan Vid: These also started, often by manually syncing a song to crude edits on a pair of VCRs.
    • New Romantic: Popular, and very controversial in Britain during the early half of the decade. Bands like Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet and A Flock of Seagulls wearing outrageous Pirate-influenced costumes and donning heavy makeup.
    • New Wave Music: With MTV, the genre got an even bigger wave of popularity.
    • Protest Song: Made a return with charity singles like "Do They Know It's Christmas?" and "We Are The World" trying to bring in money to help poor people in Africa. The Artists Against Apartheid and the Free Nelson Mandela movement fought against South Africa's apartheid system. Farm Aid helped farmers in the USA to overcome financial troubles. And many protest songs were written against the Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher administrations.
    • Synth-Pop: The dominant music genre throughout the decade, making every track instantly recognizable as having an "80s sound".
      • Electronic Music, while not debuting in this decade did break out of the ghetto of obscure European music. Tangerine Dream, Jean-Michel Jarre, and Vangelis became especially prolific. Jarre, especially helped popularize this form of music from his scoring of the TV series Miami Vice. What set this apart from mainstream Top 40 offerings is that this form of music, lacking vocal or lyrical elements, focused solely on instrumentals and not the persona of the musician. It also eschewed reliance on roots in older traditional styles, thus being culturally neutral and very futurist. Synthesizers opened the door to artist experimenting with new sounds and no longer needing an orchestra to compose complex works.
    • Thrash Metal: Debuted during this era.
    • A Wild Rapper Appears!: Rappers appearing during songs outside their genre became more popular, with "Walk This Way" by Aerosmith and Run–D.M.C. as perhaps the oldest and most famous example.
  • Narm Charm: The decade ran on this. From excessive fashions, ridiculously catchy songs (Synth-Pop in particular) and much more.
  • Neon City: Bright neon lights (or more modern equivalents) experienced a burst of popularity at about this time. Signs in colours other than the golden-orange of real neon had been possible for a while, but in this decade, they became a deliberate aesthetic for clubs and New Wave Music, particularly in places like Miami.
  • New Media Are Evil: The new Tabletop Role-Playing Game pastime, especially Dungeons & Dragons found itself targetted by Moral Guardians who hysterically made up ridiculous stories that exploited tragedies like the suicide of Irving Pulling blaming it for driving kids insane and to suicide and of course Satanism. Ultimately, it backfired with the classic Streisand Effect, quadrupuling sales for the D&D's publisher, TSR, from people who wanted to see what the fuss was about. Eventually by the end of the decade, knowledgable writers like Michael Stackpole who exposed the Moral Guardians' falsehoods and medical associations like the American Association of Suicidology, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and Health and Welfare Canada producing studies that the games not only do not contribute to suicide, but gamers are often mentally healthier with the pastime.
  • Nostalgia Filter:
  • Pimped-Out Dress: As suits and power-dressing were standard by day, glamour and expression was reserved for evening wear. It was the decade where high-contrast satin, lycra, and a generous helping of sequins and glitter came to prominence with world-renowned Fashion Designers like Karl Lagerfeld, Calvin Klein, Thierry Mugler, Yves Saint Laurent, Jean Paul Gautier, Vivienne Westwood, Christian Lacroix, Oscar De La Renta, Gianni Versace, Prada, Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto, and Issey Miyake playing their part in the catwalk.
  • Pretty in Mink: Works that weren't afraid to show fur tended to show even more than they would in The '70s.
  • Rich Bitch: Featured in all sorts of soap operas like Dynasty, Falcon Crest, et. al.
  • Satanic Panic: The primary time period for this panic, especially revolving around the possibility of Satanic cults in small-town America, and usually encouraged by metal or other "counterculture" movements.
  • '70s Hair: Still pretty common until 1982/83.
  • Shoulders of Doom: The huge shoulder pads, bigger than the ones forty years earlier. For women wearing them, it was a status that they had broke down the metaphorical glass ceiling, as more women entered the corporate ladder, and not as secretaries or clerks, but as full-fledged businesspeople.
  • Slasher Movie: Very popular during this decade, with Halloween, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street as the front runners.
  • Sleeves Are for Wimps: Ripped off sleeves (with a mandatory matching mullet) was your standard rockstar or tough guy look.
  • Stalking Is Love: The Last American Virgin, Major League, Say Anything... and 'The Seduction, just name a few.
  • Sweater Girl: Whether its Flashdance style or not. With or without shoulder pads. With or without a bra underneath.
  • Training Montage: Many 1980s martial arts or sports film had one of these, with inspirational music from Survivor, John Farnham or some other classic rocker.
  • Trope Maker: And Trope Codifier. With blockbuster films coming on full force, the wide introduction of computers and Video Games, and with the rise of cable television with channels like MTV, HBO, CNN, Nickelodeon, et al., giving time and interest to watching more of it in a single channel than in a programming block, the tropes and the Stock Parodies that came to the scene in this decade are:
  • Uncanny Valley Makeup: That bronzed, au naturale glow of the '70s was out. Heavy pale foundation, rainbow eyeshadow up to the brows, rims and rims of eyeliner, severe blush on the hollows of the cheeks up to the ears, and glossy red lipstick was in. Like in the '20s, mass consumerism encouraged women to pack it on.
  • Valley Girl: This trope was, like, totally codified in this decade, with Frank Zappa's song "Valley Girl" being released in 1982 and the rise of shopping malls and heavier marketing to teens helping fuel this kind of lifestyle/persona.
  • Vapor Wear: Common in the first part of the decade, as the braless fashion of the 70s lived on and bras didn't become fashionable until a few years into the 80s. Backless tops were very popular in the early eighties and off-the-shoulder tops were common through the entire decade.
  • Very Special Episode: Just about every show had one or more of these, often due to Executive Meddling but sometimes just plain Author Tracts. Drugs Are Bad and Too Smart for Strangers were especially popular.
  • VHS Game: The idea to combine VCR tapes with board games began in the mid-1980s, with Clue VCR Mystery Game, and spawned dozens of imitators, each combining different gaming elements with a live-action cast.
  • Video Games of the 1980s: Despite the the technological limitations and a great fiasco early on in the decade, video games as a whole was a promising media platform. And it all started in 1985. In this decade it made, named and codified:
  • Video Nasties: In 1984, certain gory horror movies were blacklisted by the British government and forbidden to be imported. Many of them were very forgettable, some not even that bloody violent, but they remained in the public consciousness just by the fact that they were put on that list.
  • Yuppie: Young urban professionals. Power-dressed and trend-obsessed members of the Baby Boomer generation who invaded the corporate, financial, legal, and other professional ranks during the decade.

Many things were created or existed in the 1980s:

    open/close all folders 

Works that are set/were made in this time period include:
(Note: many were also a part of the Nineties; usually those made in the later part of the decade, and are marked with a '*').

    Anime & Manga 
  • Shenmue: Like the game, set in 1986.


    Asian Animation 


    Comic Books 

For comic books released in this time period, see Comic Books of the 1980s.

    Comic Strips 

    Eastern European Animation 

  • Dance with the Demons. Written in the '00s, set in the mid '80s.
  • The Day After You Saved the Multiverse. Written in 2002, set in 1985.
  • A Force of Four: Written in 2004, set in the late 1980s.
  • Hellsister Trilogy: Started in the '00s, set in 1986.
  • Kara of Rokyn: Written in the early '00s, set in 1986.
  • Kitsune: Written in 2015, Prologue is on "Christmas Eve, 1987".
  • My Immortal: Tara randomly decides that Voldemort attended Hogwarts in the 1980s (canonically, it's the 1940s) — maybe she just couldn't imagine a time before there were "goffs". She also throws the Marauders, who canonically attended Hogwarts in the 1970s, into the same time period. And she keeps up only the barest pretense of the '80s, filling the '80s scenes with blatant pop-culture anachronisms. At least twice her author's notes point out details which aren't accurate to the '80s in order to ask us to ignore them.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 

For films released in this time period, see Films of the 1980s

    Han-guk Manhwa Aenimeisyeon 


    Live-Action TV 

For series released in this time period, see Series of the 1980s

  • Backstreet Boys: Their music video for their 2005 single "Just Want You to Know" depicts the group as Heavy Metal fans in 1985.
  • COMMUNICATIONS: Case Two takes place in 1987.
  • I Don't Know How But They Found Me is a concept band based around the idea of an 80s band that never made it big and was forgotten about. All of their music and music videos are presented as if they were found on cassette tapes in an old box, and are now being re-discovered and shared.


  • The "Rememorex" system used for the Cool Kids Table game Bloody Mooney is described as the one you use if you want to play Stranger Things, and as such pays a lot of homage to the adventure and horror movies of the eighties just like the show does.
    • In fact, the developers have expanded Rememorex into an expanded universe, Radical Shadows. A version of the 80s that is secretly closer to pop culture than anyone realises. Commandroids is the latest, a mix of Transformers and Voltron; its focus is on a secret war between two factions of alien robots who form a symbiotic bond with a human pilot and disguise themselves as normal earth vehicles.
  • The Sequinox team lands in an 80s prom world at the end of episode 15, with gaudy fashions to match.

    Pro Wrestling 
Wrestlers Tag Teams and Stables Promotions Events Miscellaneous


    Tabletop Games 


    Theme Parks 
  • This was Action Park's first full decade.
  • Captain EO: Opened in 1986.
  • Cranium Command: Opened in 1989.
  • Disney Theme Parks:
    • Disneyland]]'s Tomorrowland, specifically an ideal futuristic 1986, until the revamp in 1996.
    • Disney-MGM Studios (later renamed Disney's Hollywood Studios) opened on May 1st, 1989.
    • EPCOT Center (later renamed Epcot) opened on October 1st, 1982.
    • Tokyo Disneyland opened on April 15th, 1983.
    • Typhoon Lagoon opened on June 1st, 1989.


    Video Games 

    Visual Novels 

  • The Maddie series begins and takes place during mid to late 1985, and features various locations, technology and other products endemic to the time such as cars, phones and events such as Live AID.
  • Malibu By Sunset: Although the year was never briefed. The computer, tv, cellphone, furnitures, hairstyle etc., gave it away.

    Web Videos 
  • Southpaw Regional Wrestling: Made in 2017, set in 1986-1987.
  • Wonders Of The World Wide Web: Started in 2012, set in various parts of the 80's (and sometimes the 90's), focusing on the technology of that era.
  • As the title suggests, Winter of '83 takes place during the winter of 1983, more precisely, January, though some parts do take place the month before (December 1982).

    Western Animation 
  • Book 4 of Infinity Train takes place in the mid-1980s, based on the bumper sticker on Ryan's van denoting him and Min-Gi as being the "Class of 1985" and the latter noting at one point that the former had been gone on his road trip for almost a year.



Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): The Excessive Eighties, The Decade Of Excess, The80s


American Horror Story: 1984

1984 is the ninth season of Ryan Murphy's horror anthology American Horror Story, airing on FX in 2019. Set at the fictional Camp Redwood in 1984, this season takes a stab at the slasher genre, picking up cues from hits of the genre like Friday the 13th, Halloween, and Sleepaway Camp with a group of camp counselors being terrorized by a masked killer.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / SlasherMovie

Media sources: