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"It's all about appearances. That's why it's time to update our company's stodgy image and give it the sleek, dazzling veneer of the 1980s."

"Members of an overpriced household in an overpriced area with overpriced possessions, none of which are prepared to clean their own toilet, or put out the trash."
Urban Dictionary's definition for "yuppie"

"Yuppie" is an acronym of "young urban professional". The term first appeared in the media in 1982 and came to be one of the more characteristic period tropes of The '80s.

Yuppies were members of the later Baby Boom generation, or "Generation Jones", who became successful (or at least well-paid) white-collar workers in their twenties and thirties, usually in finance, law, sales, architecture, or management consulting. In the era's Standard Office Setting, yuppies stood out because they were often young for their rank, typically workaholics, and obsessively materialist. The men were sharply dressed in suits made for Wall Street financial types, and the women made such fashion statements as power suits with large shoulder pads, voluminous or slick hair, and work-appropriate makeup that was also heavy and striking.

Outside of the office, yuppies tended to live in pricy, and often gentrified, inner-city apartments or restored older homes. More affluent ones could be classified as Nouveau Riche since they were prone to displays of Conspicuous Consumption, albeit usually of the Simple, yet Opulent variety. Until such devices became commonplace, the yuppie's most distinctive attribute was the use of the Status Cell Phone, which allowed them to become a Clock King with a meticulously planned work schedule. As technology marched on, other attributes came to define them, such as trendy physical exercise (including yoga and advanced weight machinery), novelty electronic devices, a Cool Car (usually a German onenote ), and caffeine addiction, with an elaborate taste for exotic kinds of coffee. Quite a few had wild personal lives.

Despite their material wealth, it was common in deconstructive works to have yuppies facing failure in their personal lives with such problems as substance abuse, marital strife, or lack of family commitment. Their perceived self-absorption, along with other potentially off-putting qualities (insufferable trendiness, snobbery, latent class anxiety, decadence, smugness, and fixation on making money), also made them easy comic targets, or even outright villains, in many works during the '80s and '90s. In a Slobs Versus Snobs conflict, yuppies would definitely be the snobs, unless they were coming up against an even snootier old-boy network.

And on that note, since they looked similar upon first glance, especially in their taste in fashion, it was easy to confuse a yuppie with a preppy. However, there was one key difference between the two: yuppies were New Money while preppies were Old Money. There was also some slight overlap between the yuppie and the archetypal Self-Made Man, except that the latter grew up lower-class in economically stressful circumstances while the former grew up middle-class in comfortably stable surroundings.

The yuppie trope was at its strongest during the '80s and early '90s, but is now becoming a Dead Horse Trope with the aging of the Baby Boomer demographic group. By the mid-late 2010s, the concept of yuppies had evolved into Bourgeois Bohemians and Hipsters, who are similar but whose media depictions emphasize their lifestyles rather than their careers, and Tech Bros working for or running Silicon Valley tech companies.

Asian equivalents were the Salaryman and the Office Lady.


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    Comic Strips 
  • The Far Side: Parodied in one installment with a "yussie" (young urban scientist) who tries to show off by flaunting his car microscope.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Carter Burke in Aliens is a yuppie in space, a young junior executive for Weyland-Yutani who serves as the company's liaison on the military expedition to Hadley's Hope. He initially presents himself as a friend to Ellen Ripley, but it turns out that he's actually there to collect a sample of the xenomorph for Weyland-Yutani to study. The Marines nearly kill him right then and there when they find out, and when a xenomorph takes him out, nobody mourns.
  • American Psycho: Just like its source novel, the film is set in the world of New York investment banking, with most of its characters either affluent and soulless office workers or bohemians. The Villain Protagonist himself is also a possibly fantasizing Serial Killer in his downtime.
  • Beethoven: Brad and Brie are two venture capitalists who try to swindle family patriarch George Newton out from under his nose. They’re smug, snobby, and notedly don’t like kids. They get their comeuppance thanks to the Newtons’ titular dog.
  • Beetlejuice: The Deetzes, obnoxiously eccentric urban folk with tacky art preferences who move into a nice house in the country, which is still haunted by the ghosts of its prior inhabitants.
  • Die Hard:
    • Harry Ellis is a young businessman working for the Nakatomi Corporation who is introduced snorting cocaine off of Holly McClane's desk and hitting on her, even though she's married (albeit separated) with kids and her husband John is in the room with them. Later in the film, Ellis tries to sell John out to the Big Bad Hans Gruber, not realizing that Hans and his men aren't terrorists but a Caper Crew, and gets shot dead for the trouble despite John warning him how stupid he was being. It's saying something that, in a film whose villains are planning to murder dozens of people as part of their getaway plan, he still comes off as the biggest scumbag in Nakatomi Plaza.
    • Holly herself is a more neutral example, having separated from John and moved to Los Angeles with the kids to pursue her career. When they reunite, it's clear that John didn't take it well, and that there is a serious rift between them due to their values.
  • Fatal Attraction typified the subgenre occasionally referred to as "yuppies in peril". Dan is an example of a yuppie who has (in theory) chosen family life, as a Manhattan lawyer who lives in a refurbished suburban house with his young daughter and stay-at-home wife. Dan uses his city, corporate existence to sleep with Alex Forrest. She lives in a swanky, gentrified apartment, and she is an apparently happily single, independent publishing executive (and she's a huge fan of shoulder pads). Except her supposedly "bohemian", open-minded lifestyle is actually a front because she goes absolutely crazy in her pursuit of Dan's suburban lifestyle.
  • Ghost (1990): Sam and Molly. Sam is a Wall Street financier and Molly is a potter, and they live together in Soho, and Sam is murdered because of his friend/co-worker Carl's greedy money laundering scheme.
  • In Hunk (1987), Bradley achieves success by writing (or rather claiming credit for) a computer program called 'The Yuppie Program' which helps yuppies make decisions such as which wine to buy. The program becomes hugely popular and gains him a large bonus and a paid summer off to write anything he wants. Bradley spends his entire bonus renting a run-down beach house in Sea Spray, a very high-end part of California coastline, where he tries (and fails) to fit in with his yuppie neighbours. The film's focus on the yuppie lifestyle has turned it into an Unintentional Period Piece.
  • I Come in Peace has The White Boys, a gang of yuppie drug dealers. Then again as the movie involves a space alien harvesting humans for their endorphins, we're probably not meant to take this concept too seriously.
  • Kramer vs. Kramer: Arguably an Unbuilt Trope, as the two main characters fulfill the definition of yuppies already in 1979, just before The '80s. The main plot is however not about career, but describes their personal sacrifices, as they divorce and struggle for their son.
  • Licence to Kill has Truman-Lodge, who serves as Franz Sanchez's financial advisor and accountant, handling his financial schemes to conceal his drug money. In a deleted scene, Pam Bouvier mentions to James Bond that Truman-Lodge is wanted in the United States for insider trading on Wall Street, presumably in the 1987 Stock Market crash.
  • Metropolitan is about college-age upper class New Yorkers who are basically pre-yuppies. In fact, a Running Gag is that one of them doesn't think the term "yuppie" really describes their class very well, and tries to push UHB ("urban haute bourgeoisie", pronounced "ubb") as an alternative.
  • National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation: The Griswolds' contemptuous next-door neighbors, Todd and Margo, are yuppies who often suffer collateral damage caused by the many misfortunes Clark creates during the film. However, they are both so shallow, smug, self-absorbed, and hipper-than-thou (they find Christmas "dirty and messy and corny and cliched"), that it's hard to feel sorry for them.
  • Reality Bites: Michael is a young, successful go-getter who wears suits and has his life in order. He's a foil of Troy, who is much smarter than Michael, but a directionless drop-out.
  • In Vampire's Kiss, Nicolas Cage plays a young, affluent literary agent in '80's New York who balances out his business days with hedonistic nights filled with casual sex. His character then comes to believe he's turned into a vampire, a metaphor for the predatory nature of uncontrolled capitalism and the yuppie class.
  • Wall Street is arguably the Trope Codifier, where the younger yuppies in their 20s are drones to a Corrupt Corporate Executive, Gordon Gekko, who's an older yuppie around 40.
  • The antagonist in Wayne's World is Benjamin, a handsome young TV executive with a swanky apartment in the big city, a cool car, and good taste in wine and suits. He goes up against the slobby metalhead protagonists for creative control of their TV show and the love of Cassandra.
  • Working Girl is an archetypal yuppie film, about the warfare that breaks out between a lower-class secretary, Tess, who poses as her (young, corrupt) "head of mergers and acquisitions" boss while she's out sick with a broken leg.
  • The Wolf of Wall Street deals with the life of crooked Wall Street broker Jordan Belfort and portrays him as the embodiment of the worst of Yuppie greed as he trains his employees to sell bogus stocks while being fueled by a healthy diet of hookers and cocaine.

  • My Best Friend's Exorcism: As a dark Affectionate Parody of all things '80s, Gretchen's parents are yuppies. It's never made clear what they do, but they are noticeably younger than Abby's (poor) parents, are religious Republicans who live in a huge house in Charlestown, and have enough money to take Gretchen and Abby on vacation.
  • These Words Are True and Faithful: When Ernie first looks up Sam's apartment building, he sees that it is "marketed to young professionals, within walking distance of both the gayborhood and the main campus of Uxbridge University, well-appointed, and not cheap." Later, when Ernie writes his personal ad to find someone different from Sam, he specifies, "No workaholics, yuppies, or college students."
  • We Need to Talk About Kevin (book-only). Eva and Franklin are yuppies, which Kevin senses by calling Franklin "Mr. Plastic." Although published in the early 00s, it is set in the mid-1990s and takes place around the 80s. Eva runs a travel company from when she's young, and Franklin sets up his own materials business and they live in New York City, which Eva loves until Franklin pressures her to move out to the suburbs when she's pregnant. The teacher who would later be murdered by their son Kevin even says that she thinks the problem of Kevin and the other kids is that they are extremely comfortable and have nothing to rebel against.
  • In "Totally Trashed" by Roz Kaveney, part of the Temps shared universe, Lenora's ex-boyfriend Michael is a yuppie, and her effect on his pristine London flat is a major source of their break-up. As she waits for the replacement bus service, because the trains are always cancelled, she reflects that the reason public transport in Yuppville is rubbish because all yuppies drive everywhere, so it exists purely for discarded girlfriends and boyfriends.
  • The genie in Sourcery fits many yuppie stereotypes, including having a fantasy version of a Filofax (the Fullomyth) and something that appears to be a mobile phone (in the eighties and in a fantasy universe), using phrases like "Let's do lunch" and "Have your people call my people" (although he admits he doesn't actually have any people), and there's even a nod to gentrification when he explains that he's invested in "a set of derelict lamps in the docks area of Ankh-Morpork that had great potential, once the smart crowd got there, to become the occult equivalent of a suite of offices and a wine bar".

    Live-Action TV 
  • The characters on thirtysomething were textbook examples of Baby Boomers who were part of the counterculture during the '60s and yuppies during the '80s.
  • Cheers: The occasional yuppie shows up. When the diner above Cheers, Melville's, gets a new owner, Cheers becomes flooded with yuppie run-offs, including a yuppie version of Norm. Frasier and Lilith socialize within yuppie circles, though Lilith herself takes exception to being referred to as such (Frasier dryly suggesting she can rip out his tongue and serve it on a fajita if he does it again).
  • Alex P. Keaton on Family Ties is a yuppie who's still in high school and has dreams of working on Wall Street when he grows up (which he ultimately does). As an outspoken conservative free-marketeer, he frequently butts heads with his more liberal parents, both of them former '60s activists.
  • The Meachums from Iron Fist (2017) all have the look and feel of the typical '80's yuppie. They are a rich family that run Rand Enterprises with the Rand Family gone (until Danny shows up, alive and well). Both Harold and his son Ward wear three-piece suits and combed-over hair that fits the look and are different flavors of Corrupt Corporate Executive.
  • Newhart: TV producer Michael Harris is often described as a yuppie, but as his portrayer Peter Scolari often pointed out, he isn't all that successful; he lives in rural Vermont, he doesn't drive a cool car, and he has a far-from-perfect relationship with his frivolous and demanding aristocrat-turned-hotel maid wife.
  • Del Boy from Only Fools and Horses wanted to project the image of a yuppie, because he thought that since yuppies were successful businessmen, if he became one, he would also become a successful businessman. He failed to take into account that yuppies' work involves six-figure sums, while his street-trading business had trouble reaching five figures.

  • The song "Yuppie Drone" by The Pheromones is a satiric review of all the annoying characteristics and cliches that made yuppies so hated during the 80s and 90s.
  • "Yuppie Rap" is a rap song satirizing the yuppie lifestyle and its more materialistic adherents.
  • "Once in a Lifetime" by Talking Heads is a very obtusely about this, as it is a about a yuppie who is so work-obsessed they didn't even realise they became opulent and materialistic.
  • "Koka Kola" by The Clash was recorded in 1979, a few years before the archetype solidified, but deals with cocaine-fueled white collar types, showing that the subculture was already starting emerge at that point.
    I get good advice from the advertising world
    "Treat me nice" says the party girl
    Coke adds life where there isn't any
    So freeze

  • Dave Barry made a lot of jokes at the expense of the yuppies during the 80s and 90s:
If you've been reading the trend sections of your weekly newsmagazines, you know that "yuppies" are a new breed of serious, clean-cut, ambitious, career-oriented young person that probably resulted from all that atomic testing. They wear dark, natural-fiber, businesslike clothing even when nobody they know has died.
—"Yup the Establishment", Dave Barry's Greatest Hits

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Paul E. Dangerously was nicknamed "the Psycho Yuppie" for a reason. He was basically what would happen if Gordon Gekko were a pro wrestling manager, right down to having a brick-sized '80s cell phone on him at all times.

  • Benny from RENT. He is literally referred to as "yuppie scum" by his former friends and sports a preppy sweater.

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama parodied this trope mercilessly in "Futurestock" with Steve Castle, a typical '80s corporate raider who had been cryogenically frozen when he was in his 30s, in a bid to survive a then-untreatable disease. He dresses in an expensive suit with suspenders, has a cell phone seemingly attached to his hand, is obsessed with the latest trends and gadgets, works in finance, and thinks greed is a virtue. He quickly takes over Planet Express and grooms Fry in the yuppie lifestyle, acting like the eighties hadn't ended a thousand and ten years before, only to end up abruptly dying of the very disease he was frozen for, because he had been too busy "being an eighties guy" to get himself cured.
  • The Simpsons has recurring character Lindsay Naegle, a businesswoman who always finds herself in whatever corporate position the plot needs for her (her justification being that she's a sexual predator) who's always decked out in a suit and Power Hair while demonstrating the soulless materialism typical of Yuppies.


Video Example(s):


Patrick Bateman

Patrick Bateman is a high-ranking employee at Pierce & Pierce. He gets rich doing nothing but exercising his Conspicuous Consumption whenever he can, is almost identical to his scumbag co-workers and also happens to be a serial killer.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (19 votes)

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Main / Yuppie

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