When we all circled the drain
Years ago I vowed that I would never write a story set during the 70's. For various reasons, I had to break that promise when I wrote a piece of short fiction for You Don't Have A Clue: Latino Mystery Stories for Teens
. Once done with that, I had hoped that I wouldn't have to return to the cultural wastelands of my formative years.
But here I am. What happened is that I'm working on a freelance project that spans the 60's to the early 2000's, and a significant amount of the action takes place during the 70's. I was in the ninth grade in 1970 and entered Army flight school in 1979. In between, I went through high school, college, lived in Tempe for a summer, spent a night in jail, joined the army, and got married.
There was a lot I forgot--on purpose--and thinking the 70's couldn't have been that
bad, I bought a copy of 70s All American Ads
to refresh my memory.
In his forward, cultural scholar Steven Heller dismisses the 70's as a cultural sinkhole and goes on to explain why. Even me, fashion yokel that I was, could see that we were in a stylistic morass. To go through this book is like plunging fresh daggers in my eyes. And sadly, I committed many grooming atrocities and have pictures to prove it. Like this one.
And somewhere, there's a snapshot of me in the ubiquitous and horrific maroon tuxedo with a ruffled pink shirt with maroon piping, and brown platforms. At least, I had the sense to not buy a leisure suit or worse, the one-piece jump suit. The hair! The bad clothes! The awful earth tones (mustard, avocado, beige). Shag rugs. Even the cars were butt ugly. The entire decade looked like the set of a porn movie.
Compare the cover of that book to that of 20s All American Decades
and we see why we hang our heads and weep. Even though the 20s predated my parents, I still feel nostalgia for that time. The elegance, the style, the striving for an ideal--while I feel nothing but loathing for the 70s.
But to say there was no progress would be a lie. In the 20's, African-Americans were seldom depicted as anything more than maids or porters. In contrast, check out this 70's cat in his 'fro, 'stache, aviator shades, and long shirt collars, and tell me he doesn't look like a bad mo-fo.
While the 70's didn't look good, the decade did produce some of Hollywood's most iconic movies. Clockwork Orange. Patton. Dirty Harry. The Wild Bunch. Star Wars. The Road Warrior. Rocky. Apocalypse Now. Alien.
As well as Death Race 2000
and Vanishing Point.
Labels: The 70s, wasteland