Filmmakers in the 80s


Question 3

In the ’80s filmmakers showed a keen interest in expressing various social issues that affected marginalized communities living in the United States of America.  The issues of racism and stereotyping were the most addressed. Records of the movies produced during this period show an increased representation of Black-Americans in various films. In most movies where black Americans were represented, the filmmakers made an effort to show how the black community in America was trying to fit into the country’s social-political environment in an era when racial entitlement was very high among native Americans. In most of the film, the setting, the story and the characterization portrayed a society in which diversity and inclusion of minority groups had not been fully embraced.

In a period that was so synonymous with the America’s most popular ethos, the American dream, which is an ideal that seeks to ensure that equal opportunities are available for all the people living in America, filmmakers did an impeccable job in showing how the African-American community was being left out in the ‘dream’. For example, the film, A Soldier’s Story, which premiered in 1984, tells a story of how black American had limited opportunities of joining the disciplined forces, and how their fellow servicemen mistreated the few that managed to join the forces on the basis of their race.  However, there were some scenes in the film that showed some meaningful efforts made by various institutions and influential people to incorporate the black community in the country’s social, economic systems. This period is also well known for the rise of, Hip-Hop. Various films produced in the ’80s  show how a music genre that was associated with black American received impressive airplay in America during a period where Native Americans openly expressed superiority complex. One of such films is Breakin’, A 1984 film directed by Joel Silberg. The movie is about a mixed-race hip-hop dance group that takes that rises to gain a lot of popularity in New York City. The representation of African Americans in these films portrayed a talented community with a rich culture which they proudly associated with.  Arguably, the representation of the black communities in the 80’s films was influenced by social changes that were happening in America and the world at large. Another film the big chills seemed to be in support of the Reagan political agenda and his economic recovery plan. The message the movie seemed to put across was that everything else, apart from music, from the ’60s, needed to be reformed.

1980 presidential is probably the most famous election in the History of America. The contest was between the then incumbent preside, Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, and Ronald Reagan. In the election, Reagan was declared the winner after having garnered around 51 percent of the total cast votes, a Republican. This was the first a Republican had won a presidential election since 1955. Around the election time, economists argue that America was in an economic crisis of proportional magnitude. During carter’s reign, the country’s GDP had fallen, inflation rates had increased, and the unemployment rate was very high. At the time, the American Culture was growing even more vibrant with the high rate of immigration into the USA a few years before the election.  Among the social issues that were highlighted before, during and after the 1980 presidential elections were the issues of gender inequality and women representation in the government.

This election was like the beginning of a new era in the social, economic and political systems. There was a noticeable redefining of the country social systems with showed multi-racial and equal gender representation in various leadership positions. Regains government economic policies were also promising in the country’s effort to recover an economy that was falling at an alarming rate.  Reaganomics was a term popularly used after Reagan’s election in 1980 to refer to his economic recovery plan for the country. In this popular plan, the president proposed that the country undergoes drastic cuts, reduction on social spending and an increase in the country’s military budgetary allocation. The people behind the movie, War Games, seem to agree with Reagan that the army required more funding and resources to be able to provide adequate protection to the nation. In the movie, one of the characters, a computer guru, manages to hack into the country’s nuclear systems and almost starts a world war III. This to some extent, insinuates that the country’s military wasn’t equipped enough to keep the country safe from enemies. The movie, The Return of Jedi also seems to embrace Reaganomics. In the movies, America is envisioned as a military superpower and a neo-imperialist enforcer. For whatever was envisioned in the movie to be a reality, the country had to invest in its military.

It is in the 80s that the security tension between the USA and the Soviet Union had really heightened. The cold war, as it is popularly referred to as, gave inspiration to quite a number of action films. In the American filming history, it was at this period that the action films genre grew in both production and acceptance from the audience. Most of the action films’ content produced during this period was drawn from what was happening at the moment. The characterization and the movie setting of most of the films produced during this period fictionalized the events of the cold war. Filmmakers portrayed the mutual suspects between the two countries, sometimes even in a sarcastic and humorous manner, The acceptance of the action genre films prompted major film production companies produced big-budget blockbuster movies that featured some of the most popular actors from the 80s. At this period, monetary returns from films had also begun to increase impressively. The film industry had grown into a multibillion-dollar industry.

There’s a noticeable shift in Hollywood’s culture in the 1980s. Besides the rise of Hollywood blockbuster movies, there was also an increased representation of talented individuals from minority communities. For example, a black actor, Eddy Murphy, played a lead role in the movie ’48 hrs’ that premiered in 1894. The movie, which was an action comedy movie, broke a few box office records. Another famous movie from the period is ‘Terminator Franchise,’ starring Linda Hamilton. At this point, female actors were slowly gaining the confidence of the directors and the audience that they could up roles that were stereotypically referred to as men’s roles.

Form various 1980s films that capture the lives of immigrants living in the USA, various questions about America and its commitment to ‘The American Dream’ arise. As earlier mentioned, the American dream is a collective ideal by America as a country to ensure equality and availability of opportunities for all. In the film, El Norte, two Guatemalan youths leave their country in pursuit of the American dream. However, America was not as accommodative of its visitors, as they expected. The film highlights the plight of the two Guatemalan’s in America. From this film, one would argue that the American dream was exclusively meant for the American nationals. In another film, “Moscow on the Hudson”, a Russian KGB defector moves into the USA. Bearing in mind that he did not have legal papers to be in the USA, he could not secure a meaningful join the country. He is at some point heard comparing about his misfortunes in America. However, in his own comparison, America was still a better place that his own country, in spite of all the problems he went through in America.

The movie “Trading Places”, expounds on the American dream from an American national perspective. From the movie, one can see that there are two distinct sides of the American social hierarchy, a district line between the wealthy and the poor. This is completely contrary to the ideas behind the great American ethos “The American Dream.” One would argue that in the 1980s one would argue that America was nowhere close to achieving the American dream. For the American nationals, capitalism was ensuring that the rich got richer and the poor got poorer. The immigrants of the other the other hand were unfairly discriminated on the mere fact that they were not American citizens.


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