Life in America: The Reagan Years, A Webography

For Further Reading: The 1980s

The 1980s are often remembered as the decade of  Brat Packers, Madonna, and Ronald Reagan (an unlikely triumvirate, to be sure).   Big hair and leg warmers certainly were the order of the day, and Molly Ringwald reigned supreme as America's teen princess.  But the 1980s were more than Flashdance and Square Pegs (and, yes, even more than Pretty in Pink!).  The 1980s were the decade during which computers took to the mainstream, AIDS was introduced to the world, Star Wars (not the George Lucas blockbuster) was born, and the Berlin Wall fell.  Ushered in by the shot (of J. R. Ewing) heard round the TV world, dominated by the figure of Ronald Reagan, and devoted to the philosophy that "Greed is Good," the 1980s constituted a rich and complex era culturally, politically, and socially.  The following resources, provided by The Eighties Club website, offer brief but highly informative introductions into some of the most important events, trends, phenomena, and personages of the decade.  

The Samantha Smith Story:  The little girl from Maine who desires world peace is cast into a maze of Cold War politics.

Who Shot J. R.?How Dallas and Dynasty rule primetime television in the 1980s.

Sex, Murder & Videotape:  Rumors surround the mysterious murder of Vicki Morgan, and some involve the White House.

A Weekend to Remember:  During a fateful few days in 1983, 241 Marines lose their lives in Beirut, and American troops invade Grenada.

Car Wars:  The story of the American auto industry's fight for survival as imported cars become ever more popular.

The E. T. Phenomenon:  How E.T. and other blockbuster films restore the luster to Hollywood in the 1980s.

Debategate:  A scandal early in Ronald Reagan's first term has some questioning the president's integrity.

That Old-Time Religion:  Examines the phenomenal success and power of televangelists -- and how some fall from glory.

Yuppie Culture:  Though relatively few in number, the Yuppies have a lasting impact on American society.

The Rise and Fall of John DeLorean:  The triumphs and travails of the maverick American automaker.

The Desert One Disaster:  The daring 1980 attempt to rescue American hostages held in Iran.

The Tylenol Murders:  Product tampering in the Chicago area leads to seven deaths and terrifies the entire nation.

The Brat Pack:  Reviews the meteoric careers of a group of young actors who take Hollywood by storm in the 1980s.

Farm Aid:  A look at the crisis on the American farm in the Eighties, and how some celebrities try to help.

The Achille Lauro Incident:  A terrifying example of the many terrorist acts that took place during the decade.

Baby Fae:  The story of Baby Fae is also the story of the amazing medical advances that occur in the 1980s.

The Discovery of the Titanic:  A tale of high adventure beneath the sea, and one of the most exciting finds of the decade.

Chernobyl:  A meltdown at the Russian power plant causes many to question the world's growing reliance on nuclear energy.

Miss Liberty Gets a Facelift:  The Statue of Liberty is refurbished in time for the spectacular 1986 Fourth of July festivities in New York City.

The Air Traffic Controllers' Strike:  The air traffic controllers force a showdown with the Reagan White House in 1981.

Wolves on Wall Street:  Reviews the rise and fall of Ivan Boesky and Michael Milkin.

Mount St. Helens:  She erupts in 1980, and it's one of the worst volcanic disasters in American history.

MTV, Madonna and Miami Vice:  Examines how the music video changes forever the way we look at music.

Ma Bell Breaks Up:  The court-ordered breakup of AT&T has a lasting effect on the American telecommunications industry.

The Subway Vigilante:  Bernhard Goetz becomes the focus of a national debate on crime when he takes the law into his own hands.

Hands Across America:  It is one of the decade's most ambitious charity extravaganzas, but how much good does it really do?

Raid on Libya:  In 1986 the U.S. conducts a raid on Libya to quell a rising tide of terrorism.

Jane Fonda Works Out:  Examines the fitness craze that swept America in the 1980s.

The Tawana Brawley Hoax:  A vicious crime that never happened, and American race relations reach a low point.

Target: The President:  Relates the events surrounding the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan in March, 1981.

Exxon Valdez:  An oil tanker runs aground off Alaska, causing one of the worst ecological disasters in American history.

Victory on Ice:  The American hockey team pulls off a miracle at the 1980 Winter Olympics.

The Falklands War:  Great Britain and Argentina clash over islands in the South Atlantic, and the U.S. is caught in the middle.

The Bork Nomination:  Reagan's choice of Robert Bork to sit on the Supreme Court triggers a battle in America's culture wars.

The AIDS Epidemic:  A new killer disease leads to a contagion of fear and loathing in America during the Eighties.

Reykjavik:  A city in Iceland becomes the setting for one of the most remarkable superpower summits of the Cold War.

Donna and the Senator:  A sex scandal destroys Gary Hart's bid for the presidency in 1987.

Solidarity:  A workers' movement challenges Communist hegemony in Poland and sends shockwaves around the world.

The Computer Revolution:  In the 1980s, computers begin to revolutionize the way we live.

The Atlanta Murders:  The murders of two dozen black children result in a massive crime investigation.

The Contras:  The Reagan administration supports Nicaraguan rebels as part of its effort to fight Communist expansion.

Killer Weather:  Record-breaking hurricanes, droughts and tornados batter the U.S. during the 1980s.

The Crash of '87:  Examines the cause and effects of the single worst day in Wall Street history: October 19, 1987.

Geraldine Ferraro:  Democratic presidential candidate Walter Mondale makes history by picking a woman to be his running mate in 1984.

Flight 007:  A Cold War crisis erupts when the Soviets shoot down a Korean airliner.

The Drug Wars:  Authorities wage a decade-long campaign against the scourge of cocaine.

Afghanistan:  American support for rebels who resist the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan takes many forms.

Cats & A Chorus Line:  Hits like Cats and A Chorus Line make the 1980s good years for Broadway.

Games People PlayTrivial Pursuit and Rubik's Cube are just some of the games people play in the Eighties.

Living in the Rust Belt:  Foreign competition and a changing economy makes life harder for those in America's industrial heartland.

Reagan Goes to Moscow:  A historic presidential visit to the USSR in 1988 is a harbinger of the Cold War's end.

Charles and Diana:  Lady Di and the heir to the British throne are married in the wedding of the decade.

Life in the Fast Lane:  Celebrities like John Belushi and Richard Pryor learn that life in the fast lane can lead to tragedy.

Apartheid:  The apartheid policies of South Africa trigger worldwide condemnation.

The Eighties Look:  Glamorous and sexy, and sometimes gaudy and rad, fashion in the 1980s was certainly distinctive.

Bitburg:  A routine diplomatic visit to a German military cemetery creates a political crisis for President Reagan.

The Homeless:  The plight of displaced persons grabs America's attention in the 1980s.

The USS Stark Incident:  The United States and Iran fight an undeclared naval war in the Persian Gulf.

The Bad Boys of Tennis:  The explosive Connors-McEnroe rivalry enlivens pro tennis in the early '80s.

The Dirtiest Campaign:  The presidential campaign of 1988 ushered in a new era of dirty politics.