Few conventions were left unchallenged in the 1970s as Americans witnessed a decade of sweeping social, cultural, economic, and political upheavals. The fresh anguish of the Vietnam War, the disillusionment of Watergate, the recession, and the oil embargo all contributed to an era of social movements, political mistrust, and not surprisingly, rich cultural diversity. It was the Me Decade, a reaction against 60s radicalism reflected in fashion, film, the arts, and music. Songs of the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, and Patti Smith brought the aggressive punk-rock music into the mainstream, introducing teenagers to rebellious punk fashions. It was also the decade of disco: Who can forget the image of John Travolta as Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever decked out in a three-piece white leisure suit with his shirt collar open, his hand points towards the heavens as the lighted disco floor glares defiantly below him? While the turbulent decade ushered in Ms. magazine, Mood rings, Studio 54, Stephen King horror novels, and granola, it was also the decade in which over 25 million video game systems made their way into our homes, allowing Asteroids and Pac-Man games to be played out on televisions in living rooms throughout the country.
Whether it was the boom of environmentalism or the bust of the Nixon administration and public life as we knew it, the era represented a profound shift in American society and culture.
Kelly Boyer Sagert is a freelance writer who has published biographical material with Gale, Scribner, Oxford, and Harvard University, focusing on athletes and historical figures. She is the author of Joe Jackson: A Biography (Greenwood, 2004).