The 1980s Comparative Studies
The 80s was the commercial, consumerist decade. Multiple multinational corporations associated with the manufacturing industry relocated into developing countries. Japan’s economy boomed. The financial world and the stock market were glamorised in a way they had not been since the 1920s, and figures like Donald Trump were widely seen as symbols of the decade.
Fast food chain restaurants such as McDonald’s and Burger King experienced a strong growth. Both corporate and government institutions were rife with corruption and sexual harassment. Second wave feminism tried to address this issue.
Major civil discontent
Developing countries across the world faced economic difficulties as they suffered from multiple debt crises. Ethiopia witnessed widespread famine. AIDS was also discovered and became the fear of the era. Major civil discontent and violence occurred in the Middle East.
Arcade games and video games were a major industry. Computers experienced explosive, going from being a toy for electronics hobbyists to a full-fledged industry of Personal Computers.
The first Macintosh popularised floppy disks, and mice. After a five-year hiatus, manned American space flights resumed with the launch of the space shuttle Columbia in 1981.
Science and technological growth included advances in genetic understanding, with the first mouse “Masha” cloned in 1986 by Soviet scientists Chaylakhyan, Veprencev, Sviridova, and Nikitin. Research was published in the magazine “Biofizika” volume ХХХII, issue 5 of 1987.
Music had become equally commercial, with the birth of “pop music” and the music video which was popularised by Michael Jackson. Other prominent artists included, Prince, Madonna, and Queen.
The keyboard synthesizer and drum machine meant music could be laid down cheaply and easily, and it was the era of the DJ. Fashion included hair perms, shoulder pads, and leggings and leg warmers as well as hair gel for men. Multiple bangles and plastic jewelry were very popular during this time too. The Rubix cube and yo-yos were the popular fads of the day. 17
Values of the Time
- The critical reinterpretation of classic texts is very much a facet of 80s literature where texts where many of the keystone texts in literature were re-examined for the way they excluded minority points of view. Unfortunately women, although they physically make up more of the planet than men, are considered a minority view as the division is based on social power, not numbers. This kind of analysis of texts is called a “feminist reading” and is common in academic circles. Weldon’s essays are quite sympathetic to Austen for feminist readings.
- The difficulties that a woman faces breaking into the literary industry is reflective of the difficulty women face in breaking into all industries. Weldon’s view is typical of a radical feminist, and is based on her own experiences of the industry.The consideration of three types of women: Weldon herself, her seemingly dominated sister, and the young independent character of Alice creates a broader study of how the patriarchy affects each of them and how they are able to respond. This is of course contrasted with how society affects women in Austen’s time.
- The notion of the individualist punk counterculture which is a late-eighties/early nineties phenomenon is embodied in Alice – who has green hair and piercings. This shows differing notions of beauty and also what is acceptable presentation from a young girl.
- The mentor relationship between Alice and Fey shows Fey’s belief that she needs to prepare Alice for a hostile, patriarchal world. However, Alice is free to accept and reject the advice and is able to sometimes make her own way despite Fey’s advice, showing that young women need not always be victims but are able to forge their own way in the world.