One of my favorite people in the known universe is my former college journalism professor (and still good friend) Joe Bentz – that’s Dr. Joseph Bentz, thank you very much, noted Christian author and currently a teacher of writing and American literature at Azusa Pacific University in Southern California, if you ever want to look him up on the Internet. (You really should; he's an interesting and talented fellow, and as my Uncle Bean used to say a good egg into the bargain.)
While it was the teacher-student relationship that prompted our friendship while we were both at Olivet Nazarene University, the relationship was strengthened I think by the fact that we were actually contemporaries age-wise. (That's because Joe went to college right out of high school; I didn't, but that's a story for another day...) And though it's sheer coincidence and nothing more, it turns out that we both are married to nurses and both have two children. Which means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things, I suppose, but I find it interesting that our paths have followed similar trajectories...
Anyway, to get to the point, Joe recently shared a story on Facebook about a obseravation made by his teenaged son.
“Jacob and I caught the end of a movie from the early Seventies,” Joe wrote. “It was a pretty good movie, but at the end, his only comment was, ‘People had bad haircuts back then.’ That's pretty much my 13-year-old's summation of the 1970s.”
Well, the story got a lot of laughs from a lot of folks - including Yours Truly, who sent a response pointing out that the lad was right. Some of the haircuts back then WERE pretty bad.
But then I got to thinking...
We all look back to the moment of our youth as a golden time. My golden time was the 1970s. I learned a lot, I came of age, and I had a pretty good time doing it. But somewhere along the way between then and now, the 1970s became some sort of great pop culture dumpster – an era seen by the masses as a putrid period of polyester, platform shoes, Brady Bunch haircuts and KC and the Sunshine Band.
A few years back, a colleague of mine wrote a column criticizing those of us who feel nostalgic for that much-maligned decade. As much as I respected the fellow and his work in general, I didn't much like that particular column and made it a point to tell him so.
To be fair, this fellow went well out of his way to make us feel that history pretty much starts and stops with the 1960s, and that anything that has come afterward has been unworthy of anything other than derision. But the brunt of his derision fell squarely upon the 1970s, which he defined as “a waste.”
His chief complaint against the decade can best be summed up in a single sentence which appeared in his article: “Popular culture was rife with bad taste.”
My question, then and now, is this: By whose standards were things so bad?
I’ll be the first to admit that much of what was presented and sold to the American public as “high fashion” in those days was not exactly my cup of tea, either. Mile-wide bell bottoms and platform shoes? Watch out for those wind gusts! Polyester leisure suits? The skin breaks out just thinking about it…
Then again, can someone please explain to me what’s so wonderful about some of our more contemporary fashion statements? I’ve seen girls wearing things that make them look like they should be either standing out on Rush Street in Chicago or attending the Count Dracula Home For Girls. Some of the boys seem to wear as much make-up as the girls; others strut around in athletic shoes that cost as much as my first car, yet don’t last nearly as long as that pair of $12 high tops I wore through all four years of high school. Members of both sexes wearing haircuts that make them look like a cross between space aliens and the Three Stooges, and have so much metal in various pierced body parts that there probably isn’t a Boy Scout whose compass works properly anymore.
People actually don't mind being seen in public looking like that?
As for popular entertainment: Okay, sure, the 1970s may have been the decade of such television fare as Happy Days (which really wasn’t all that bad, at least until Ron Howard left) and Three’s Company (which sometimes was pretty bad). But it was also the decade that brought us M*A*S*H and Roots, which remain two of the medium’s greatest achievements.
What do we get now? Two And A Half Men and Big Brother. Sheesh...
And I’m sorry, but I’ll still take the worst songs ever recorded by Lobo or The Bee Gees (to use two of the examples mentioned by my aforementioned colleague) over the best of ANYTHING by Linkin Park, the Black Keys, ad nauseum. If I want that kind of brain damage, I’ll just stick my head in a cuisinart and push for “puree.”
My point is this: Just because some feel the need to hide an entire generation of memories in the closet doesn’t mean we all have to; some of us have nothing to be ashamed of. I’m sorry, but I liked the 1970s. Go ahead. Snicker, if you feel you must. Trust me, you won’t be alone. Doesn't bother me; I get it all the time. But as my sons Josh and Will have pointed out, it's not like the 1990s were any kind of Golden Age.
And I’ve got a news flash for some of those self-aggrandizing elder baby boomers who are always going on about how great the ’60s were: They weren’t.
I’m old enough that I can remember a pretty good chunk of that decade, too. I like a lot of the music and quite a few of the TV shows from that era (make mine The Monkees, Star Trek and The Green Hornet!), and I certainly have fond memories of the early days of our space program and the voyage of Apollo 11. Other than that, you can have it.
In : Reminiscence
Tags: pop culture