Originally Posted by Pale Horse
Were the 80's viewed as cynical during the 80's, or is it just hindsight and wisdom that reveals this to us??
No, from my perspective, it was truly cynical during the '80's -- especially among teens (I was in sixth grade in 1980). Roundshort nailed it. The movies he mentioned were huge and there were hugely influential 1970's films as well, like Pink Floyd's 'The Wall' and Monty Python's Life of Brian & Holy Grail -- all mainly watched on VHS. Notably, I'd even argue that the 'Greed is Good' mantra dates back even earlier than Wall Street. I trace the concept (not the slogan itself) back to 1983's Risky Business.
Politically, from the start of the decade, Conservatives were cynical about 'dovish' & 'soft,' 'big government' liberals, and Liberals were suspicious and cynical about hawkish Conservatives. I vividly remember suspicions around the 'October Surprise' and folks wondering why the Iranians were releasing the hostages as a gesture to a more hawkish incumbent. These skeptics were derided early on but they only had to wait a few short years to be proven right over the Gipper's hypocrisy when Iran Contra broke. Folks, Bush II was an idiot for starting the war with Iraq but it doesn't get more cynical and hypocritical than Iran Contra -- the signature scandal of the 1980's.
When I scanned your post, I thought at first there may be an east-west coast thing was going on here (Roundshort and I grew up in Pittsburgh as the steel industry was going through its final death throes) but the more I thought about it, it isn't that simple. Youth targeted media during the 1980's was hugely cynical. Watch old Kurt Loder on MTV (and my God just look at the subversion in the MTV logo itself) -- but not everyone watched MTV (and I don't think a lot of people even get the subversion in the logo). I also remember reading and being influenced by things like Doonesbury -- which was/is nationally syndicated and hugely self aware-ly cynical -- but I admit the escapist Calvin and Hobbes came out in that decade as well. If you didn't stay up to watch the coolly cynical David Letterman, you were a loser. Pittsburgh's own Dennis Miller (quote: "I'm actually equal parts cynicism and apathy") manned the Saturday Night Live news desk for the back half of the '80's - but not everyone got Denis Miller (which is why I guess he didn't make it on Monday Night Football). But cynisim in media has its limits. I recognize the Cosby Show came out in the '80's too -- and I admit to never having seen an episode (I guess because I was too busy hanging out with friends and watching The Wall/Monty Python/Repo Man and going to see Rocky Horror).
So the more I think about it, the 1980's were split: on one side, there was the Alex Keaton/Calvin &Hobbes/Steven Spielberg types -- and on the other there were the types that preferred Repo Man's Otto/Doonesbury/and any other influential '80s director other than Spielberg/Lucas. And that's why I'm angry because with Ready Player One, Spielberg is reaching back and dipping into my side of the cynical pond for cool trappings but claiming that the '80's weren't cynical.
. . . so to use Roundshort's term for it, 'yes' I'm feeling strongly victimized by the whole thing. Joy Division means something to me, and it kills me seeing that t-shirt in this film.