If nothing else, the legacy of 1970s politics and culture can only be described as “tumultuous.” Unstable. Enlightening. Of course, the very nature of transforming means there is something that needs transforming. As Andy Warhol wrote in his 1975 novel, “They always say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”
But if that’s the case, why are we still so consumed by the narratives presented to us coming from this very tumultuous, unstable, enlightening era? Most Recently, Daisy Jones & The Six brings Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel of the same name to the small screen.
Set in the 1970s, the show follows the rapid rise to fame for one rock band in LA - including recounts of the events by bandmembers a decade later. From the clothes to the music and social themes, we see how the decade influenced every aspect of life - particularly youth culture - from the lens of the creators of that culture themselves (whose story is notably similar to that of Fleetwood Mac).
But first, a brief recount of the 1970s*
*From someone who was not alive during that time and, in all honesty, has taken most of her knowledge of the deade from pop culture and research that is probably biased):
Particularly in The United States but around the world nonetheless, the government began catching up with the ever-changing landscape of a post-war society; technology developed at rapid speeds and the everyday man began to question everything. Crime rates soared throughout major cities and small towns. Foreign and domestic terrorism left citizens in fear. Political scandal wreaked havoc on the very foundations of a functioning populous. It made for truly turbulent times and with it came a culture that we, today, still find ever-present.
Everything was a revolution. Movements away from the past and towards some ideal vision of a world that was still developing. Ant-Vietnam War rhetoric rang through the nation. By extension, the voices of youth - those returning from the draft and their fallen combatants - were far louder in comparison to the stuffy politicians and businessmen who presumed their dominance for generations. Oil prices rose and crops failed, leading way to (or solidifying) the efforts of the Green Revolution.
Activism increased across minority groups; Black communities responded to Civil laws and marches from the decade prior with frustration and the promise of progress while gay culture spread further into mainstream culture. The rise of the Second-Wave feminism movement pushed women into the labor force and into a larger narrative of sexual liberties in part thanks to the passing of Roe v. Wade.
Beyond bell bottoms and trendy disco bars, there is a clear influence of 1970s politics, culture, and discourse in a modern context. Look no further for evidence than in the influx of similarly-themed films and TV shows released since the start of the 21st Century. Characters are shown smoking weed and leading protests for racial liberties. The rise of the porn industry and international squanders. Hippies and activists and political conspiracy. Vinyl records and counterculture. Gay culture takes on New York City as women take on the patriarchy.
Yes, these films and TV shows can be considered a glimpse into the past; stories told to remember times that many viewers were not even alive for. But they also offer transferable themes of a changing society that can be applicable to today’s audience.
From political conspiracies to women’s rights (and wrongs), new forms of music, and the sexual revolution, these titles, much like Daisy Jones & the Six, as viewers to bask in the tumultuous 1970s and assess why such themes are relevant today:
In what should be a required viewing for men and women alike, Mrs. America examines the push to legalize the Equal Rights Amendment and the backlash it received. The historical drama follows key figures including Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne) in the second-wave feminist movement and their efforts advocating for women's rights in the 1970s.
Despite their fruitful efforts, across the aisle, opposing conservative women, led by Phyllis Schaffly (Cate Blanchett) fight for the preservation of traditional gender roles. In 2023, It’s been nearly one year since Roe v. Wade was overturned, a crucial bill passed during that decade. While the show does not insinuate history is repeating itself, the fate of women's rights are fearfully inching towards what they were in the second-wave. So, where do we go from here knowing what we know now?
Watch it for the music. Or for the nostalgia. Or, like many fans of the film, to witness the one of the best fictional groupies in pop culture - the one and only Penny Lane. Inspired by his own early carer as a writer for Rolling Stone, Almost Famous director Cameron Crowe crafts the perfect ode to 1970s rock and roll culture.
Teenager William Miller (Patrick Fugit) leaves his sheltered life and embarks on a mission to craft a profile on the popular fictional rockband, Stillwater. Along the way, he is introduced to drug culture, sex, the pursits of fame, and Penny Lane. As he becomes more entrenched with the band and lifestyle, how will that affect the story - both his own and the proposed pitch to Rolling Stone? What’s the price of fame? Certainly more back then than it is now; a viral video has nothing on traditional muses and fifteen minutes of ultimate fame.
Long before Only Fans and the internet, porn could only be accessed by magazine. Pick up a copy of Playboy and Penthouse and hide the magazines under your bed. Between that time, though, innovation and legalizations led way to “The Golden Age of Porn”.
The Deuce, starring big names like James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal, follows the rise of the porn industry in New York City through the lens of prostitutes and pimps, actors and filmmakers, and the surrounding social issues that made way for the sexual revolution. Considering leaps in liberation today by means of content creators and porn sites, a new sexual revolution is underway - perhaps we can learn a lesson or two from where it went right (and wrong).
Categorized as a “birographical black comedy crime thriller”, Black KkKlansman certainly lives up to the genre. Set in during the 1970s, the movie, based on a book by the same name, follows the first African-American detective in Coloroda Springs, Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), as he investigates a local Klu Klux Klan chapter.
The award-winning film has been praised for using these events from history to continue the conversation of current events, particularly the time of its release in 2018. While difficult to watch at times, Black KkKlansman offers profound lessons on Black culture, police brutality, and prejudices - and fragility - of the White supremacy. More than that, it asks viewrs to question how exactly we ended up here, and where to go from there.
That 70s Show
From the start of the 1970s to New Years Eve 1979, the appropriately-titled That 70s Show follows one small town friend group come of age in a time of weed and Star Wars. What do they do for fun? How do they navigate entangled relationships and parents who can’t quite keep up with youth culture?
Well, for one, a smoke session seems to rid all worries. And despite the different decade, Eric Forman (Topher Grace) and his friends grew up quite similarly to modern teenagers. Hanging out with nothing to do. Isn’t that what we all do; what teenagers do?
Some more recommendations:
Diary of a Teenage Girl
F is for Family
Dazed and Confused
20th Century Women