In Iran, the American-backed Shah had become increasingly unpopular throughout the 1970s. The Shah fled Iran in 1979, finding temporary refuge in the United States. Religious extremist Ayatollah Khomeni easily filled Iran's political and social need for a backlash against American interventionism.
Iran's 1979 Revolution had a major impact on its relationship with the United States and with the rest of the world. Whereas the Shah had guaranteed a steady supply of oil to the United States in exchange for "economic and military aid," the Ayatollah Khomeni did not ("The Hostage Crisis in Iran"). The situation created a second oil crisis and subsequent inflation. Moreover, the Iranian Revolution soured American relations with the nation when on November of 1979, Iranian militants "stormed the United States Embassy in Tehran and took approximately seventy Americans captive," ("The Hostage Crisis in Iran"). The hostage scenario symbolized the rise of terrorism and specifically, anti-American terrorism.
Political, economic, and social realities made their way into the arts. Film television, fashion, visual, and performance arts flourished during the 1970s and responded well to the crises taking place worldwide. In the United States, cinema languished during the early 1970s but steadily redefined itself by the close of the decade so that the 1970s became "a creative high point in the U.S. film industry," (Dirks). Films like the Godfather, Star Wars, and Jaws were born of the decade. The Godfather marked a popular culture obsession with gangsters and especially with the Mafia that persisted throughout the 1970s and well beyond. Science fiction, fantasy, and horror films reached new heights during the 1970s. Their counterparts in literature also became astonishingly popular during the 1970s and especially books by Stephen King. Advancements in special effects technologies enabled stunning depictions of otherworldly environments as well as horrifyingly realistic models of gore. Movies became costlier to make and more lucrative too. The European film industry also blossomed during the 1970s, and directors like Ingmar Bergman made their mark on the industry.
Television ownership climbed throughout the decade. Shows on the American airwaves during the 1970s include the Price is Right and other game shows, which became increasingly popular. All in the Family satirically revealed transformations in American social norms: especially changes in race and gender relations. Television, like film, reflected an increasingly liberal society with fewer restrictions on freedom of expression and sexuality.
The decade's music also echoed the intensity of political and social change. Rock and roll dropped the "roll" and became increasingly infused with power chords, heavy drumming, and screaming vocals. Bands like Black Sabbath and Deep Purple set the stage for a new wave of music that increasingly stretched sonic boundaries. An extension of the hard rock that emerged in the 1960s, heavy metal dominated much of the music scene during the 1970s. However, a more radio-friendly soft rock dominated the airwaves, epitomized by bands like the Eagles, REO Speedwagon, and Steely Dan. Electronic music, disco, and funk also emerged during the 1970s and became the roots of hip-hop. Punk rock flourished both in North America and in Great Britain during the 1970s and was one of the most politically motivated musical movements of the decade. Much punk music included anti-establishment lyrics, just as rock and roll had done in the late 1960s.
Drugs and debauchery became an increasingly visible part of popular culture during the 1970s. Whereas psychedelic drugs were the hallmark of the 1960s, hard drugs played a key role in the 1970s. Many drugs that were originally manufactured as commercial pharmaceuticals became recreational drugs of choice, including both uppers and downers. Cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and all other illicit drugs became increasingly popular during the 1970s, a decade during which drug use was at its peak in the United States (Aberman). Habitual and conspicuous drug use skyrocketed in a seemingly ironic response to President Nixon's 1971 declaration of "war on drugs."
The 1970s bore witness to stunning advancements in technology, with applications ranging from architecture to aeronautics. Skyscrapers and ultra-modern building design took over the skylines of major cities. Computers became more common in business, government, and consumer applications. By the end of the decade, computers had made their way into many American households and most schools, in the form of calculators and other simple devices. Video games and prototypical personal computers were not unheard of at the end of the 1970s, even though the computer revolution would not start in earnest until the 1980s.
Bell-bottoms morphed into glam disco garb in the 1970s. Fashion trends also included platform shoes and mini-skirts. African-American hair was worn natural, or "Afro" style, and Caucasian hair was also encouraged to grow long and free for most of the decade. Jeans were a steady favorite clothing choice for both men and women throughout the decade. The 1970s was a decade of flamboyance in fashion as it was in music and the arts as well.
In spite of unsettling political and economic scenarios, the 1970s welcomed positive change. Gender and race relations became increasingly more egalitarian, and all forms of bigotry less tolerated. The arts and sciences both epitomized progress, too. In fact, more robust and social criticism and social justice mitigated the darkest moments of the 1970s.
The 1964 Civil Rights Act to the Present." Infoplease.com. Retrieved Feb 8, 2009 at http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/history/A0858852.html
Aberman, Samara. "The War on Drugs." PBS NewsHourExtra. 2001. Retrieved Feb 8, 2009 at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/extra/features/jan-june01/drug_war.html
Dirks, Tim. "Film History of the 1970s." The History of Film. Retrieved Feb 8, 2009 at http://www.filmsite.org/70sintro.html
Halber, Deborah. Seventies oil crisis was a 'perfect storm' for U.S. MIT. March 23, 2007. Retrieved Feb 8, 2009 at http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2007/jacobs.html
The Hostage Crisis in Iran." Jimmy Carter Library and Museum. Retrieved Feb 8, 2009 at http://www.jimmycarterlibrary.org/documents/hostages.phtml
The Mideast Oil Crisis." Energy Matters. Retrieved Feb 8, 2009 at http://library.thinkquest.org/20331/history/mideast.html
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