Ronald Reagan- A Popular Culture Icon In The 1980 |

Ronald Reagan- A popular culture icon in the 1980

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Ronald Reagan- A popular culture icon in the 1980’s
Ronald Reagan, who was one of the past United States’ president, is regarded as a
catalyst for the great pop culture in the 1980’s. While this public figure may not be said to be a
great president who was in support of free speech and prosperity, it can be confirmed in several
ways that the oppressive regime that he applied aimed at fostering an atmosphere of rebellious
creativity that made the 1980’s to be one of the most notable period for the pop culture. Before
engaging in politics, Ronald Reagan was a stardom as an actor in Hollywood movies and
television. From the time that Reagan assumed the position of the President, everything that
surrounded his position was characterized by circumstance; and this is the reason as to why it is
thought that he curated the decade that was to come. Reagan was one president who was more
keen at invoking the creativity of other people through his conservative politics.
One of the main areas in which Ronald Reagan gained fame from is in music, precisely
the hardcore punk. President Reagan was the prime pariah for punk to rally against in the United
States as well as abroad. With his rise to power coinciding with the arrival or rather initiation of
hardcore punk, many bands that were working under the same genre decided to emblem
Reagan’s face on their flyers, albums, T-shirts, and even covers with his name (Batchelor 11).
Apart from that, it was also found that some of the groups chose to name themselves after
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Reagan with an example being the anarcho punk band Reagan Youth that was formed in Queen,
New York in the year 1980, thus showing that his name was iconic.
When it came to the year 1981, alternative tentacles were found to feature Reagan on the
cover of their compilation album, with one of them being Let Them Eat Jellybeans; whose title
refers to Reagan’s favorite candy. The band that run this album made a career out of mentioning
Reagan in their song. To this end, it can therefore be stated that the name Reagan is an important
brand name as it made the music to be famous, and that is the reason why Ronald Reagan is
regarded as an icon in the musical arena (Edsforth, and Larry 39).
Similarly, there was also the Suncity Girls’ 1987 album, which Horse Cock Phener took
its title from an alleged nickname for Ronald Reagan, and this came after the composer noted the
benefits of using Reagan’s name in his composition. Still on the same tune, the album’s
refraining spoken word track “Voice of America” makes mention of the president as a way of
making it popular after proving that doing so will make it sell.
Apart from the hardcore punk along with the alternative tentacles, Reagan was also found
to be an icon in hip hop music as well. As hip hop emerged in the 1980’s, a majority of the
rappers incorporated the name Reagan in their lyrics. For instance, proto rapper by the name Gil
Scott-Heron made Reagan the subject of his 1981 song. In addition, there was also the sound
collage group that sampled Reagan on their 1981 album.
Conversely, it is surprising that Reagan also featured in reggae, riddim and in African
music. For instance, when it comes to riddim, it is noted that the Kansas City’s Grammy-
nominated blue riddim band recorded a satirical track entitled Nancy Reagan in the year 1982,
with the music being about the president and his wife’s misguided priorities. On the other hand,
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when it comes to the African music, Fela Kuti was found to feature demonic caricatures of
Ronald Reagan along with other world leaders on the cover of his 1989 album.
Nevertheless, there are various other elements that prove that Ronald Reagan was a
popular icon in the 1980’s. In the year 1984, summer Olympics were hosted in the American soil
for the first time with American athletes dominating their international competitors at Los
Angeles games. In this case, the United States’ team won twice as many gold medals as their
close competitor Romania, with charismatic athletes such as sprinter Carl Lewis and gymnast
Mary Lou breaking the record, thus inspiring a new nationalist favor among the fans. At the
same time, the reelection campaign of Ronald Reagan rolled out a series of uber-patriotic
television adverts that displayed idealized scenes of everyday American life with a soothing
voice-over explained stating that it is morning again in America and under the leadership of
Ronald Reagan, America is prouder, stronger, and better. In this case, the popular phrase that
was used by Reagan, which is “Morning in America” after the victory is what highlights the fact
that Reagan was an icon in the 1980’s popular culture in the United States (Troy 29).
Apart from the phrase Morning in America, the other phrase that attributes Ronald
Reagan as an icon in the popular culture is “Born in the United States of America”. It is noted
that the red, blue and the white summer of the year 1984 is known to find its perfect sound track
in the Born in the U.S.A, which was a chart-topping new album from the E-street band in
collaboration with Bruce Springsteen. This record, which became an unavoidable presence on
the American radio, was released a month before the Olympics took place in Los Angeles. The
title track in particular; which was “Born in the U.S.A, I was born in the U.S.A, seemed to
capture the nationalistic spirit of the moment. Since the music was being aired all over the
United States upon its release, a majority of its listeners heard in the music a rock and roll echo
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of Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America”. Moreover, the program director of the most famous
New York Radio station at that time called Springsteen the lead musician, a spokesman for
patriotism- the Ronald Reagan of rock and roll.
Still on the song Born in the United States, conservative columnist was in affirmation
with the fact that in Springsteen’s songs, just as in Reagan’s speeches, the recitation of the closed
factories among other social problems always seemed punctuated by a grand and cheerful
affirmation; Born in the U.S.A. Conversely, President Reagan himself even got into the act,
declaring on a campaign visit to Springsteen’s home stating that the future of America rests in a
thousand dreams inside their hearts. In addition, the president reiterated that the future of the
great nation rests in the messages in the songs by the pop artists that so many young people
admire, citing an example of New Jersey’s own Bruce Springsteen.
On the other hand, apart from Morning in America and Born in the U.S.A; both of
which are respected phrases that were used to show Ronald Reagan as an icon of the pop culture
as a result of his support towards them in the year 1980’s, the other applicable phrase is “Don’t
push me cause I’m close to the edge”. The decaying rust belts communities that were featured in
Bruce Springsteen’s songs were not the only parts of the nation that were experience significant
decline long before the year 1980 but continued to endure economic hardship even through the
boom times of the Reagan Recovery. It is noted that throughout the 80’s, the communities that
were predominated by the African-Americans in most parts of the American inner cities
experienced serious economic disinvestment, thus resulting in crumbling infrastructure, endemic
joblessness, along with epidemics of crime and drugs. In addition, despite the fact that the
structural forces in America moved jobs and capital out of the inner cities, those people who
were left behind got themselves demonized by a prevailing ideology which suggested that
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poverty was attributed to individual laziness. To this end, it can, therefore, be stated that
President Reagans’ “morning in America was not the case for ghettos, though the phrase itself,
which is “Morning in America” made him an icon in the popular culture in the areas in which the
situation was applicable such as the main city.
Consequently, the decay in the inner cities led to the emergence of a new cultural
movement that was first dismissed by many people as a mere fad, but since established as an
enduring force in the American popular culture; hip hop. In the year 1982, rap groups such as the
Grandmaster Flash in conjunction with the Furious Five produced “The Message” which was a
record that highlighted the cultural artifacts of 80’s along with the raw desperation of the Black
Urban life in Ronald Reagan’s America. In “The Message”, it is noted that hip hop music offered
up a radical dissent from the pro-market ideas that dominated the American discourse during the
Reagan era (Rossinow 15). To this end, it can be sated that apart from other forms of music, hip
hop was one of the genres in the popular culture that made Ronald Reagan to be an icon.
Conversely, while “Born in the U.S.A” and “The Message” demonstrated that the
American pop culture could generate powerful critiques of Ronald Reagan’s vision for America,
neither song, in truth, was very typical of its time. Most of the American popular music and
songs of the 1980’s were far more likely to celebrate Reagan’s values than to challenge them.
For most parts of his presidency, Reagan was quite popular, with pop culture reflecting the
America’s public admiration for the president and his view of the world.
Putting aside pop music and shifting the attention to pop cinema, the most enduring
cinematic invocations of the principles of Reaganism is found in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street
1987, which was a movie that aimed at satirizing the free-market philosophy that was dominant
in the 80’s but ended up for many viewers glorifying them instead. In this film, the most
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magnetic character, Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas, makes hundreds of millions by
buying up undervalued companies, discharging himself from membership and selling off the
parts for profit (Bates 11). While stone, who was an outspoken liberal who loathed Reagan and
Reaganism wrote a script that meant to cast Gekko as the film’s villain, the riveting performance
by Douglas, which saw him win an Oscar award, stole the show, transforming the character into
a flawed but compelling hero. In other words, Reagan was a flawed president in the 1980’s
though he pretends to be a compelling hero. This negative side, to some extent, makes Reagan
Ronald to be an icon in the popular culture during that time.
Nonetheless, the memorable scene of the film is whereby Gekko appears at a
stakeholder’s meeting justifying his actions by invoking, unapologetically, the moral principle of
self-interest. In the meeting, the character who is said to be a replica to Reagan stipulated that he
or she is not a destroyer of companies of which he really was, but a liberator of them. In addition,
this character highlighted that greed is good, claiming that it cuts through and captures the
essence of the evolutionary spirit. Consequently, still in reference to the film that was written by
Stone, the monologue which this writer intended to put across as satire of what he saw as ruling-
class selfishness in the Reagan era, frequently won cheers and applause from the audience of the
film. Much to the dismay of this writer, Reagan had convinced most of the Americans that the
principle of considered self-interest could indeed, empower individuals, liberate firms, as well as
restore the faded gleam of the United States (Thompson 41). This is the other bad side of Reagan
since he was not advising his electorates to do things the right way, though he was regarded as an
icon over the same.
Arguably, it is noted that Ronald Reagan as an icon to popular culture, had some
influence to his wife Nancy Reagan, and this can be explained using the Just Say No motto that
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was adopted by his wife in the course of the anti-drug crusade. Nancy had been found to be so
concerned about drug use in the United States, prior to her arrival at the White House. As the
first lady of the great nation, she made prevention of youth drug addiction her signature cause. In
her advocacy mission, Nancy Reagan worked with one of the New York advertising firms to
shape the campaign. In the course of such contract, it was noted that the first lady used popular
culture to propel her message. In the year 1983, Nancy, played herself in an episode of the
popular sitcom entitled Different Strokes. Moreover, another popular kids television show
entitled Punky Brewster aired an episode about resisting peer pressure to resist drugs, and started
a partnership with Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” clubs organizing anti-drug “Punky Brewster
Marches” at schools around the country (Hunt 7). The war against drugs in schools as advocated
for by Nancy Reagan after receiving motivation from Ronald Reagan is what makes the latter an
icon in the popular culture.
Apart from the entertainment arena, which include music, films, and so forth, the other
aspect of popular culture that made Reagan to be viewed as an icon in the 1980’s is the social
aspect. One of the social issues that made Reagan to be an icon is the issue of abortion. In this
regard, it is noted that Reagan opposed the practice of abortion on fundamentalist grounds. The
president termed abortion as an evil and illegal practice, and this saw the passing of the anti-
abortion legislation that imposed heavy fines on the perpetrators of the practice.
Besides that, religion is another aspect that made Reagan to be viewed as an icon. When
it comes to matters Christianity and religion in general, Ronald Reagan as the head of the United
States believed in the powers of prayer and the importance of the bible to the oval office. For
him, spiritual faith was not something to hang in the closet upon taking political office. When he
assumed the position of a governor, Reagan had often relied on prayer for guidance, and after
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entering the white house, he felt he needed prayer as much as ever. In addition, Reagan also had
a feeling that America and the Americans needed the bible, claiming that the bible had all the
answers. Furthermore, Reagan held the belief that biblical wisdom was indispensable in devising
intelligent law. Still on the aspect of religion, Reagan gave an order that men and women must
seek divine guidance in the policies of their government and the promulgation of their laws.
Additionally, he reiterated that those in authority should make laws and government that is not
only a model to mankind but also to be a testament to the wisdom and mercy of God. The strong
religious belief that was portrayed by Reagan is what makes him an icon in the religious domain.
Last but not least, the other issue of popular culture that made Reagan to be an icon in the
1980’s is that related to the control of the deadly disease, HIV/AIDs. In this case, Reagan first
initiated the need for the federal government to offer accurate information about the disease to
the American residents by the educators. In this regard, the president was of the idea that sex
education should be taught in connection with the values, and should not be simply taught as a
physical and mechanical process. On matters health education and promotion on HIV/AIDs,
Reagan is regarded as an icon in the popular culture in the sense that he formed the foundation
for the incorporation of the lessons pertaining to the pandemic in school syllabus (Hunt 37).
In conclusion, Ronald Reagan is one of the reputable icons in the popular culture in the
United States in 1980’s. One of the confirmations that is in support of this claim is the fact that a
majority of the bands used his name either directly or indirectly. Apart from that, the other
reason as to why Reagan is regarded as an icon in the popular culture is because he was featured
in various films and cinemas by various characters, which such characters emulating his style of
leadership. The other reason as to why Reagan is an icon in the popular culture can be traced on
the inspiration that he gave to her wife to start the Just Say No campaign against drugs in
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schools. To this end, it can, therefore be concluded that Reagan is an important icon in the
popular culture in the 1980’s.
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Batchelor, Bob. American Pop: Popular Culture Decade by Decade. Westport, Conn
: Greenwood Press, 2009. Print.
Bates, Toby G. The Reagan Rhetoric: History and Memory in 1980s America. DeKalb:
Northern Illinois University Press, 2011. Print.
Edsforth, Ronald, and Larry Bennett. Popular Culture and Political Change in Modern America
. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991. Print.
Hunt, Jilly. Popular Culture. London: Raintree, 2012. Internet resource.
Rossinow, Douglas C. The Reagan Era: A History of the 1980s. , 2015. Internet resource.
Thompson, Graham. American Culture in the 1980s. Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univ. Press, 2007
. Print.
Troy, Gil. Morning in America: How Ronald Reagan Invented the 1980s. Princeton:
Princeton Univ. Press, 2005. Print.

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