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The 70s: 6 Things Everybody Got Wrong About This Decade

Our understanding of time is incredibly subjective and sometimes incredibly wrong. There is no logical basis for considering each decade to be a separate mini-era that has its own mood, style, and music.

However, these flimsy portrayals of decades do not provide a complete picture. For instance, everyone believes they understand what the 1970s were like. On the basis of Saturday Night Fever alone, you could assume that everyone in the nation was just constantly dancing to disco music while being dressed in a very unfashionable way.

The decade saw a great deal more than just the rise of disco and the introduction of polyester fashion. The 1970s slowly came in, emerging from the shattered ruins of the 1960s. Even those who really lived through the 1970s tend to misremember a few key details about that decade.

Photo by Vincenzo Lullo at Shutterstock

#1 No more social movements

Everyone agrees that movements and protests characterized the 1960s. The youth wanted to combat poverty, eradicate prejudice, and put an end to war. People were engaged, tuned in, and prepared to make a difference in the world.

Then came the 1970s, and everyone forgot about it. And besides, everyone was far too preoccupied with learning about themselves to care much about anybody else.

Of course, this is all nonsense. The 1970s maintained the pattern of a widespread drive to improve the world. Even though the Stonewall Riots that launched the Gay Rights Movement in the United States occurred in 1969, the movement achieved national attention in the 1970s when LGBTQ individuals across the country gathered and pushed for their human and civic rights.

The 1970s were also the decade in which we came extremely close to accepting the Equal Rights Amendment and legitimizing women’s equality in the national constitution.

In other words, when it comes to social concerns, the 1970s were far from being passive. While the incidents of the 1960s receive the most attention in the media and in the public consciousness, the 1970s were equally thrilling in this country.

#2 The technology wasn’t performant at all in the 70s

The twenty-first century can make us believe that we are living in the world of tomorrow. Even more, you could feel sorry for the unfortunate people who lived through the 1970s, which was clearly a more primitive era. You may even question how people enjoyed themselves in such a technologically undeveloped era.

In many ways, it wasn’t that different. Since the first mobile phone call took place in 1973, people in the 1970s did not really have smartphones. Also, they did not have performant computers on their wrists 50 years ago, but the first PC was launched in the 1970s. This PC was rather helpful, even though it would be deemed hilarious by today’s standards.

Video games date back to the 1950s, and in the 1970s the first console was released. Also, everyone had a TV in their homes.

In essence, almost everything we consider innovative technology was available in the 1970s. Sure, it was huge and sluggish in general, but it was still there.

Line at a gas station Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

#3 The gas lines were very long

It’s among the most iconic pictures of the 1970s: folks queuing for miles at gas stations. The United States has lowered its own oil and gas production to very low levels, leaving us dependent on the oil provided by other countries, most especially the Arab countries that were members of OAPEC.

The member nations had never recognized Israel’s legitimacy, and when President Richard Nixon supported Israel in 1973, during the war, OAPEC declared an oil embargo.

Prices skyrocketed, gasoline became limited, and a population that had become addicted to driving everywhere found itself unexpectedly restrained. Those long lines of people queuing for gas had become a metaphor for a nation in decline and for the era itself.

However, the ban was lifted shortly after, in March 1974. Although prices stayed high for some time, the problem was generally solved by 1975.

There was a lasting influence in a rush of legislation meant to prevent the crisis from happening again, including the founding of the Department of Energy in 1977, although not everyone endured 10 years of waiting in lengthy lines due to a gas shortage.

#4 People were not creative

The 1950s were defined by conformism, the 1960s were powerfully creative as the younger generation fought that rigidity, and then the 1970s were defined by extravagance and a more generic and less creative spirit.

That is not the case. In almost every artistic field, the 1970s were a dynamic, happening time. In some ways, the 1970s were even more inventive and thrilling than the 1960s. The 1970s were truly pop music’s Golden Age, with a lot of music critics believing that the most important rock recordings of all history were released in 1971.

In many aspects, the 1970s were Hollywood’s Golden Age. The 1970s witnessed the birth of great directors such as Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg, as well as the release of some of the most memorable films of all time, after decades of being constrained by morality rules and the studio system.

It was also the decade during which artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring began to create their work. The idea is that the 1970s were quite amazing.

Photo by buryakphoto at Shutterstock

#5 Style was nonexistent in the 70s

There are many jokes about 1970s fashion. The term “shag carpet” summons up a precise image of what the decade used to look like.

The 1970s are commonly regarded as the decade when taste died, when the clean, classic styles of the 1950s and the far-out but certainly cool designs of the 1960s were replaced with loads of open shirts, gold chains, and sideburns. Similarly, avocado kitchenware, macrame all around, and vinyl tablecloths ruined the interior design.

It’s hilarious, but it’s also inaccurate. Every decade has style screw-ups, and it’s clear that they don’t define the decade. Many people believe the 1970s to be one of the finest decades in fashion and design history. And many design and aesthetic concepts from the 1970s aren’t only making a significant comeback but also inspiring new trends.

In essence, one of the reasons the 1970s were so wild in terms of fashion was a dramatic turn toward self-expression enabled by the previous decade’s movements. People were recently given permission to personalize their houses and outfits rather than conform, resulting in a rush of creativity.

#6 Divorce is bad

The 1970s are typically linked with divorce, as is the oft-repeated “fact” that half of all marriages end in divorce. Almost every movie and TV series from that era managed to include a divorced couple. And it is accurate that the rate of divorce reached an all-time peak in the 1970s. In 1979, the divorce rate was 5.3 per 1,000 Americans. It’s plain to see why the 1970s were dubbed the “decade of divorce”.

But the fact is that the divorce rate increased in the 1970s for simple reasons that had nothing to do with collapsing morals or the breakdown of the conventional family. California approved the first “no-fault” divorce legislation in 1969, and the rest of the country quickly followed suit. For the very first time in history, this enabled many women to quickly escape violent or unsatisfying marriages. This, paired with the emerging feminist movement, has encouraged women and society in general to pursue love and pleasure rather than stability.

If you like the 70s, you might also want to check out: 5 U.S. Cults So Terrifying We Can’t Get Over Them


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