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Culturally Defining Moments of our Youth

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RottingCorpse:
I posted The Washingtonian's Theismann piece yesterday as one of the most culturally defining moments of my youth. Afterwards I thought a bit and concluded, "Man, that's a bold statement." It got me thinking about it: What are the ten most culturally defining moments of my youth?

I'm pretty sure I used "culturally defining" incorrectly, because then wouldn't we all have to agree what those ten things are? I think I meant "most influential" because watching the chest burster scene in Alien would be on there for me. The things I thought of were the events and cultural works that (with the rosy glasses of hindsight and nostalgia) changed me and shaped who I am.

Anyway, for this exercise I'm allowing "youth" to be defined as through age eighteen, so for me until 1993. That said, below is a draft list of the ten most culturally defining moments of my youth. These were off the top of my head, but I went ahead and put them chronological order

1. Chest Burster scene in Alien (1979, though I didn't see it until around 1981.)
2. Release of Return of the Jedi (1983)
3. Joe Theismann's leg break (1985)
4. Transformers: The Movie (1986)
5. The Challenger explosion (1986)
6. Berlin Wall/USSR falls (1989)
7. Marion Berry's arrest (1990)
8. Release of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (1991)
9. Death of Freddie Mercury (1991)
10. Countdown to Desert Storm (1991/1992)

Honorable mentions:
-The 1992 presidential election
-Oliver North and the Iran Contra Affair
-Michael Jackson catches on fire
-MTV in general
-Seeing A Nightmare on Elm Street and/or Friday the 13th for the first time

And a small localized thing, that's worth mentioning, the disappearance of a local girl named Lisa Triggs in 1986. That scared the shit out of everybody I knew.
http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/cold-case-police-seek-killer-of-prince-william-teen/article/115304

nacho:
Holy shit. The moment I clicked on this post, the Transformers theme from the movie came up on my 22,000 song Google Music shuffle! No kidding.

Here's my list:

1. Operation Eagle Claw

April 25th, 1980. This was the idiotic attempt to rescue Terry Gross and the other hostages from Iran by flying non-desert-rated helicopters through a sandstorm. The result was a spectacular crash and dead servicemen. This not only fucked the hostages, but it also shaped modern Iran (which would haunt us for years to come, and still does). It was the first "in your living room" soldier deaths of my generation, I think. Vietnam was carefully avoided, we didn't have Youtube or the History channel to bring that home, and "war" for us was the Cold War. So to see servicemen dead on the evening news and American equipment in flames and wrecked was sobering. It also was the last nail in Carter's coffin, and his tearful speech is still an image I can conjure.

2. Discovering Doctor Who (1980)

I randomly jumped into the middle of the first episode of Planet of Evil, a Tom Baker episode, airing on WETA on Sunday afternoon at about 4:30pm. My life changed forever. (I was probably avoiding coverage of #1 on this list, by the way.)

3. Spock Dies (1982)

Come on, RC! Really?

4. The Dynasty "Moldavian Massacre" (1985)

Shit, the best cliffhanger ever...and I wasn't even really watching Dynasty (was mom's show). Every moment of this episode sticks with me, and the ultra-violent cliffhanger is just off the chain. It probably pales compared to modern TV but, in 1985, WOW!

5. Joe Theismann's leg break (1985)

Also on RC's list. I was watching when this happened and can remember it clearly. I was in a room of people who, like normal people, and unlike me, were super into football. This brought the football party to a shocking end, and we got to see the reply a few thousand times.

6. Transformers: The Movie (1986)

If you're reading this, you've already read all about why this is on our lists.

7. The Challenger explosion (1986)

Oh, yes. Also on RC's list. The "where were you when" moment of our generation. I was in our school's auditorium and the whole school was watching. We were sent home to watch this replayed on every channel over and over.

8. Tiananmen Square protests/Tank Man (1989)

Tank Man became an iconic image the moment he stepped in front of that column. Even as a disillusioned high schooler, I stopped everything I was doing and held my breath..and had been during the entire Tiananmen fuckery.

9. Twin Peaks (1990)

The watershed moment in TV history that I don't think TV ever recovered from. Watching it as it aired changed my life, and the season one finale was all I thought about in the summer of 90.

10. Countdown to Desert Storm (1991/1992)

Man, if we knew then what we know now. It saddens me that this ends our lists.

Honorable mentions:
-Han is frozen, Vader reveals the truth, and what did Yoda mean when he said "There is another..."? (1980)
-Raiders face-melting (1981)
-My first Atari 2600 (1981)
-The GI Joe mini-series event ("The MASS Device") that preceded the series (1983)
-We Are The World (1985)
-Aliens (and the "The bitch is back" promotional campaign) (1986)
-Chernobyl (1986)
-David Bowie's Area Labyrinth (1986)
-Oliver North and the Iran Contra Affair (1986-1989)
-Baby Jessica (1987)
-Batman (1989)

RottingCorpse:
Just so we note it, we're both leaving out "Who shot JR Ewing?" and V on the TV side of things.

Good list. "We are the World" was something I considered and should have listed on my honorable mentions, but I decided Michael Jackson's brush with death affected me more deeply. I may have been too young for Operation Eagle Claw to have left an impression on me. My parents also weren't big nightly news watchers and I think tried it shield my sisters and I from real world violence. (TV and movie violence was somehow okay.)

Spock Dies... As I've said before, Star Trek's importance was more of a later in life influence and... Oh fuck it, I just forgot. Rookie mistake.

Another one I didn't mention was The Elephant Man (1980). I saw it when I was five and had nightmares about it for a month.  I even missed a bunch of school. Letting me watch it at that age was probably not the brightest move on my parents' part, but as mentioned, TV rules were extremely loose. It wasn't John Hurt's deformed Joseph Merrick that frightened me, as I found him kind of sad and sympathetic. It was that white one-eyed mask that haunted me. It was college before I could bring myself to watch the movie again. I think my Lynch obsession began in the mid-90s as a need to come to terms with that. I also think my "love" of the Jason movies came from the ability to take that image (the white mask hiding the deformed man) and own it in a certain way.

The Wall coming down and Desert Storm both were the one/two punch of my political awakening. I was already steeped in 60s lore at the point  of Desert Storm (as was late 80s culture in general) and my parents has raised me with this weird reverence to the 50s (the era they were young). With that countdown, the whole "we've been her before" all clicked for me. It was the first time I realized all these eras were connected politically, and that history wasn't just back then. Suddenly, I realized I had a stake in this world.

nacho:
I just didn't care about Who Shot JR. It had a slightly different evolution than the Moldavian Massacre, which is why I went with Dynasty instead of Dallas. "Who Shot JR" was planned. It was an advertising shtick that rolled out right away and it felt so artificial. Even as a kid I saw through the obvious attempt to boost ratings.

The Moldavian Massacre is one of things where, like Twin Peaks, and Transformers: The Movie, I don't think they were really thinking about what they were doing. Or, at least, they didn't have a sense of the impact.

As with Transformers, they quickly tried to retcon their mistake and, also as with Transformers, it destroyed the franchise. Dynasty itself never recovered from the massacre.

As for V... I thought about it but, on a list with Star Trek II, Doctor Who, Twin Peaks, and honorable mentions from Empire to Aliens, I started to wonder just how important V is. Did V change me or the way I viewed sci-fi? No.

RottingCorpse:
Man, the Dynasty thing completely flew by my radar. We were totally a Dallas house.

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