Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Child of the Seventies

I was born in 1968, but I grew up mostly in the 1970’s.  When the 80’s rolled in I was 11, so my teen years were in that decade.  As a child of the 70’s there are things I experienced that succeeding generations take as a given that were new.  The Seventies saw the beginning of really merchandising to kids.  Now it occurred before that, but after 1977 and Star Wars that changed.  The Toy licensing of Star Wars is interesting.  In 1977 Lucasfilms approached Mego, a toy company known for licensing various properties into toylines.  They did the DC and Marvel 8 inch figures; they also did Happy Days, CHiPs, Star Trek: The Original Series and many more.  The President of Mego refused saying he did not want to be known for licensing every B Science Fiction Movie.  So Lucasfilms went to Kenner and they took it, that lead to Kenner becoming a powerhouse in the Toy Industry.  Kenner later became part of Hasbro.  Mego went out of business in 1982.  They were a top Toy company in the seventies. 

In the Seventies, Toys were made from characters from TV, Movies, and Comic Books.  By the 1980’s TV Shows, Comic Books and other merchandise were made from toy lines.  That led to many concerns that animated TV shows in the 80’s were thirty minute commercials.  Star Wars helped come up with the idea of anything was game to license for merchandising to kids.  My brother owned the Jaws game that was made in the Seventies.  In the Seventies businesses really began to understand how media affected kids.  A positive spin on this is Children’s Workshop using advertising techniques to teach kids with the advent of Sesame Street.  ABC did this also with Schoolhouse Rock.  Advertisers both in positive and negative ways began to really target kids more in the 70’s.  It did not hurt that the saturation of media as we know started to go into overdrive in that decade as well.  It was not just Television and Film, radio and the Music industry started to target the tweens during this time with Michael Jackson, Donny Osmond, David and Shaun Cassidy, Lief Garret and many more. 

The Seventies are when we saw people advertise their tastes with their clothes.  This is when the TV and film tie in T-shirts began.  There were also shops that made custom shirts using vinyl decals and heavy duty presses.  With more stores carrying the screen printed work these types of places went away by the mid Nineties.  Before the Seventies one brand was really big in Athletic shoes, Converse; by the mid Seventies they had major competition form Adidas, Puma, Nike, and up and comer Vans.  The late Seventies saw the advent of the designer Jeans, before that Levis and Lees ruled denim.  Many of these trends still exist today.

The Seventies with the rise of the FM station was when music had long shelf lives.  Songs released years ago would be re-released as singles again if the act was increasing in popularity.  Dream On by Aerosmith only charted to 59 on the U.S. charts when it first was released in 1973. After the success of Toys in the Attic in 1975, it was re-released and went as high as 6 in the U.S.  When I was in high school a song from almost 10 years earlier were on the pop stations.    In the early eighties a lot of the early Punk and New Wave songs that came out in the mid to late Seventies were still on the radio.  So when I was creating certain play lists based on chronology I was surprised by the actual release date of some of the music. Today music seems more transitory having a shelf life of months or weeks as opposed to years. 

It seems that all Popular Culture is losing itself shelf life due to easy accessibility.  Movies from the Thirties, Forties, Fifties Sixties and even ones released a few years prior remained in Theaters especially Drive Ins.  That is something many Children of succeeding decades will have missed out in.  By the Eighties over half of the Drive-In Theaters closed down.  This is due to the rise of the huge Multiplex theaters in urban and suburban areas.  In many was Drive-In Theaters were more Communal in nature.  People would socialize during the Intermissions.  In some case almost have a tailgate party.  Luckily I live in an area were we have a Drive-In with in 5 miles.  They still play the older movies there, in the last few years we have seen Creature of the Black Lagoon and The Warriors on the Big Screen.  Drive-Ins were a major part of American Popular Culture between the late 1940’s and the 1970’s.  In Ventura County California where I grew up the City of Ventura had a large Drive-In that had 3 screens.

As I said Earlier I think the Seventies is when the media started targeting the Tweens (9-12) and early teens which is also the Junior High/ Middle School set.  This is when the Young Adult Literature movement started to really take off.  The momentum of it started in the late Sixties with S.E. Hinton.  She helped continue the movement with more books in the Seventies.  Without this previous history we may not have had Harry Potter or the Hunger Games.  Those adult who read Young Adult Literature as Tweens and Teens, are now Adults reading Young Adult Literature.  They know the label does not mean lower quality. 

As a Child of the Seventies I have seen many changes in the way media affects us.  I have seen the continued marketing targeting younger and younger people.  Mass consumerism seems to continue to this day.  I am still not sure how I feel about it.  This Has Been My Not So Humble Opinion.

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