What Makes Him So Goddamned Special?: Populist Conservatism in Eighties Film
It makes sense, really, that the conservative, materialistic political culture of the 1980s were marshalled in by an actor. Reagan, of course, duly earned his nickname "The Great Communicator" - his mastery of folksy charm, decisive rhetoric, and universal appeal remain unmatched by any of his successors in both the Presidency and the Republican Party. And of all of the "great things" communicated by Reagan, none were greater than the American Dream: getting rich. And vis a vis wealth, rags-to-riches was the ultimate success. Elitism and primogeniture were looked down upon; it was much better to cross the tracks than to start out on the right side of them.
The Hollywood of Reagan's Presidency was much more aware of this facet of the human condition than Reagan's own Hollywood years atop the SAG. By a large degree the hero myth of the 1940s and 50s was devoid of class consciousness. The World Wars had provided enough physical embodiments of bravery to gloss over materialism. Watch most of the period war dramas, and it's hard to tell what kind of neighborhood each kid came from, what schooling they had - much less what car they drove or clothes they wore. Even as late as 1977, George Lucas's seminal classic Star Wars presented a young idealist succeeding without attaching economic virtues to his protagonist. But by the end of Vietnam, war had no heroes to offer, and understandably, the culture of show-me consumerism ushered in (with no small dose of irony) by the grown up members of the 60s counterculture movement proved to be an excellent breeding ground for feel-good movies.
Here now, are 30 popular films of the 1980s which inhabit the populist, anti-authority, self-serving conservative ideals of Reagan Republicans. Accompanying each film is some notes on what criteria it met, and some analysis when necessary of key characters, plot points, scenes, and dialogue.