It’s 1980 Week! What does that mean, you ask? Well, I decided to try out doing theme weeks from time to time, dedicating each post during that week to cultural artifacts (movies, comics, books, music) or historic events from one specific year. In the future, I will pick those years randomly, but for a start I decided on 1980, the year I was born, because, well, today’s my birthday. I don’t know how this will work out, so it’s an experiment. But I like experiments, obviously, which means I’m very excited!
To get an overview of this particular year, I thought it would be nice to look at its movie posters. I looked at all the posters of 1980 that can be found on IMP Awards and picked out the ones I found interesting. Which is still a lot (49). But because there are so many, I grouped them in categories, because many things repeat themselves. Without further ado, let’s give it up for 1980!
Draw Them Sexy and Booby, Please
It’s amazing that the most common denominator of movie posters from 1980 is women drawn as sexy caricatures for comedy posters, most of the time showing off their enormous breasts. Never are women featured in starring roles on those posters and they are always exploited. The drawing style is supposed to make it ha ha funny, but it doesn’t change the message at all. They sit on men’s laps, bend forward, look into mirrors, run around in bikinis or are carried around by men. Their exaggerated anatomy increases the clear intention of using their bodies, mostly their breasts, to get the viewer’s attention. Their Body Work’s the Best the tagline of High Test Girls proudly claims, summarizing it perfectly. Most of the men are shown as normal human beings, unless they’re fat.
Women Are the Better Victims
Who else would a serial slasher or a monster from the sea or a mysterious fog pick first than helpless women? Since they're, d'uh, helpless! Those movies want you to be scared, but even if you're a man, it doesn't mean that you are a potential victim. Women are victims, after all. So we get women screaming, cowering or, for the fun of it, killed right away. There is more to this in the movies themselves (which I'll get to tomorrow by examining one of these five examples), but the posters already tell a depressing story of women as slasher fodder.
Add Woman for Sex Please
This selection is similar to the first category, but here it's not the exaggarated drawing style, but more the focus. Either the focus is directly put on women's sexual attributes (breasts, butts, complete nudity or even the mouth as in Caddyshack) or the poster tells a story about sex. Look at Jodie Foster in the Carny poster! Good for her she didn't get typecast as a prostitute. Little Darlings is nothing more but tiltillation of the creepiest kind: "Yes, they look innocent, but believe us, they can't wait to have sex!" And The Happy Hooker of Hollywood is its own disaster by itself. I mean, really, wow!
Him vs. Her
So much for equality.
1) The Blue Lagoon: "The boy grows tall. The girl beautiful." This is the most blatant example of treating men and women differently - men are strong, women are pretty. But "Nature is kind" is awful all by itself, since nature is nature, it's neither kind to two young lovers we paid to see have sex, nor mean.
2) The Competition: "He has been working for this moment his entire life. This is his last chance. For her, this could be the beginning." He is given much more space, determination and purpose, while she just seems to be waiting for someone to pick her up, so she can start her life.
3) The First Deadly Sin: "He's searching for a killer. She's searching for a miracle." He is actively doing something good, she passively waits for something to save her. It's the same old story.
Strong Women to the Rescue
Finally, two counter-examples! Gloria goes all the way for the "tough woman"-trope featuring Gena Rowlands with a gun, being so tough that she's triple the woman that others are. Still, she protects a kid, so that we're at least back in maternal protective instinct area. 9 to 5 depicts "The Power Behind The Throne", thereby claiming that a man might be the most powerful here, but he only works because of the women behind him. It's still an odd poster, mainly because Dabney Coleman looks so unhappy that women do everything for him. Nevertheless, the women are the stronger ones here and both posters are the exception of women in the foreground of movie posters.
Support Your Men
Going all the way back into the other direction, here we have collection of women doing nothing but being an accessory for men. Standing behind them, clinging to them, being held on by their shoulder or kissed. In a way, The Empire Strikes Back is really unfortunate because it doesn't really represent what the movie tells, as Leia is so much lower than Han Solo here and it's the bickering between both of them that is special on-screen. But the absurdity of Coast to Coast is the worst here, from anatomy to composition to tagline.
This is an interesting category, moving away from the gender question to the portrayal of the zeitgeist of that year. American Gigolo attempts to destroy an illusion of romance or finding the perfect man by going down an interesting dark path. Borderline and The Exterminator show America as hell and the American Dream turned into a nightmare, waiting for vigilantes to save it. Fame describes New York as "vulgar yet beautiful", but attempts a stab at multiculturalism for the American Dream. And Ordinary People goes for the dysfunctional family. All in all, a pretty dismal portrayal of the state of things for that year. Not a lot of hope in any of these posters really, except for Fame.
Kids Are Creepy
If the Grimm Brothers knew one thing, it was that people in our culture really go for evil kids. A trend that is picked up in 1980 at least on two posters. Kids as a menace guarantee anxiety for everyone, which is never the most uncommon feeling in our society.
Just for falling out of any poster trope of that year, I really like this poster for the mind trip that is Altered States. The tagline is silly and over the top, but that image is so telling and intriguing.
I'm not sure what these posters tell us about the world in 1980, except that sexism is widespread, the American Dream sucks and that there as many yetis as black people. We'll see what else 1980 has to offer throughout the week. Enjoy it! I will.