Friday, February 16, 2007

5 Decades And Their Iconic Objects

Decade: The 1950's
Object: A Pit Barbecue
Why: The 50's was a reaction to World War II. Instead of traveling to foreign lands to commit the ultimate transgression of killing to save the world, men were called upon to make a home and raise a family. The pit barbecue is a place where men cook, not alone, and the brick enclosure represents a permanence.
Prominent Object which doesn't represent the decade: bongo drums. Sure there were beatniks around, but they were nowheresville.

Decade: The 1960's
Object: A Gun With a Flower In The Barrel
Why: You'll be hard pressed to find a decade in American history which had this much internal conflict. Yeah, there was that one with the Civil War, but the sixties actually posited, among other things, youth versus age, war versus anti-war, black versus white, witch versus mortal, electric versus folk, and God (Clapton) versus Satan (Jagger). Conflicted decade, conflicted symbol.
Prominent Object which doesn't represent the decade: black monolith - could have made the cut had it been a duolith!

Decade: The 1970's
Object: Puka Shell Necklace
Why: Like the fifties, the seventies was more a reaction to a turbulent decade than a decade itself. Having taken on society's greatest problems and failing to resolve them, we were content to retreat into trivia, novelty and silly pleasure. Do not forget that a disco remake of Beethoven's 5th symphony topped the charts during the seventies! Hence the necklace, which was jewelry and yet unattractive. It literally screamed, "leave me alone! Don't look at me!"
Prominent Object which doesn't represent the decade: mirrored disco ball - they were all over the place, but too fragmented to reflect anything meaningful.
Footnote: We went through the whole decade without a single good president.

Decade: The 1980's
Object: The Korg Synthesizer
Why: It is no coincidence that music in the eighties was so synth-heavy. The synth is a single piece of musical equipment which, when properly tweaked, can take the place of any other. It represents unlimited potential. And so in the eighties. Without a big trauma for ten years, people were ready to dream big. The stock market swelled as people committed their funds to make them even more funds. The gyms of America were overrun with flabby bodies of all ages, now realizing that they could be perfect. Cocaine, the meglomanic's drug of choice, flourished. We all wanted it all, right now.
Prominent Object which doesn't represent the decade: Rubik's cube. Don't be such a braniac, spazz.

Decade: the 1990s
Object: Blue Dress With Semen Stain
Why: Let's face it, aside from that impeachment unpleasantness, things were pretty good in the nineties. We had record economic growth, we weren't at war with anyone significant for any significant length, and technology was advancing pleasantly along. Things were going so swimmingly that we could afford to waste time on trivia like the president's sex life and treat it like a high crime. Idle hands! Come to think of it... never mind, the innuendo wasn't worth the space.
Prominent Object which doesn't represent the decade: Cell phone. But they ARE really cool.

Now of course we're rounding up another decade... any early ideas on what this decade means and what the object is?

1 comment:

Skot said...


Wonderful list. However, my take on American life in the latter half of the 20th century is all about the wheels. Cars are at the heart of all of our country's dreams, our aspirations and our self-image. They're also the root source of most of our country's problems.

Fortunately, Chris and I are car guys, and this as our addenda.

Skot's Picks:

The 1950s
Iconic Car: '57 Chevy Bel Air. Still ubiquitous.
Promenent Car: '58 Edsel. Hideous, chrome-plated, with a toilet-seat grill. Rare.

The 1960s
Iconic Car: '64 Aston Martin DB4. James Bond's car.
Promenent Car: VW Bug. Dustin Hoffman used to advertise them. Made the car look bigger.

The 1970s
Iconic Car: '77 Pontiac Firebird Trans-Am OR '78 Porsche Turbo Carrara
Promenent Car: '78 AMC Pacer. An avocado greenhouse on wheels. Complete with cheesy knobs that came off in your hand.

The 1980s
Iconic Car: '88 BMW 320i. Gordon Gekko-mobile.
Promenent Car: Toyota SR5 pickup. Every one made is apparently still on the road.

The 1990s
Iconic Car: Jeep Grand Cherokee. The first luxury SUV.
Promenent Car: Toyota Camry. Every one made is apparently still on the road.


Chris' Picks

The 1950s
Iconic Car: 1959 Plymouth Fury. Long, wide, and heavy with loads of chrome and fins to spare -OR- 1959 Mercedes Benz 300SL Gullwing
Prominent Car: 1955-7 Chevrolet Bel Air. Unique perhaps because this prominent status has remained unchallenged for decades.

The 1960s
Iconic Car: 64 1/2 Ford Mustang. Ignited the idea that the 'everyman' could have a muscle car
Prominent Car: 1964 Dodge Dart (plus Plymouth Valiant). Which one among us hasn't owned, borrowed, or ridden in one of these?

The 1970s
Iconic Car: 1977 Cadillac El Dorado Convertible. Slap some steer's horns on the grill of that baby!
Prominent Car: The Ford Pinto. Period.

The 1980s
Iconic Car: 1981 DeLorean. Back to the future, man!
Prominent Car: Toyota Corolla. Most popular car ever made.

The 1990s
Iconic Car: BMW Z3. The rebirth of the roadster
Prominent Car: Nissan Altima. Ubiquitous and suppository-like in it's roundiness.

The 00's
Iconic Car: Cadillac Escalade, unfortunately. Artless excess for the unsophisticated masses.
Prominent Car: Toyota Camry. Possibly the best overall car ever made, as long as style and excitement don't count.

...and my pick for the iconic car of the 20th century? 1965 Jaguar XKE converitble. Admit it: you've always wanted one!