Dual in the Sun by John Brant Term Paper

Pages: 10 (3369 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 18  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: American History

Dual in the Sun by John Brant

There's a lot more to life than sports and athletic competition in the name of glory. But when a sports-focused individual is on a roll and has either achieved fame, money, and championship level victories - or is in hot pursuit of those goals - most other aspects of that person's life and the world surrounding that life can easily become lost in a wash of bright lights and a cloud of vapor.

Meanwhile, the article "Dual in the Sun" by John Brant is an in-depth background piece ostensibly about the Boston Marathon in 1982, but that is only part of the story. A critically important portion of the article deals with the lives of the two principle stars that were co-protagonists in the race, Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardsley. Salazar, the odds-on favorite and an internationally respected long distance runner, went head-to-head against Minnesota farmer and journeyman-turned-upstart athlete Beardsley.

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And what was going on in America during that time is the basis for this research paper on the article by Brant. There was much going on, indeed, in the Ronald Reagan era, which was a prelude for what was to come later in the lives of Beardsley and Salazar - and millions of others. Some of what was happening in America had to do with politics, sociology, history, and the search for spiritual inspiration. What is recognizable today - in an objective look back at the American popular culture in 1982 (and more generally the 80s) - is a society heavily immersed in a patriotic make-over, unending music, message movies, recreational drug and alcohol usage, the adoration of celebrities and yes, sports.

The Ronald Reagan Era: Popular American Culture

Term Paper on Dual in the Sun by John Brant Assignment

The 1982 Boston Marathon was run during the second year of the first Ronald Reagan Presidency, and America was hungry for some respect in the world. Reagan was elected in part due to his tough conservative campaign rhetoric and his promise to restore America to world prominence. The Reagan advertising campaign attacked President Jimmy Carter mercilessly, in particular over the economic slowdown in America; following the oil embargo of the late 1970s the economy suffered from inflation, high interest rates, and unemployment, and Carter received the sting from widespread complaints over the sagging economy. One of Reagan's slogans was, "A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours. And recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his." Reagan had a talent for using TV to his advantage; in the debate with Carter near election day, 1980, when Carter attacked Reagan the Republican would smile, turn his head slowly towards Carter, and utter, "There you go again..."

Carter took an enormous hit due to the hostage crisis in Iran. After the fall of the Shah of Iran in 1979, an Islamic cleric named Ayatollah Khomeini moved his country back to hard-core Muslim practices - away from the more Western style of the Shah - and radicals fomented violent anti-Americanism as a big part of that revolution. Indeed, when Americans on the U.S. Embassy staff in Tehran were held hostage for 444 days, Carter took the brunt of the criticism.

The spectacle of American failure in Iran will long haunt Americans," Steven R. Weisman wrote in the New York Times (Weisman 1981), "...especially because it was driven home by yet another blow to their self-assurance." Indeed, Weisman continued, "for a society that believes almost religiously in technology, the breakdown of three helicopters in a desert dust storm" - Carter's desperate gamble to extract the hostages from Tehran - "was a bitter setback."

Weisman speculates that "If President Carter had gotten the hostages out, he might well have won re-election." But as history has recorded, the hostages were not rescued by Carter.

And so, wisely, Reagan's strategy during the 1980 presidential campaign was to give the impression - very effectively through slick TV ads - that President Carter wasn't tough enough on foreign belligerents. The Iranian hostage crisis became a symbol of America's seeming international impotence; and it is worthy of mentioning that just 4 years earlier, Americans were in effect chased out of Vietnam by the communists, and Americans were still smarting from that experience of "losing" a war. Vietnam was the first war American had ever lost, and moreover, the Cold War was still very much on the international diplomatic agenda. Reagan talked tough, and used his acting talent and his photogenic TV stature to his best advantage, as citizens were worried about the possibility of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union that might lead to a global disaster with unprecedented consequences.

And so, the mood of the country during that 1982 Boston Marathon and throughout much of the 1980s was to "get tough" on communists and those terrorists in Iran, and to put America back on the map in terms of world power and influence. In other words, after losing the Vietnam war, being cuffed around by the radicals in Iran, having hundreds of thousands of people lose their jobs and be bitten by high inflation, winning and getting America back on track was the message of the day. That message translated seamlessly into entertainment, including sports and film.

Movies in the 1980s were very much a reflection of the new mood in America; it was get tough, kick ass and take names. Action movies in the 1980s, according to an article in the Journal of Popular Film and Television (Arnett, 2007), were reflective of a "certain mood" in the country. Heroes were needed, and while Reagan led the charge for that new American spirit and attitude, the 80's "film noir" embraced the Reagan good guy beats bad guy theme and rejected "nostalgia, homage, [and] parody..." Arnett explains.

Instead of nostalgic and traditional themes, the film entertainment of the 80s reflected a "...significant and possibly solitary counter-current genre/cycle/movement to the mainstream genres of the time, all of which seemed to reaffirm the institutions of President Ronald Reagan's America (government, military, family, religion, etc.)," Arnett writes. Exploring the "dark side of Reagan's America" the action-adventure films of the 80s - with Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Norris and Bronson - dominated the genres. "Provoked by a nemesis, usually non-American, the action-adventure hero reasserts and reaffirms the Reaganesque values," Arnett continues.

In the Stallone movie "Rambo: First Blood Part II," Reagan pardons Rambo, and in the film the "promise of masculinity itself" is revived. In Reagan's 1980 campaign for the presidency, he called for a "return to a sense of national pride, strength, and purpose that would move the nation beyond 'the Vietnam syndrome,'" according to the article. Other 1980s films, including "Top Gun" and "Die Hard" relied on the "conventional narrative structure of upsetting a status quo only to put it back together in ways that embraced the cultural hegemony of Reagan's America," Arnett continued.

In the movie "To Live and Die in LA," the character Chance moves from "Reagan's secret service agent to the aptly metaphoric underworld of counterfeiters," the author explains, concluding that the "Eighties noirs excelled between 1984 and 1986, not coincidentally during the apex of Reagan's presidency."

The Ronald Reagan Era: Economics and Getting Tough

As he began his first term, with the Cold War still very much a part of the international political dynamic, Reagan called for "the largest ever peacetime build-up of American military and naval forces." And in his next breath he announced tax cuts as a "stimulant to the economy" (Kubursi, et al., 1993). At the beginning of the 80s, American "was still a creditor state," but at the end of the 80s American had become "the largest debtor state in the world," according to Kubursi's article in Arab Studies Quarterly. One of the reasons for that dive into debt was the Reagan Administration's very open and very publicly-expressed ambition to move American back into world prominence with a massive military build-up - which cost about $300 billion to taxpayers - combined with the tax cuts. But Americans didn't mind the red tape because it was time to stand up to our enemies.

It was indeed time to get tough. George Will, writing in Newsweek (Will 2004) explained that Reagan will be remembered for "...his restoration of American confidence that resulted in a quickening tempo of domestic life." And one of the things Reagan did that restored confidence in leadership - and showed the American voters and the international community that he meant what he said - was to fire the nation's air-traffic controllers. When the Professional Air Traffic controllers' organization (PATCO) threatened to go on strike in August 1981, Reagan's first year in office, he said they would be terminated in two days. "This has often...been called a defining episode of the Reagan presidency," Will writes, because it "notified foreign leaders, not least of those the Soviet Union, that he wais what he meant and meant what he said."

Reagan did indeed fire the air-traffic controllers, and, Will continues, it "altered… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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