It's 1988 Out There! [1988 Week]

It’s 1988 week! Another theme week has arrived and the random number generator brought us back to the 80s. Yes, third theme week and second time in the same decade. Well, we know something about the 80s already then, about their darkness, violence, detachment and so on. Is 1988 different than 1980 because it moves towards the 90s? I’m not sure yet, but we will see. Like last time, I’m trying to do an overview of the year to get us grounded and to put everything else into context. As in every theme week, I’m excited!


Waste is disposed in Haiti. Perestroika begins. The Soviet-Afghan War ends. The Troubles in Ireland are still going strong. Eritrea fights for independence. Iran and Iraq are at war and the U.S. get involved, but the war ends the same year. Thousands of protesters die in Burma. Supposedly, Al-Qaeda is formed. The Ramstein disaster at an air show disaster. The Summer Olympics happen in Seoul. Protests in Algeria.  George H.W. Bush becomes president in an election that is known for Dan Quayle not being Jack Kennedy and Michael Dukakis not willing to kill his wife’s rapist, because that’s what politics is all about, quotable catchphrases. A cyclone wrecks Bangladesh. An earthquake in Armenia kills almost 25,000, which no one remembers now. The Lockerbie plane crash happens, which people still remember now.

I was 8 in 1988 and from reading the events listed, I mostly remember the Olympic Games (because I had a Mickey Mouse book about them, which I loved, but was confused about the whole North & South Korea conflict mentioned there), Ramstein, because that freaked everyone out in Germany and put people in a very dark mood and Lockerbie, because how many crashed planes do you need in a year? So, again, this seems like a rather dark year to me. It’s also interesting to me that the events that stand out in the way we deal with history are not nearly as tragic and horrifying as the ones that also happened.


Some notable songs of this year: Don’t Worry, Be Happy (one of the most obnoxious songs ever that refuses to die, astonishingly – though I liked it when I was eight), Faith, Girl You Know It's True, Always on My Mind, Got My Mind Set on You (another favorite of mine as a kid). There are more 80s hits, but looking at it now it’s just a mix of songs that is hard to distinguish for me. I will look at them more closely in he You Belong on the Radio section of this week.

My favorite albums from that year are Viva Hate by Morrissey, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back by Public Enemy (one of my favorite albums of all time), Power by Ice-T and Tougher Than Leather by Run-D.M.C.. So it was a formative year for my early love of hip-hop, obviously, although I probably didn’t listen to those albums when they came out.


there are many big TV shows in that year, but I’ll focus on what I know. ALF was still there and was such a big thing back then, which is hard to believe now. Married… with Children was something I never understood. Star Trek: The Next Generation was also something I was watching very consistently.


Just up front: I decided for myself to only discuss movies during a theme week which I haven’t seen yet because that’s more interesting to me. There are many movies from 1988 I know already, basically all of the top-grossing movies, so I just picked some movies that somewhat seemed interesting to me, although there are many I could write about. My statistics say I saw 41 movies from 1988, but I’m sure there are actually more. And what a year for movies it was! Rain Man, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Die Hard, The Naked Gun… And those are just some of the highest-grossing movies I really liked. There’s also A Fish Called Wanda, Midnight Run, Mississippi Burning, Oliver & Company (the only one of those I saw in the cinema beside Roger Rabbit), Talk Radio, They Live and Rambo III. I probably wouldn’t still like all of those, but they meant something to me back then or later. And in the same year, Totoro, Grave of the Fireflies and Akira were released. That is mind-blowing to me, how those three movies could have been released in the same year. A very interesting movie year, which my selection can’t really do justice, but  a week only has so many days.


There are some books I’ve read and liked from that year, though again probably not at 8. Clive Barker’s Cabal and The Hellbound Heart, Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs, Terry Pratchett’s books from that year, but also Michael Chabon’s The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. I still haven’t read Toni Morrison’s Beloved from that year.


Well, what a year for comics, too! Animal Man by Grant Morrison starts (amazing!), Hellblazer by Jamie Delano starts (I know everyone just talks about Garth Ennis, but I like Delano’s initial run the most) and Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke (probably overrated, but still good).


Zelda II: The Adventures of Link is released internationally and though I was probably playing some years later, this was a very important game for me. With any good movie or book, I really felt like I was in that world and it was scary and exciting. I was really able to let myself fall into that story and character.

1988 was obviously another interesting year, especially for movies and comics. Historically and politically it was, as I mentioned, rather bleak, but shortly before a supposedly more hopeful time in 1989 (although I’m not so sure about that). I’m curious to see what the movies, music and everything else will tell us.

See also: