You’ve just splashed down in shallow water. It’s 1977. Okay, go! Hurley, who perhaps isn’t the public intellectual of the group but isn’t that much dumber than most people, either, had trouble with this one. He didn’t know who was president in 1977. Obviously that’s just scratching the surface. Anyone over 40 may scoff but someone who isn’t old enough to have lived through the period or to recall it well might feel awkward talking around such subjects as, say, what movies were big or what sports teams were doing well - not exactly quiz bowl stuff. Even the things you think you remember can be held to a pretty tough standard when you’re talking to people who take them for granted.
I could point out of course that Hurley should well know. He was born in 1977. But since he isn’t likely to hear the reassuring smack of a New York Times being thrown at his door in the morning. He’s going to have to ask, well, almost any of the other characters. But for you there’s still time.
For anyone planning on making the journey, or anyone who thinks they might land there accidentally someday, I decided to write up a basic guide for hacking your way through dinner conversation.
Who was president in 1977?
Jimmy Carter - at least, as of January 20th. He ran against sitting president Gerald Ford the previous fall with Walter Mondale as his vice president. Ford won everything west of Iowa. Carter won almost everything east of that point. In the early months of his administration Carter pardoned most of the Americans who evaded the Vietnam draft. He met with the leaders of Isreal, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia at the White House in an attempt to stabilize relations in the Middle East. He rejected America’s “inordinate fear of Communism” and called for America to recommit itself to human rights, then ended funding for the B-1 Bomber Program. Basically if you’re playing a liberal talk about how inspiring and refreshing he is and how he‘ll bring peace to the world through better communication. If you’re playing a conservative say that he scares the heck out of you because he’s so soft on national defense we’re going to be bombed by New Years. Sound familiar?
What music is all the rage?
It’s all about Geronimo Jackson. "Dharma Lady" is always playing. Try to get a feel for whether their album The Magna Carta rings a bell for people or not. Presumably that’s what "Dharma Lady" was from but not necessarily. The band did most of their recordings in the early 1970s but the album came out in the mid to late 1970s. That’s all I’ve got. It’s slightly underground but that’s why it’s so hot. Oh yeah, and the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards just got busted for cocaine but a lot of singers were. Richards just got caught. Bob Dylan isn't exactly new but his music is still so beautiful. And if it’s after August don’t shut up about how tragic it was that Elvis Presley died, but did you hear that he was sitting on the toilet at the time? It’s shocking but not surprising, and sad but very interesting.
What movies should I be excited about?
You need to know what date it is. Star Wars
came out May 25, 1977. If it’s the summer I think it would be appropriate to say you’ve seen it anywhere between two and twenty times. Think Titanic
! Oh, wait. That’s old. Think Twilight
! As I’m sure anyone of any generation knows you’ll be labeling yourself as a little young - or at least as having a young sensibility - and in kind of a geeky way but it was a mainstream geekiness. I’ve known several people in their mid-20s who can’t keep Star Wars
and Star Trek straight but being enthusiastic about Star Wars
was far more mainstream in 1977. If it’s before May, though, your best bet may be Best Picture contenders Rocky
, Taxi Driver
. Just remember - Rocky
won and that’s a crime. The Oscars are too mainstream and popular-leaning. Taxi Driver
should have won. And yes, I realize how absurd that sounds to younger people today but just say it. Oh, and remember that the Oscars still mattered then.
What was big in sports?
The Cincinatti Reds team known as The Big Red Machine swept the New York Yankees in four games to win the World Series in the 1976 World Series in October. You know absolutely nothing about the better scandal - not a word. So if someone says Pete Rose is a future Hall of Famer just say “Without a doubt.” Remember to talk about the World Series as though it were the Super Bowl and the Super Bowl as though it were the World Series. But for what it’s worth, the Oakland Raiders steamrolled the Minnesota Vikings in January 1977. The Raiders’ coach was John Madden. He had been known as the coach who couldn’t lead his team to the big one. His guys choked every single year. Maybe you feel good for him or maybe you hate him more either way that doesn’t change the fact that you hate the Raiders. They’re thugs.
No Pacman yet. You know a guy who owns Pong at home. You prefer pinball. Change the subject.
Yes, I know it exists but don't try to sound cute. Just don't. You have no idea what it is.
There’s a radio guy - Bill Murray - who just started on Saturday Night Live
in January 1977. He’s really funny. You love M*A*S*H
. Okay, I know - really you just like M*A*S*H*
when there’s nothing else on. But no, really, you never miss an episode. Political TV is what it’s all about - All in the Family, Maude. You’re sad the Mary Tyler Moore Show
is ending. Sitcoms aren’t tired. They’re what America is watching. Pull out the Nick at Night trivia. It’s okay to know that Little House on the Prairie
is cheesy but not to blatantly laugh at somebody who watches it with their family anyway. Those are good times. And Saturday Night Live
is edgy and young. Yes, really.
Just remember those helpful tips and smile and nod a lot and you too can successfully integrate into the DHARMA Initiative. Besides, they’re on an island. It’s not like they watch Monday Night Football
every week either. Just relax and if you don’t remember something make a joke about how the drugs from the submarine trip are still messing with your head. If you get really desperate you can always burst out with a speech about how you came to the island because you wanted to get away from all that stuff. Who’s going to say you’re a weirdo? Radzinsky?
-Henry Jenkins, BuddyTV Staff Writer
(Image courtesy of ABC)