Pop Culture in Review for the Year 1978

From Elton John’s “No Glasses” look to Stephan King’s literary masterpiece The Stand, the year 1978 was full of exciting pop culture events. The year marked the beginnings of some landmark television shows that would mesmerize the audience for quite some time. It was the birth year of the Lego culture in American history, giving us the Lego people for the first time. The world witnessed the true guitar-god when Eddie van Halen emerged on the scene with his mind-boggling guitar skills that threw everyone off their balance.

Let us take a sneak into the role the year 1978 played in shaping history and culture.


Travolta Shines Again

People’s lives were rocked with a blend of music and art when they were presented with the blockbuster Grease, which starred the fan favorites John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. Teenage girls in high schools started wearing expensive sleek clothes with shaved legs inspired by this movie. The musical comedy and romance movie Grease was well received by the public and incorporated into the culture instantly.

Superman Is Released for the First Time

Richard Donner’s Superman was the first time the big screen was filled with the red and blue of the flying Kryptonian. The movie unleashed people’s obsession with superheroes and their sagas in its full.

Superman not only provided the ecstasy American culture thrived on but also the reason for future moviesto be made that revolved around comic book superheroes. Thus, it laid the building blocks of an industry. It also gave birth to a cultural notion of the perfect man that all women would fall for, a factor still ingrained in American culture.

The Deer Hunter Is Released

Co-written and directed by Michael Cimino, The Deer Hunterwas an American war drama film that starred Robert De Nero, Meryl Streep, John Savage, and Christopher Walken. It was rated as one of the best of its time.

The Deer Hunter went on to win five Academy Awards along with various other honors. It also marked Meryl Streep’s first-ever Academy award in a supporting role. The movie made people realize how war inflicts human lives and how devastating it can be. The Deer Hunter was critically acclaimed to be the best epic American movie after the Godfather.


World by Bee Gees

The Disco Kings were Billboard leaders again with their Saturday Night Fever transforming their careers and American pop culture into a frenzy never seen before. The whole world acknowledged the talent these brothers possessed. Their album Saturday Night Fever went on to win the album of the year at the 20th Grammy awards in 1978.

The album is one of the bestselling albums of all time and remains the second bestselling soundtrack in music history after the Bodyguard. Their song Stayin’ Alive featured as the most played song of the year and topped the charts.

Van Halen Acquires Fame

In 1978, soon after their debut album release, Van Halen became the new most talked about band in the rock and roll genre. The band spent three weeks on the number 29 spot in Billboard’s Top 200 with their song You Really Got Me.

Soon surpassing the likes of Jimmy Page and Joe Walsh in popularity, Edward van Halen was termed the new guitar God thanks to his spectacular skill as a lead guitarist and a master songwriter. The band went on to break various records set by legendary bands such as Led Zeppelin, making Van Halen termed as the true kings of rock and roll.

Elton John Is Seen Without Glasses

To everyone’s surprise and the new gossip, Elton John appears on People’s Magazine cover story without his trademark glasses with “THE NEW ELTON JOHN” written in bold next to it. The star went on to say that he was giving up touring and no longer viewed life through glasses.

The Eagles’ Hotel California Is a Hit

The band continued to enjoy their success with their hit songHotel California and went on to win the Grammy for this song. Hotel Californiarepresented a lifetime’s success and was a generational masterpiece.

The song seemed to feature a unique theme about how the American dream still was the most sought-after thing, yet made sure it never clearly let the fans understand what the song was really about.


Stephen King Releases A Masterpiece

King hit the markets with yet another thriller, this time a dark post-apocalyptic fantasy called The Stand. The book describes how an influenza strain escapes a laboratory in the US and ends up wiping around ninety-nine percent of the human population.

The book touches various topics, such as racism and the survival instincts of humans during a pandemic. The Stand is the fifth most-read book in the history of the US, making it one of the most important books in American culture.

“In the World According to Garp, WeAre All TerminalCases”

The novel The World According to Garpis about the life and happenings of T.S.Garp, the bastard son of Jenny Fields, a feminist leader at the wrong time. The novel was graced with the National Book Award for Fiction in 1980 and was the best seller for a few good years. The novel asked questions about morality and childbearing.

Feminism was still not a widely accepted political point of view in 1978 and such a book added to the already loud cries against it. The novel described the sexual relationship between a dying man suffering from brain damage and his nurse. The novel created a big roar in the society and was one of the most read books in its time.

A Swiftly Tilting Planet

L’Engle came up with another mesmerizing, beautiful, and soul-touching poetic novel about how nuclear wars and unicorns could go hand in hand. In her poetically phrased time-traveling journey, she described how the unlikeliness of a unicorn could save the world from the brute reality of a nuclear war. The book went on to win the National Award for a children’s book and was widely acclaimed by the critics.


Garfield Premieres

The country falls into a fever of Garfield, a cat that can do it all. The show becomes a major hit and has fans drooling over a character never heard of before. Garfield is a typical representation of the lazy, consumer-driven capitalistic society of 1978.

The show airs on prime time for an hour in the following years and wins various awards and goes down in history as a show that changed how people viewed American cartoons meanwhile enhancing the animation sector in the US.

Laverne & Shirley

The sitcom remains the most-watched show this year, keeping the audience glued to their television screens due to its ever-evolving story, enhanced role-plays, and some amazing performances by the lead actors.

Three’s Company

Sitcoms continue to be the center of attraction of the publicin the 1978s. The ABC’s hit Three’s Company airs its second season with more episodes and becomes the second most-watched show this year. The fact that the common people were content with the TV laughing for them at the end of a long and tiring day made such shows widely popular and part of the pop culture.

Mork & Mindy

ABC continued to cash on the craze people had for sitcoms, releasing another spinoff of Happy Days. The show was an instant hit and was ranked the third most viewed show along with Happy Days. The show saw its rating fall in the coming years due to is a bad script and a boring plot.



The Chevrolet Impala

The Chevrolet Impala continued to reign American streets for a second running year beating all its rivals by a fair margin. Its sales only decreased by 5% compared to last year, selling a whopping 620,000 units in 1978 alone. In the second place was Oldsmobile Cutlass/Supreme with over 520,000 sales.

One of the reasons for the high number of sales was the use of the Chevy impalas by famous rappers in their songs, making fans buy the car as much as possible. The Chevrolet Impala became a status symbol due to its beautifully engineered body and a powerful engine, making it the most wanted car in America once again after the 1960s.

The Ford Fairmont

The US market was in flux with FordFairmont in 1978, and it was well-received by the American population. The car became the most well-selling new release and was the third most sold car in the US. Soon the company provided a range of taxi cabs and police cars of the same model, adding to their sales stats.


Polanski Flees to London

Roman Polanski, a celebrated film director, escaped American authorities and ran off to London and then settled in France after being charged guilty in 1977 for raping a thirteen-year-old girl.  The director was put on psychological evaluation, and upon learning that he was likely to face life imprisonment in America, he took off to London.

Afghan War

1978 marks the start of the Afghan War that would eventually see the end of the USSR by the hands of Afghan mujahedeen aided by the US. This would also mark the end of the Cold War between the United States and Russia.

Home brewing of Beer Made Legal

President Jimmy Carter signed a bill that legalized home brewing of beer. This was a landmark event as in the coming years; it turned the society into a major beer consuming public, adding to health-related issues.


  • Andy North gave the American people a reason to celebrate as he was crowned the champion of the US golf open in 1978.
  • While baseball, basketball, and ice hockey remained the most viewed and followed sports of this era, people also viewed tennis and the European brand of football. 1978 was the year of the soccer world cup, which ended with Argentina lifting the trophy, a match well-watched throughout the US.
  • The Super Bowl XIIwas won by the Dallas Cowboys, who defeated the Denver Broncos by a score of 27-10. The duel had an attendance of more than 70000 people in number and clearly showed the sport the crowd was interested in.
  • In NBA,the Washington Blues won over the Seattle Supersonics with 4 games to 3.
  • In boxing, Leon Spinks defeated Muhammad Ali in a match of 15 rounds to win the World Heavy Weight title. Later in September, Muhammad Ali claimed the title back, defeating Leon Spinks in the rematch.

Science and Technology

From the launch of the first global positioning satellite by the United States to the availability of cellular phones in America, technology kept evolving.

  • It was during this year when Ward Christenson and Randy Seuss created the first computerized bulletin board system stuck in a blizzard that rocked America for quite a while.
  • 1978 saw Sally Ride join NASA, a journey that would make her and the country proud of their heritage when five years later, she would become the first American woman in history to land in space.
  • It was the year where televisions occupied every American household.
  • Life for diabetics improved a lot when Arthur Riggs and Keiichi Itakura came up with the first genetically engineered insulin in California.


1978 was a year of growth and prosperity, which was reflected in pop culture. The economy was increasing at a rapid rate, thanks to the consumer culture that made money and capital flow. A normal person cared less about how he would pay back his loans and more about increasing the quality of his/her life. In short, a culture of loans, debt, party, rock music, and an American fantasy dream prevailed, and there was no stopping it.

Related posts: