Pop Culture In Review for the Year 1985

The year 1985 had some iconic pop culture moments that have an influence to this day. This was the year when the ‘Back to the Future’ saga started, along with the long-running hit TV series ‘The Golden Girls’. Read on to find out more about what happened in this era; you might find an added nuance to the important aspects of pop culture today:


“The Color Purple” Movie

‘The Color Purple’ was a 1095 movie based on a novel of the same name. The author of the book was Alice Walker, who is also a known name in the world of African-American literature. This film starred notable African-American names such as Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg, Margaret Avery, and Danny Glover. Several other well-known actors and actresses were also a part of this work. As was so often the case with popular movies from the 80s, the director was Steven Spielberg. While the film did get 111 Academy Award nominations, it didn’t win in any category. Still, it was the 4th-highest-grossing film of the whole year.

Back to the Future Begins

This was the movie that propelled Michael J. Fox to new heights of fame and popularity. While the young actor was already starring in TV sitcoms, his role as Marty McFly established his name in Hollywood. ‘Back to the Future’ was the highest-grossing film of the year, with the entertaining and intriguing story of how a teenage boy and an eccentric scientist accidentally travel back in time. This started a whole series of events that threatened the timeline and the very existence of the main characters. The popularity of this movie and the sequels it spawned are right up there with ‘Indiana Jones’ and ‘Star Wars’.

The popularity of Back to the Future also made different products that appear in the movie become quite popular as well. One of these products that benefits from appearing in Back to the Future is the Moon Shoes, a pair of novelty shoes that have trampoline-like springs at the bottom that enable the wearer to jump higher than usual. For more information on these Moon Shoes, you can read our article, The Most Nostalgic “As Seen on TV” Toys of the 1990s.


We Are The World

Several artists got together and recorded a song named ‘We Are The World’ with the purpose of raising money to fight famine in Africa. The artists included big names such as Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, Ray Charles, Cyndi Lauper, Lionel Richie, Kenny Rogers, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, and Michael Jackson. The name of this group was ‘USA for Africa’. Michael Jackson wrote the lyrics, and the sales of the recording were more than 20 million. This makes it the 8th best-selling physical single in music history. It also received 3 Grammy Awards, a People’s Choice Award, and an American Music Award.

Michael Jackson Invests in the Beatles’ Music

During one of their many collaborations in the 80s, Paul McCartney once gave Michael Jackson the idea to invest in the Beatles’ songs. He may have regretted that sound advice, as Jackson went on to outbid McCartney himself, spending $47 million to acquire rights for most of the Beatles’ songs. This investment allowed Jackson to stay solvent for many years afterward. The songs served as collateral for the personal loans he took to fund his extravagant lifestyle, even when he was facing legal issues and low income.

The Start of Live Aid Concerts

Live Aid concerts were starting all over the world in July 1985, though they were organized in under 10 weeks. The concerts were for raising funds to provide famine relief in Ethiopia. These rock concerts were also held in Moscow and Sydney. About 200,000 people attended them live, while the television viewers numbered up to one billion and spanned across 110 countries. The organizers of these concerts were Midge Ure and Bob Geldof, while the most notable participating musicians included Duran Duran, Bob Dylan, Elton John, David Bowie, Queen, Paul McCartney, Madonna, U2, and Lionel Richie. The amount collected was around $127 million.


The First Mobile Phone Call in the United Kingdom

Ernie Wise made the first mobile phone call in the UK; at least, this was the first one made by a civilian. Wise was a comedian who had already worked for Atari before. He used the Vodafone network for this purpose and used a Transportable Vodafone VT1 that weighed more than 11 pounds. He also sported a Dickensian coachman’s outfit and posed near a 19th-century mail coach. However, some say that the first mobile phone call had already been placed a few hours prior to this by Michael Harrison. He was the son of Vodafone’s first chairman and had placed the call to surprise his father.

The Nintendo Entertainment System Was Released

During October 1985, the NES was released for North American markets. This gaming system was already available in Japan. Initially, the NES didn’t see too much due to the video game market crash. However, ‘Super Mario Bros.’ was a breakout game and one that propelled the sale of its gaming system as well. The NEs soon became a highly popular and sought-after item in the country. For more information on the NES and other retro 80s toys, you can check out The Most Nostalgic Toys from the 80s.

The First Selection of Japanese Astronauts

In August 1985, the first Japanese astronauts were selected. These were Takao Doi, Chiaki Mukai, and Mamoru Mohri. The selection was made by NASDA, or the National Space Development Agency of Japan. The two men and one woman were singled out to participate in space shuttle missions through NASA. They all participated in two missions each. Mamoru Mohri was the first one, while Takao Doi was the first Japanese to do a space walk. Chiaki Mukai became the first female Japanese to go to space and was also the first Japanese to conduct more than one flight.

Blood Testing for AIDS

The AIDS epidemic was at its peak in the 1980s, but there were some major steps taken against it in 1985. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a blood test that could detect AIDS and HIV. This was a major breakthrough, especially as it helped people give and receive blood transfusions, undergo surgery, and conduct other producers without fear of contamination at every turn.

Domain Names

The first .com domain was registered as symbolics.com. This was for the Symbolicscorporation. However, the first-ever domain name was Nordu.net, which was for a Scandinavian research collaboration. This .net domain was also created in 1985.


Rookie of the Year

Michael Jordan was given the NBA award of ‘Rookie of the Year’. His playing had already made him a legend in his inaugural season with the Chicago Bulls. He was a fan favorite and helped his team reach the playoffs. He also set many team records and eventually became one of the most famous names in basketball history. He is still considered by several experts as the most competitive and successful professional basketball player.


The Four Major Fashion Hubs

The fashion scene in 1985 was very varied, but there were four major global fashion spots to showcase the best of the lot. These were London, Milan, France, and New York City. Each hub had its own unique styles that appealed to different tastes. There were a few constants at that point in time, though, such as wide shoulders. The colors, fabrics, and cuts, however, would vary greatly from one area or designer to another.

Successful Newcomers

There were a few very successful newcomers to the fashion industry at this stage. Among the most notable names in this area was Anne Klein & Co.’s Donna Karan. Anne Klein set the trend for sportswear, but Karan struck out on her own. Her line soon became a massive hit, with amazon feminine sophistication in a somewhat casual tone. One of the best examples of this work was a sarong skirt with narrow pants.


A Pivotal Turn for ‘The Facts of Life’

‘The Facts of Life’ had been on the air since 1979, but its premise kept pivoting to keep the audience interested. The season premiere in 1985 saw the main locale and backdrop of the series–the deli shop ‘Edna’s Edibles’–burned down to the ground. With the renewal of the show, the Facts of Life girls restarted their lives and became entrepreneurs by opening a gift shop by the name of ‘Over Our Heads’. The quality of the show might have been going down, but “Over Our Heads’ was a perfect representative of funky 80s fashion. A then-unknown George Clooney was also introduced as the handyman who helped construct the shop.

Notable Television Debuts

Several new shows debuted on television, including now-famous names such as MacGyver, Growing Pains, Larry King Live, and The Golden Girls. Several other popular shows also returned to the screen, including The Cosby Show, Murder, She Wrote, and Family Ties. The Jeffersons finally ended its impressive run of 11 seasons and over 250 episodes.

The original Care Bears TV show also first aired in 1985. This Care Bears animated TV series was followed up with a sequel titled “The Care Bears Family,” and this show first aired in 1986. The Care Bears show is based on the toy line of the same name that was created by artist Elena Kucharik in 1981 as characters for the greeting cards produced by American Greetings, the second-largest greeting card company behind Hallmark Cards. To know more about the Care Bears and other retro toys, read our article titled “Retro Toys that You Can Still Buy and Play Today.”

Using the Word ‘Period’

Until this point, the word ‘period’ wasn’t done on television. Instead, mysterious terms such as ‘special days’ or ‘that time of the month’. In 1985, though, this barrier was broken when Courtney Cox said the word ‘period’ during a commercial for Tampax tampons.


Stephen King’s Three Best Sellers

This year had three of Stephen King’s works on the New York Times bestseller list for fiction. These titles were ‘Thinner’, ‘The Talisman’ and ‘Skeleton Crew’. ‘Talisman’ was written as a collaboration with Peter Straub, while ‘Thinner’ was under King’s pseudonym Richard Bachman. The other top novels of the year were If Tomorrow Comes’ by Sidney Sheldon, ‘Texas’ by James Michener, and ‘The Cider House Rules’ by John Irving.

Children’s Literature

This was an iconic year for children’s literature. Several books were released that are now considered classics. These include ‘Ender’s Game’ by Orson Scott Card, ‘The Polar Express’ by Chris Van Allsburg, and ‘Sarah, Plain and Tall’ by Patricia McLachlan.


Location of the Titanic

The Titanic sank in the year 1912, but its wreck wouldn’t be discovered until September 1985. Before this, there were numerous failed expeditions that used sonar and several other ways to locate the wreck. The discovery was finally made by a French-American expedition under the guidance of Robert Ballard and Jean-Louis Michel. The wreck gained a lot of interest and has also been the target of many questionable salvage operations.

The Coldest Winter

1985 saw the coldest winter in record history within the Eastern side of North America. The temperatures were the lowest ever recorded within the 20th century. This cold wave was presumably due to a polar vortex that moved further south than usual. A high pressure system also added to the cold snap effect. The cold period lasted from January 20th -22nd.

Coca-Cola Introduces New Coke.

In April 1985, Coca-Cola came out with a ‘New Coke’ that was supposedly sweeter and a bit different than the original version. At the time, the company was 99 years old and looking to update its image. They had previously seen the success of the new formula on test groups. However, New Coke turned out to be one of the worst and most expensive marketing blunders to date. Fans of the original Coke version rebelled against the new formula and refused to accept it. The company switched back to the old Coke, rebranding it as Coke’ Classic’. The New Coke quietly faded away from the market. The estimated loss from unsold inventory was around $30 million.


The Debut of Calvin and Hobbes

A comic strip by the name of ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ made its first appearance in the newspapers during November 1985. The strip was Bill Watterson’s creation and is still enjoyed by many people today. The promise was somewhat similar to ‘Peanuts’, as it also featured a child in his own fictional setup. However, the language of Calvin and Hobbes was more philosophical and even satirical at times. While Calvin and his stuffed animal Hobbes enjoyed their childhood adventures, they also explored social and scientific issues. The strip would run for about a decade, with many critics calling it the last iconic comic strip before the Internet age began.

The Launch of Teddy Ruxpin

It was in September 1985 when one of the most popular dolls of the 80s, Teddy Ruxpin, was released. Teddy Ruxpin is an animatronic stuffed toy, which means that it has mechanical and electronic parts inside that allow the toy to have a voice and have moving body parts. Teddy Ruxpin can move its eyes and mouth, and it can also produce audio through the speakers and tape cassette deck built into its back. The tape cassette deck plays various fictional stories that kids will surely love to hear about during their free time or bedtime.

Teddy Ruxpin was created by Ken Forsse and his team of toy designers at his company called Alchemy II. The mass-produced version of Teddy Ruxpin was first manufactured by World of Wonder from 1985 to 1990, and then the license to produce the toy was given to Hasbro that sold Teddy Ruxpin products from 1991 to 1996. The most recent version of Teddy Ruxpin was produced by Wicked Cool Toys from 2017 to 2019. To learn more about Teddy Ruxpin and other best-selling stuffed toys, check out The Most Popular Retro Stuffed Toys.

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