Saturday, November 3, 2007

No. 24 - Saturday Night Fever

Saturday Night Fever might not be the very best film of the 70's, but it is arguably the best film to put in a time capsule to represent its decade. It is the 70's, just as Easy Rider is the 60's in one film.

It is not merely the obvious trappings of Saturday Night Fever that make it so seminal. The Bee Gees, the Angel's Flight couture, the blow-dried hair, the colored lights that flash underneath the dance floor -- all of these details add to the overall impact. What I find significant watching this film 30 years later is how it charts the cultural sea-change that occurred in the 70's.

In sum, if Easy Rider was basically about hippies, Saturday Night Fever heralded the arrival of yuppies. The characters in Saturday Night Fever might use drugs, but they are just trying to escape from the harsh reality of their Brooklyn neighborhood -- there is no pretension to expanding consciousness as in the 60's. The 70's was about hedonism, not idealism. The kids of Fever are not politically minded, they are focused on the self. It was the Me Decade in full swing.

Stephanie (Karen Lynn Gorney), a local girl from Brooklyn who has moved across the river to Manhattan, is not a hippie chick. She cares about getting ahead and making money. She's a prototype of the 80's yuppie, and she motivates Tony (John Travolta) to get his act together and aspire to a similar escape from Brooklyn. The film doesn't condemn the characters for being shallow. But it struck me as interesting that the concerns of 60's characters (such as for expanded awareness, philosophical exploration, and political commitment) have all but disappeared.

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