Movies and Changing Times
CHARLES J. MALAND
In 1964 folksinger Bob Dylan prophetically sang that “the times they are a-changin.'” He could have brought the song back fourteen years later, for both American culture and the American film industry were changing again in various ways that were not always easy to discern. The movies—our dynamic medium of cultural mythmaking—were focusing on some of those changes in the most interesting releases of the year. American culture was moving away from the leftist political spirit that Dylan had earlier helped usher in and toward an emerging political conservatism. The tension was evident in the debate over abortion, seen in a Newsweek cover story called “Abortion Under Attack” (5 June). Government spending, high taxes, and a growing inflation rate all were targeted by the political right, culminating in early June with the passage of Proposition 13 in California: 65 percent of the voters cast ballots to immediately cut property taxes and place restrictions on how much the state legislature could increase them in subsequent years. A week later one commentator called tax revolt “the new gut issue in American politics” (Boeth 20). In foreign affairs President Jimmy Carter brokered discussions between Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, leading late in the year to the Camp David Accords, a framework for peace signed by Egypt and Israel that many hoped would bring stability to that troubled part of the world.
In cultural life, the highest-rated television shows included “Laverne and Shirley,” “Three's Company,” “Mork and Mindy,” and “Happy Days.” Pulitzer Prizes went to The Stories of John Cheever for fiction, Robert Penn Warren's Now and Then for poetry, and Edward O. Wilson's overview of sociobiology, On Human Nature, for nonfiction. James Michener's Chesapeake was one of the top-selling novels; best-selling nonfiction included Erma Bombeck's If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries—What Am I Doing in the Pits, Christina Crawford's Mommie Dearest (about the author's movie-star mother, Joan), and James Fixx's The Complete Book of Running. The latter revealed the growing popularity of jogging, and of exercise in general among adult Americans during the year. In sports, the Yankees beat the Red Sox 5–4 on Bucky