The Same Old Songs in Reagan-Era Teen Film

Michael D. Dwyer, Arcadia University

 

Abstract: This article examines the recontextualization of 1950s rock in the form of “Oldies” in teen films of the 1970s and 1980s. Specifically, the article highlights the peculiar phenomenon of scenes featuring teenagers lip-synching to oldies songs in films like Risky Business (1983), Pretty in Pink (1986), Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986), and Adventures in Babysitting (1987).In these scenes, like in the cover versions of rhythm and blues records popularized by white artists in the fifties, white teens embody black cultural forms, “covering” over the racial and sexual politics that characterized rock and roll's emergence. The transformation of rock 'n' roll from “race music” to the safe alternative for white bourgeois males in the face of new wave, punk, disco and hip hop, reflected in the establishment of oldies radio formats and revival tours, was aided and abetted by oldies soundtracks to Hollywood films.

 

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ISSN 2009-4078

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