Wall Street – The History

8 11 2008

The young urban professionals have arrived…
they’re making lots of money,
spending it conspicuously,
and switching political candidates like they test cuisines.”
–Newsweek Magazine1

The baby boom generation had grown up by the 1980s. They were the rising dominant political and cultural force in America: increasingly college-educated, upwardly-mobile and looking to find greater success than that of their parents. Every one out of three Americans had been born between 1946 and 1964, and the median age in 1983 was 30.9. Single-person households were on the rise, more people than ever were not getting married, and metro areas were growing faster than suburbs, a turnaround from the previous decade.2 Cold War tensions and the United States deficit under Reagan were on the rise.

Both the average household income and the rate of home-ownership dropped during the early 1980s. Who was benefiting during this time? Estimated to be only about 6% of all baby boomers, the “BMW-driving, Reebok-clad, madly acquisitive” yuppies were making ten to twenty times the 1981 average American income.3 The term “yuppie” came from the phrase Young Urban Professional, and echoed both “hippie” and “preppy.” The yuppies rejected the social revolution ideals of the hippies, while envying the preppy sentiment of entitlement.4 The major difference was that anyone with money could become a yuppie.

“It is as if the Woodstock mentality had somehow merged with the Bloomingdale mentality.”
–Landon Y. Jones5
Personal empowerment and the quest for financial independence trumped emotional connections like family and marriage. The worth and identity of a person did not come from their heritage, but from personal accomplishments. While their parents had started their lives by marrying young and having their own families, the yuppies spent their 20s and 30s pursuing their careers. This delay in passing the traditional signposts of adulthood meant that the yuppies lived their 20s as children, spending their money on gourmet food, travel, health clubs, and remodeled homes. Yuppies were three times as likely to carry an American Express card and travel overseas.6
Women did not begin entering Wall Street as professionals until the 1970s. The increased focus on career and the more liberal sexual ideals of the 1980s drastically altered the way in which men and women related to each other. Women had to choose between using their sexuality to get ahead in a male-dominated workplace, or risk becoming unsexed in their attempts to integrate. A 2004 study on Sex-Segregation on Wall Street showed that professional women in the field were less likely to be married, less likely to be parents, and on average earned 60% less than their male counterparts.7
“Babies become the signifiers of emotional life, in representation, now that women are no longer available for that task.” –Judith Williamson8

On the legal side, prosecutions for insider trading rose between 1982 and 1987. It is unclear whether this was due to an actual increase in insider training or simply an increase in prosecutions, since U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) chairman John Shad shifted the focus in the early 1980s back onto prosecuting securities law violations. Hostile takeovers also trended upwards during the 1980s from 47 a year in 1981 to 85 a year in 1987.9 One possibility for this rise was the country’s eventual recovery of stagflation and depressed stock prices.

The Yuppies first burst onto the scene in 1984, but rode the wave of prosperity in the incarnation looked at in this presentation only until around 1987.

“The Yuppie lifestyle features rampant consumerism, distrust of the parent generation, fear of the suburbs, unstable intimate relationships, reliance on the peer network, confrontation of the lingering sixties consciousness, difficulty of growing up to accept adult responsibilities, the problems of parenthood,
and the desire to have it all.”
–Carol M. Ward10

To the next section –>….

MySpace Codes

1 “The Year of the Yuppie,” Newsweek in The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics (Simon & Schuster, 2001), 241.
2 Richard Stengel, “Snapshot of A Changing America.” Time Magazine (1985): Time.
3 Ibid.
4 Schulman, 241.
5 Landon Y. Jones, Great Expectations: America and the Baby Boom Generation (New York: Ballantine Books, 1981), 317.
6 Schulman, 243.
7 Louise Marie Roth, “Engendering Inequality: Processes of Sex-Segregation on Wall Street,” Sociological Forum 19.2 (June 2004): 209.
8 Judith Williamson, “Having Your Baby and Eating It”, New Statesman 15 (April 1988), 45.
9 Martin S. Fridson in Robert B. Toplin, editor, Oliver Stone’s USA (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 2000), 130-131.
10 Paul Loukides and Linda K. Fuller, Beyond the Stars (Bowling Green: Bowling Green University Press, 1990), 106.

Wall Street sign found at Whitman School of Management, “Whitman Today,” http://whitman.syr.edu/HTMLEmail/Dean/whitmantoday/Images/Wall-Street-sign.jpg (accessed November 6th, 2008).

The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics

1 11 2008

Schulman, Bruce J. “The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics.” Simon & Schuster, 2001.

“The young urban professionals have arrived… they’re making lots of money, spending it conspicuously, and switching political candidates like they test cuisines.” (Newsweek, 1984 in The Seventies)

The term yuppie is an alternative and rejection of hippies, while echoing the term preppies – a sense of entitlement,  but significantly not dependent on birth, family, status. Anyone with the money could become a yuppie. Yuppies were three times as likely to carry an American Express card, travel overseas, and work out in the health clubs, according to Newsweek. Their loyalties lied in their networks, not with their families, corporations, or country.

The Wall Street Journal even referred to Reagan as the nation’s most aged yuppie.

The path was to personal empowerment! The way to do that was to pay for it.

“The Year of the Yuppie,” Newsweek, December 31, 1984, p. 14-31.


13 10 2008

Hammond, John L. “Yuppies.” The Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol 50, No 4 (Winter 1986), p. 487-501.

Newsweek proclaimed 1984 the year of the Yuppie, since they were the rising dominant political and cultural force in American society. While conservative on economics (taxes, government regulation, and the New Deal agenda), they are socially liberal; they encourage less restrictions on sexuality, equal rights for women, freedom of sexual preference and abortion.

Trust in government declined, and personal fulfillment has become the dominant theme of culture = Self-help movements and psychotherapy!

“… it is as if the Woodstock mentality had somehow merged with the Bloomingdale mentality.” (Jones, Landon Y. Great Expectations: America and the Baby Boom Generation. New York: Ballantine Books (1981), 317.)

“Yuppies came of age in imposing numbers. They visibly transformed the American cityscape with health clubs, gourmet delis and remodeled houses. In the process they became a marketing target, and since newspapers, magazines, and television are marketed, journalists had to pay attention to them.” (Hammond, 497)

“The arrival of the yuppies qualified as an event; it could be dramatized and visualized.” (Hammond, 498)


8 10 2008

First off, I have to say that I had never seen “Glory” before this week. I didn’t really have any preconceived notions of it, as I had heard of it, but only in passing. My American history is also not that great, so I didn’t have a lot of ideas going into it at all.

“Glory” was very emotionally affecting and, I think, fairly well done. No movie that we have watched this semester has been 100% historically accurate, but I appreciated the character development, the lack of a cheesy made-up romance, the focus on telling a historical story, and the fact that the end wasn’t just inspiring and perfect. Now, none of these qualities erase the historical inaccuracies that we are taking this course to single out and study, but overall, I approve of this movie as a historical film.

In terms of looking at the movie as a secondary source, one scene that stands out is the scene when Matthew Broderick tells his men that he and the higher-ups will not accept their pay if the black soldiers won’t accept theirs. Now, this may be true, but I think it was also an important scene for an audience in the 1980s/1990s to see. Equality! Fairness! Even in the time of the terrible, racist South, there were white guys just like us who wanted to erase the race lines! I have a hard time believing that the soldiers, who had wives and children, would turn down that $10 a month that they probably dearly needed.. even in the face of such unfairness.

The scene where Denzel Washington was whipped was by far the worst of the movie. I was watching it at home and had to pause it and walk away right before it started. I think that scene was right up there with “Amistad” except almost worse, in a way, because it was a concious choice by Broderick’s character to take him back to being a slave — exactly the kind of treatment they were all supposed to be fighting. I suppose, of all of the scenes though, this one might bring us back to some inner conflicts of the white commanders, defying the norm beliefs of society.

For all possible criticisms of the movie (most likely, as Kelly W. refers to them, of the films “Patriot” moments), I think that it was leaps and bounds above some of the other movies we have watched. It didn’t match the beauty of “Gone With the Wind” or the direction of “Amistad” but at least we had history.


29 09 2008

Getting away from the early ridiculous movies of the semester, we’ve been moving towards much more serious and historically accurate films. Last week’s Amistad is the most accurate and one of the best acted thus far, though also one of the most depressing.

Compared to Pocahontas‘ treatment of the language barrier, Amistad is practically a Mensa-certified film. While some people in class had some problems with the comic relief moments, I think they help keep you from killing yourself while watching. I think the story was engaging but Spielberg and co obviously made a solid effort to tell the real story (with the exception of Morgan Freeman’s completely made up abolitionist character). It was definitely a benefit that they did not shy away from the harsh realities, even if it made them hard to watch. I think this is one thing that historical movies really have on their side — even if they don’t get everything right, they can touch us on that emotional level, and we know that it happened to people like us.

Morgan Freeman’s made up character was a ridiculous piece of Hollywood. It served no historical, emotional, or story purposes, and it makes me wonder if someone just really liked the name Theodore Jodeson. To give Spielberg and co the benefit of the doubt, however: perhaps they felt that the pressure of portraying an early black abolitionist was too great, and the consequences of misportraying such a figure could do a lot of damage to the film.

I don’t have a lot to say about this film, except that it is beautiful, well-written, well-acted, and most historically-accurate film we’ve watched.