Tag Archives: Eighties

The war that wasn’t

One of Brooker’s ‘Screen wipe’ episodes reminded (a whole playlist on YouTube) of the many nuclear war shows (fiction and documentaries) that were shown in the Eighties in West European countries. Some of the shows I’ve mentioned here before. Most memorable was ‘The Day After’ and that only because it was shown in school to either scare us or scare our enemies. Remarkably, I don’t remember ever getting training in school about how to proceed during and after nuclear explosions but the most stinging reminder of the constant threat were the monthly (weekly?) noon test sirens.

Some events that seem to tip the balance to an all out war were the election of Ronald Reagan (relations between the west and the USSR started to cool down, the start of the rhetoric), the massive demonstrations against cruise missiles in West Europe and the arms race, with most notably, the ‘Star Wars program’.

I also remember the apparent sudden deaths of all these Russian leaders and the moment that Gorbachev was elected as the supreme USSR leader (Reykjavik summit). From then on, the Cold War slowly faded away to the background.

Thinking back, or rather, being reminded of those Eighties, brings up so many memories of events that heightened the threat level, that I wonder if we would have been prepared for an all-out war. Unlikely, I guess: and maybe as a young kid, it was probably a good idea not to think and worry about this.

Special, uh, Bulletin

A weekA nuclear attack ago, there was a discussion on Metafilter about the 25th anniversary of the release of the (TV movie) ‘The Day After’. In the comments section, you can find several links to full versions of several movies related to the cold war and nuclear aftermath(s) (The Day After, Special Bulletin, The War Game, Countdown to Looking Glass and Threads. The quality is so-so: Watchable but not worth putting it on your portable HD device.

I think, it’s safe to say that most people who grew up in the Eighties are familiar with ‘The Day After': looking back, however, I find ‘Threads’ a more solid representation (and depressing) of a nuclear war aftermath. No doubt that there were Dutch documentaries like these too, but, of course, none that I can remember. Years after, when doing military service I laughed off the plausibility of our success rate or even the battalion’s survival during and after a nuclear attack. That skepticism was generally shared among my fellow soldiers, and most likely, fellow Europeans.

Maybe this is the main difference between the US produced ‘The Day After’ and the UK produced ‘Threads': American movies always seemed to focus on the explosion and not on the life after that (“The Nuclear Winter”). Hollywood has a knack in compressing thousands of years of suffering into 2 minute voice-overs.

While I’m at anniversaries: today also marks the 20th anniversary of the Lockerbie disaster (Wikipedia).