Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Born in the USA
The 1980's in America was a decade of great contrast, and the cover of Bruce Springsteen's album is an image that greatly represents this.
Immediately iconic, the blue jeans, the white t-shirt, and the baseball cap, in front of the red and white stripes, are typical American ideological symbols. At first, this, combined with the album's title appear to proclaim a fervent patriotism, and the album's release in 1984 makes this especially poignant. The summer of 1984 saw both the Olympic games - and it's 'flag waving patriotism' - take place in Los Angeles, and the beginning of Reagan's campaign for a second term as president. Reagan's campaign saw the dawn of 'uber patriotic' tv adverts that 'idealized American life' and proclaimed that under Reagan it would be 'Morning in America' again. Reagan and his team believed that this patriotism was what Sprignsteen's album was all about, and as a result he attempted to adopt Springsteen and his music as a sign of his campaign. The blue jeans, the white t shirts and Springsteen's raucous voice screaming 'I was born in the USA!' on the album's title track were everything his campaign attempted to pervay, and reach out to.
However, Reagan completely missed the point. Much like his campaign glossed over much of American reality, Springsteen's Born in the USA was not a celebration of patriotism but completely the opposite. The album's title track is once again the greatest example of this and although the song is upbeat and the chorus proclaims how the song's narrator was 'born in the usa' with gusto, it is steeped in irony, and the song is in fact about a downbeat, downtrodden and unappreciated Vietnam veteran, unloved and out of love with the country he once called home. In reply to Reagan's attempt to adopt him for his campaign Springsteen refused, stating ''Reagan's ads proclaim 'It's morning in America.' Well, it's not morning in Pittsburgh.''
The image of Springsteen's Born in the USA is much more than an album cover, it is a presentation of America in the 1980's and the contrast between the beliefs and hopes of it's people. On one hand there was the blue jeans, white t shirts, and stars and stripes of Reagan's brand of masculine patriotism. However, beneath that, there lay Springsteen's much darker realism of closed factories and disillusioned Vietnam vets, and a fading of the American dream that would be everpresent beneath the surface, throughout the decade.