Iran-Contra, AIDs, that TV show 'Small Wonder' and the crack epidemic
Leave it to a random National Enquirer reporter to throw Donna and Brooke's safety into question. Still at the diner, the two are confronted by the young woman who initially compliments Brooke on her Brooke Thompson costume. You know, because society is screwed up and cosplay, even back then, means championing murderers by dressing as them. In professing her fandom for the Camp Redwood murders, this reporter, in one solid breath, encapsulates the whole damn decade by referencing Iran Contra, the AIDs epidemic, the TV show Small Wonder, and crack cocaine. That's a lot, really -- let's unpack this…
The Iran-Contra affair was a scandal that broke during Ronald Reagan's second term in office. Basically, the American government secretly assisted in the sales of weapons to Iran -- during an arms embargo, which banned such activity. In exchange, we used the proceeds in question to help fund a group of anti-Sandanista rebels (or Contras) as they rose up against the socialist Nicaraguan government. Reagan justified the interaction as a means to free seven Americans taken hostage by terrorist group, Hezbollah, but info eventually surfaced proving the Reagan administration began such sales to Iran in 1981, long before the hostages were ever kidnapped.
The CDC first learned about HIV/AIDs, or human immunodeficiency virus infection and acquired immune deficiency syndrome, in 1981. It wasn't until a year later that the disease, which was rapidly spreading through the LGBTQ community, was named. In the early days, the virus was known as GRID, or "gay-related immune deficiency," ravaging tons of lives, and feeding into rampant homophobia. President Reagan didn't take the threat seriously, only giving his first official speech on the matter in 1987. By the end of the decade, the number of AIDs-related cases in the U.S. reached 100,000.
Now, onto Small Wonder. Boy, was this an odd television show and a sign of the times really. Heck, if we could have a comedic story about a cat-eating alien play out episodically on the small-screen -- we're talking about ALF, people -- then a sitcom about an engineer who decides to build a robot, make it look like a little girl, and attempt to pass it off as his daughter Vicki doesn't sound all that crazy… does it? Who knows? The show lasted four seasons, so they got something right.
And finally, crack. What happens when there's just too much cocaine powder to go around? The answer was crack, a smokeable solution to the loss of drug profits due to the decline in cocaine demand in the early '80s. Once crack cocaine was introduced to the inner cities of America, all hell broke loose. It was cheap, the high was intense, and the outcome of the growing addiction caused an uptick in violent crimes. As a reaction to this, Congress passed a 100 to 1 law that directly impacted the Black community. Basically, if you were caught holding five grams of crack cocaine, you were handed a five-year mandatory minimum sentence in prison -- which quickly crowded prisons across the country. Obviously, this was hugely discriminatory, considering the minimal punishment one would get for possessing the same amount of cocaine powder.