The post below on the decline of subversive office culture reminded me how widespread the attitude of irreverence was in the '80s. It wasn't defiance or hostility -- it was that plus the feel-good vibe that was everywhere back then. Carefree defiance.
The best way to see this is to look for it where you wouldn't expect. Like, it wouldn't shock you to see defiance or mockery in a heavy metal video. But how about feel-good dance-pop?
Here's the video for "Who's Johnny" by El DeBarge (who you might remember from "Rhythm of the Night").
Casual disrespect is shown toward the judge, lawyers, and law enforcement officers, in the courtroom no less. But it also strikes a humorous tone and gets them involved in the shenanigans -- that feel-good vibe again, not straight-up hostility toward authority.
The song is from the movie Short Circuit, where good-meaning defiance of authority is a central theme. (A robot designed for warfare by the US military wanders off base and befriends a woman. She tries to foil the military's plans to disassemble it, convinced that it is sentient. And the robot's designers want to give it less belligerent goals, against the Cold War aims of the brass.)
Scenes like the ones in the video could not catch on with audiences today. Most people worship authority figures -- just look at all the TV shows in the top of the ratings that feature sober and sympathetic depictions of judges, lawyers, courts, and police departments. Compare to the '80s hit sit-com Night Court, which was irreverent.
The minority of youngish people who aren't so hot for that stuff are more likely to have a bratty hostile attitude. "Fuck the police!" While never saying that to one of their faces...
I remember during the turning point around the mid-'90s that us teenagers were still emboldened enough to say things like that when the cops were within earshot. "Hey guys, [sniff sniff], do you smell bacon around here?" "I sure could go for a DONUT!" Being a smartass requires you to be somewhat confrontational in real life, not just whine about it in your room or on the internet.
Things were turning more contemptuous and hostile at that point, though. Eighties irreverence was already shading into Nineties smartass, though not yet at 21st century emo brattiness.
I wouldn't expect to see mainstream irreverence for a long while -- it seems to mature during the end of a rising-crime period, by which time the authorities have proven themselves incapable of doing their most important job, i.e. halting the rising crime rate. So don't pay them any mind. It took awhile for this attitude to come out during the early 20th century crime wave. More during the Jazz Age, when the homicide rate was nearing its peak, and not so much in the first part of the wave, circa 1900 to WWI. It's more part of the Twenties.
Offbeat color combinations will be another way to recognize this attitude when it eventually comes back. Good-natured flouting of the rules that fashion authorities set for us. A staple of the look of the '80s, and of the '20s as well.