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Why would the Cold War & 2 nd Red Scare encourage conformity?
In the 1950 s it was a “sin” to be different • Americans were encouraged to conform to traditional American stereotypes • Creativity, originality, and rebellion were NOT encouraged • Large companies often gave personality tests to weed out those who might not conform • The media, rise of suburbs, rise in franchises further developed this new American culture with an emphasis on stereotypes and the pursuit of the American Dream
The desire to “fit in” caused many Americans to feel pressure to achieve the “Dream” Americans were eager to pursue the American Dream they had sacrificed for during WWII
• Great Depression is over • Full employment during war • Americans saved money during war years (rationing & limited consumer goods) - $35 billion in savings • New types of jobs emerged post WWII - more men going to college & mechanization = growth in white collar workers & service industry • GI Bill of Rights provides funding to veterans to get an education for these “new” jobs & provided loans to buy homes
• Both President Truman & Eisenhower focused on the transition from a wartime to peacetime economy • The transition was relatively smooth, creating an era of prosperity for many • Used price controls, subsidies for farmers, and continuing government spending (especially defense spending) to maintain a stable economy • Rising racial tensions began to challenge the social trend of conformity – Congress refused to pass laws that would address racial injustice How did government policy encourage conformity?
1. Marriage • 82% of women were married in 1950 (and they were married for 88% of their lives) 2. Rise of Suburbs • Once married, couples looked for homes (housing shortage) • Led to rise of suburbs & “Levittowns” (mass produced communities in the suburbs, developed by William J. Levitt – affordable for average American)
3. Baby Boom (1946 – 1964) • In 1930 there were 2. 2 million births • Post WWII there were 3 -4 million births a year • 4. 3 million babies were born in 1957 • created the largest generation in the nation’s history 4. The Automobile • dependence on a car to get to jobs • led to new industries (federal/interstate highways, gas stations, repair shops, parts stores, drive-in movies and restaurants).
In order to “fit in” in the 1950 s you had to fulfill the American Dream
Appearances Might be Deceiving….
FACTS ABOUT TV IN THE 1950 s: • Average American family watched 4 – 5 hours of TV/day • New homes were built without formal dining rooms, but with TV rooms • within these rooms the TV was the central piece of furniture (mentally think about your TV/family room – how is all the furniture arranged? ) • TV changed the nature of children’s lives and family interactions
POPULAR GENRES – Variety Shows – Cartoons – Westerns – Family Sitcoms
TV promotes Conformity (especially family sitcoms): • most women were shown as housewives and mothers • shows focused on the American Dream – perfect home, perfect children, perfect father, mother, neighborhoods, neighbors, jobs, marriages
TV promotes Conformity (especially family sitcoms): • plots focused on minor problems of life and showed easy solutions within the format of a comedy • minorities were almost always represented in a negative way to further promote racist stereotypes
Did TV reflect reality? APPEARANCES • Men - clean cut, white, work to support family, make all decisions for family • Women - marry young, cook, clean, raise kids, and support all of husband’s decisions …What was the problem with “no name? ” • Minorities – work to support or entertain white families, often shown as less intelligent/uneducated Most Americans viewed TV as a reproduction of reality – but who’s reality?
REALITY: • 25% - 30% of married women worked (over 39% with children worked) – more married women worked than single women – many women experienced high levels of depression (about 25% openly expressed dissatisfaction with staying at home) – Many men were unable to provide enough money to fund the American Dream – Divorce rates increased during the 1950 s However, American pop culture refused – And as the baby boom generations turns into teenagers they are to acknowledge reality & focused not always willing to conform on promoting uniformity
By the end of the 1950 s the first group of baby boomers become teenagers Teen Consumers • Teens became a significant part of population due to baby boom – word teenager enters American vocabulary • Teens took part in fueling the growing economy • The more money they spend, the more power they have
• Teens as consumers had a major influence on pop culture • Many teens continued the trend of conformity (watched mainstream TV shows like American Bandstand Ozzie & Harriet; listened to pop music like Frank Sinatra) • While others began to challenge conformity (began to listen to Rock & Roll and go to movies like Rebel Without A Cause) • The Beat Movement • a small subculture of youth emerged • supported non-conformity & individuality • became the foundations for the 1960 s counterculture movements
The “New” generation is about to transform American society – overpowering the “old” generation and their societal norms