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Popular Culture: Discovering the Teenagers

Popular Culture: Discovering the Teenagers

Until 1950 the term teenagers had never before been coined. The word “teenage” had first appeared in the popular press in the 1920s, but the idea that there was a time of life between childhood and adulthood that could be isolated, and that had its own peculiar characteristics, belongs largely to the 1950s. Children were known as girls and boys were known as youths once they displayed signs of puberty. Then young people were grown up at 18 and fully adult legally at 21 when they often married and set up a home of their own, even if it was a rented room.

The long-established belief had been that people remained children until they suddenly became adults; this conviction lost its hold partly because of social changes, partly as a result of the flourishing postwar consumer economy.

What has been called the “self-conscious subculture” of the young developed during the 1920s and 1930s as a largely urban white middle-class response to the increasing leisure opportunities afforded by changing social attitudes. After World War II the extra years spent in education both broadened the base of the group and gave it a clearer sense of identity. The economy started booming and families experienced a great deal of economic power freedom and independence, including teenagers.

At the same time, teenagers in work (many of them working-class) found that increases in spending power and in leisure time enabled them to move to a position where they could both assert their independenee and be courted by leading representatives of entrepreneurial America. Ironically, while teenagers were more open than ever before to market influences, they were frequently hostile to the adult culture of which the market was a part.

Teenagers were also becoming more independent in the type of music they preferred to listen to, no more listening to what their parents liked, teens flocked to the new music of the decade, which was rock and roll. Even though teens were able to purchase rock and roll records because they were receiving extra spending money, their parents were opposed to rock and roll music, they despised it, and thought of it as corrupting their children.

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1950’s Cars: Dream Machines

1950's Cars: Dream Machines

With the return of prosperity in the early 1920’s, the American automobile industry came into its own as the nation’s largest manufacturing enterprise. Production of motor vehicles climbed from 2,227,349 in 1920 to a phenomenal high of 5,337,687 in 1929, a figure not surpassed for another 20 years. By 1929, there was one automobile on the highway for every six people in the United States, and Herbert Hoover’s campaign slogan of “two cars in every garage” was by no means as ridiculous as it was made out to be by subsequent critics.

Much of the economic expansion of the period, in fact, was a direct consequence of the rise of the motor vehicle. The production and the operation of automobiles absorbed 20% of the country’s annual steel output, 90% of its gasoline, 80% of its rubber, and 75% of its plate glass. Moreover, as millions of Americans became automobile owners, they demanded better roads.

The Federal Highways Act of 1921 and the dedication of the Zero milestone in Washington a year later, a ceremony at which Roy D. Chapin was appropriately one of the principal speakers, signaled the launching of a vast program of road building by both Federal and state authorities. The automobile also brought with it a substantial new area of service occupations: dealers and repair shops, filling stations and tourist camps.

1950's Cars: Dream Machines

The effect of the automobile on recreational habits was often decried in the 1930’s: the substitution of a passive amusement for something more active; standardization and regimentation; the moral problem of the parked sedan and roadside tourist camp. The Sunday-afternoon drive was devastatingly described — the crowded highways, traffic jams, and accidents; the car windows tightly closed against spring breezes; and whatever beauties the landscape might offer lying hidden behind forbidding lines of advertisements. “One arrives after a motor journey,” one eminent sociologist wrote, “all liver and no legs; one’s mind is asleep, one’s body tired; one is bored, irritable, and listless. But what such critics forgot was that the great majority of Sunday and holiday motorists, or even vacation tourists, would have been cooped up in crowded towns and cities except for the automobile.

The country they saw may at times have been almost blotted out by billboards and the air they breathed tainted by gasoline fumes. But the alternative in many cases would have been the movie, the dance-hall, or the beer-parlor. The steamboat and the railroad began a century ago to open up the world of travel and provide some means of holiday escape from one’s immediate enviromnent, but until the coming of the automobile, recreation along these lines was a rare thing. The wealthy could make the fashionable tour in 1825, the well-to-do built up the summer resorts of the 1890’s, but every Tom, Dick, and Harry toured the country in the 1930’s — thanks to the automobile.

By the early 1950s, brightly polished chrome on bumpers, door handles, headlight surrounds and body trim had become the main means through which automobiles expressed more than their mere utility functions. Their bulbous pressed steel bodies provided a canvas upon which all sorts of imaginative delights could be portrayed.

While it was a highly capital-intensive exereise to modify the shell itself, it was relatively cheap to vary the amount of chrome detailing in order to provide a range of differently priced models. The fact that General Motors soId automobiles under a range of different brand names – Cadillac, Pontiac, Buick, Chevrolet and OIdsmobile, each aimed at a different sector of the market – meant that it could simultaneously standardize the production of major components and provide different models through varied body decoration.

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Coca Cola: The Real Thing

Coca Cola: The Real Thing

Coca-Cola is an all-American product and its Classic Coca-Cola beverage recipe has withstood the tests of time, even shaking off efforts to make an improved “New Coke” formula. The American public wasn’t having any of it. “Classic is better” and “Keep the original” were cries that could be heard from across the country, as well as around the world.

In the vortex of the 20th century’s constant change it has been a source of reassurance to find a new points of stability, a few commodities not subject to the whims of fashion and planned obsolescence. The red and white Coca-Cola logo is instantly recognizable, a guarantee of standardization and an emblem of the American Way of Life, as potent as the Stars and Stripes itself.

Coca-Cola was Coca-Cola was definitely an American original and the most widely distributed mass-produced item in America when World War II began and the war provided an opportunity to spread the product into Europe and Asia. Its standardization of experience is both what we admire about its production, and what we occasionally dread about its effects.

When European conservatives inveighed against the incursions of crass American values into their ancient cultures, the Coca-Cola logo epitomized all that they resented, and for the young the very act of drinking Coke became a minor form of rebellion against stifling tradition.

Coke’s advertising tells us this carbonated syrup “Is It,” although we have not been told what “It” is. The formula is a long-held, well-guarded secret, and so it should be, because the foaming dark brown liquid is an elixir: Coke “Adds Life”. These famous artists from every era have created timeless Coke images of refreshment we know and love. Old Coca Cola prints from the National Geographic magazine featured timeless Coca Cola ads on their back covers 7 months of the year since the 1930’s. Things, whatever things are, “Go Better” with it.

They always did: a 1905 ad declared it to be “a delightful palatable healthful beverage. It relieves fatigue and is indispensable for business and professional men, students, wheelmen and athletes.”

Such claims might be disputed, but not for the drink’s supreme claim, the perfect ad-line for the perfect product, that Coca-Cola is “the Real Thing”. This is a triumph of the American corporation and advertising industry. If Coke is the Real Thing, what can we possibly call artificial or fake?

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Route 66: Iconic Road from Los Angeles to Chicago

Route 66: Iconic Road from Los Angeles to Chicago

Route 66 that crosses through the western United States from Chicago to the location of Los Angeles is an iconic American highway.

The Mother Road, as it was referred to as has been the subject of songs (“Get your kicks on Route 66.”) The backdrop of quite a couple of movies, and even a component of a typical Disney movie (Cars.) Traveling Route 66 is really a dream for some Americans, rather. Here are some fundamental reasons and know why.

Route 66 was developed in 1925 when Congress decided to join many small roads between Chicago, Illinois, and Los Angeles, California. At that time, traveling by car was a brand new concept, so this concept has contributed to the evolution of U.S. highways. As soon as people began generating this trip, they leave places essential to eat, sleep and put gas in their car. Enter the lot of a now-famous stops along Route 66.

Motels actually got their start at this point in time. Travelers needed a place they could drive right up to rent a room to rest before continuing their journey. Not surprisingly, some motels were much more elaborate than others. The Wigwam Motel in San Bernardino, California, and Holbrook, Arizona are some of the most famous and well known to date.

Diners also became popular and necessary along the Mother Road. Travelers need to eat, so people started providing fast and cost restaurants that provided standards like fried catfish, fries, chili, chicken pies and milkshakes. The 66 Diner in Albuquerque, NM is an example of a dinner that provides the food in a style similar to what was available in the early days of Route 66.

Traveling Route 66 also required an approach to fill the gas tank of the car. For this reason, the home based business gas station exploded from the start. Although the stations used to be necessary in a city, now people now, these days producing long trips needed a chance on a typical gas, which provided a lucrative opportunity organization for men and women who lived near Highway 66.

Unfortunately, today much of the Route 66 passes through the invisible travelers because of the motorway program. Route 40 was built to cover about the exact route west along Route 66. This caused the closure of many stores of the diners and motels that were once very busy. While Route 66 fans can still travel over the road, however. It really is an exceptional method to see America in a multi destination path that takes you through the perspective of the first passenger car.

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Popular Culture: Drive-in Theatres

Popular Culture: Drive-in Theatres

While many movie theaters in small American towns closed in the 1950s, an equal number of a new kind of theater, which recognized the supremacy of the automobile in American life, opened up.

In the 1920s concerned parents had been anxious about the effects of automobiles and movies on their children’s morals; their grandchildren could now combine these menaces to their moral welfare at the drive-in.

The first drive-in movie theater opened in 1933, but they mushroomed in the decade after World War II. By 1956 there were 4,200 drive-ins, earning nearly a quarter of total box-office receipts.

They were promoted as “the answer to the family’s night out”; a way for married couples to avoid the expense of baby-sitters, but their real attraction was to the youth market, where teenagers could escape parental supervision.

The drive-in market encouraged a new kind of filmmaking, pioneered by Columbia producer Sam Katzman and American International Pictures (AlP). Discarding conventional formulas such as the Western, they geared their films solely for the teenage market, hooking a story on to any gimmick they could think of.

Popular Culture: Drive-in Theatres

The success of Rock Around the Clock in 1956, and the cycle of rock ‘n’ roll movies that followed made it clear that “teenpics” could reap huge profits even. If they pointedly excluded an older audience. These mainstream productions spawned imitations, such as Teenage Crime Wave (1955) and Hot Rod Rumble (1957).

The other major “teenpic” genre was the horror film: low-budget “exploitation” movies (so-called because their ‘publicity budgets were higher than their production costs), with titles like I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958) were pumped out to provide the material for the double and triple-bills at the drive-ins.

Teenagers liked double-bills for the simple reason that they lasted longer – especially when offered on “midnite matinees”. Few of these movies shared classical Hollywood’s concern with tightly constructed narrative.

Instead, their emphasis on spectacle implicitly recognized that the audience might have other things to do than just watch the film. By 1960 the established industry had learnt at least some of the lessons of exploitation producers, and were successfully producing material for the teenage market.

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Understanding the Leadership of Joseph Stalin

Understanding the Leadership of Joseph Stalin

As ruler of the USSR. from 1929 to 1953, Joseph Stalin was in charge of Soviet policies during the early phase of the Cold War. Born Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili on December 21, 1879, he adopted the name Stalin, which means “Man of Steel,” while still a young revolutionary.

Stalin first rose to power in 1922 as secretary general of the Communist Party. Using administrative skills and ruthless maneuvering, Stalin rid himself of all potential rivals in the party, first by having many of them condemned as “deviationists,” and later by ordering them executed.

To ensure his position and to push forward “socialism in one country,” he put the Soviet Union on a course of crash collectivization and industrialization. An estimated 25 million farmers were forced onto state farms. Collectivization alone killed as many as 14.5 million people, and Soviet agricultural output was reduced by 25 percent, according to some estimates.

In the 1930s, Stalin launched his Great Purge, ridding the Communist Party of all the people who had brought him to power. Soviet nuclear physicist and academician Andrei Sakharov estimated that more than 1.2 million party members — more than half the party — were arrested between 1936 and 1939, of which 600,000 died by torture, execution or perished in the Gulag.

Stalin also purged the military leadership, executing a large percentage of the officer corps and leaving the U.S.S.R. unprepared when World War II broke out. In an effort to avoid war with Germany, Stalin agreed to a non-aggression pact with German leader Adolf Hitler in August 1939.

When Hitler invaded the U.S.S.R. on June 22, 1941, Stalin was not seen or heard from for two weeks. After addressing the nation two weeks later, Stalin took command of his troops.

With the Soviet Union initially carrying the burden of the fighting, Stalin met with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt at Tehran (1943) and Yalta (1945), and with Churchill and Roosevelt’s successor, President Harry S. Truman, in Potsdam (1945), dividing the postwar world into “spheres of influence.”

Though the U.S.S.R. only joined the war against Japan in August 1945, Stalin insisted on expanding Soviet influence into Asia, namely the Kurile Islands, the southern half of Sakhalin Island and the northern section of Korea. More important, Stalin wanted to secure a territorial buffer zone that had ideologically friendly regimes along the U.S.S.R.’s western borders.

In the wake of the German defeat, the U.S.S.R. occupied most of the countries in Eastern Europe and eventually ensured the installation of Stalinist regimes. Stalin said later to Milovan Djilas, a leading Yugoslav communist, “Whoever occupies a territory also imposes his own social system.” He believed that the Americans and the British “imperialism” would clash and eventually “socialism” would triumph.

After initially approving the participation by Eastern European countries in the U.S.-sponsored Marshall Plan (1947), Stalin forbade it. Stalin also sought to gain influence in Germany, though his exact goals remain controversial. Denied access to the western German occupation zones, he agreed to the establishment of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in October 1949.

Encouraged by Communist victory in the Chinese Civil War and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in October 1949, Stalin gave the green light to North Korean leader Kim Il Sung to attack South Korea in June 1950.

His confrontational foreign policy and his domestic terror regime (the “Stalinist system”) had an impact on Soviet society and politics well beyond the dictator’s death of natural causes at age 73 on March 5, 1953.

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Popular Culture and The Rise of Hollywood

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The rise of Hollywood signaled the arrival of America’s urban-industrial age, a period when traditional values and established notions of family and community, of the social and political order, and of individual freedom and initiative were radically transformed. Hollywood movies were among the first and were certainly the most widespread and accessible manifestations of an emergent “mass culture” which brought with it new forms of cultural expression.

Businessmen began to realize the financial potential for movies. While movies were first shown as part of other forms of entertainment, they soon became the featured attraction themselves. By 1905 the first nickelodeon had opened in Pittsburgh, where customers each paid a nickel to see a full program of a half dozen short films. The opening of theaters completed the elements necessary for an industry: product, technology, producer, purchaser, and distributor.

As the United States became an increasingly child-centered culture, concern grew about the moral effects of popular culture on the young. This was not simply a matter of its content: many educationalists shared philosopher Charles Horton Coolef’s disquiet about its “expressive” function in stimulating emotions. The “rapid and multitudinous flow of personal images, sentiments, and impulses”, he feared, produced “an overexcitation which weakens or breaks down character”.

One man who learned his trade from Griffith was Mack Sennett. Sennett worked for Griffith for a few years as a director and writer, but his interests were more in comedy than in melodrama. In 1912 he broke away and began to work for an independent company, Keystone. Here he learned to merge the methods of stage slapstick comedy with the techniques of film; the results were the Keystone Cops, Ben Turpin, and Charlie Chaplin. Sennett’s films used only the barest plot outline as a frame for comic gags that were improvised and shot quickly.

From the Sennett method, Charlie Chaplin developed his own technique and character. He began making shorts under the direction of Sennett, but in 1915 he left and joined with Essenay which agreed to let him write and direct his own films at an unprecedented salary. Here he fleshed out his tramp character; one of his first films for Essenay was The Tramp (1915). He continued making films that combined his own comic sense and acrobatic movements with social commentary and along with Mary Pickford became one of the first “stars.”

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Advertising for Men: Cigarette Advertisements

Advertising for Men: Cigarette Advertisements

While, in the interwar years, most consumer goods had been aimed at a female market (even if it didn’t earn the money to pay for them), by the 1950s men had become, increasingly, the target for the ad-men of Madison Avenue. People honestly believed that smoking cigarettes were, while maybe not good for you, at least would not have harmful effects. The cigarette industry was in what is now referred to as its “Golden Age.”

A wide range of supremely “masculine” goods – from cars to eleetric shavers to cigarettes showed that the male species was as susceptible as women to the none-too-subtle tacties of the advertisers. The ads stressed the importance of self-reliance, strength and, above all, sophistication. Many of the masculine role models of the decade, visible in the ads, originated in the cinema.

Whereas cigarette ads tended to focus on the enjoyment of leisure hours, advertising for men located its image increasingly in the world of work, with the male shown to be in control of his office or workshop environment.

In 1971, cigarette ads were completely banned from television and seventeen years later, the tobacco industry first paid damages to the widow of a cigarette smoker. The industry began to seriously consider ways in which to continue appealing to potential smokers while dealing with the now well-established fact that smoking caused cancer. Since then, we have seen a great decline in pro-smoking and cigarette advertising, mainly for health reasons.

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Popular Culture: The Rise of Hollywood

Popular Culture: The Rise of Hollywood

The rise of Hollywood signaled the arrival of America’s urban-industrial age, a period when traditional values and established notions of family and community, of the social and political order, and of individual freedom and initiative were radically transformed. Hollywood movies were among the first and were certainly the most widespread and accessible manifestations of an emergent “mass culture” which brought with it new forms of cultural expression.

Businessmen began to realize the financial potential for movies. While movies were first shown as part of other forms of entertainment, they soon became the featured attraction themselves. By 1905 the first nickelodeon had opened in Pittsburgh, where customers each paid a nickel to see a full program of a half dozen short films. The opening of theaters completed the elements necessary for an industry: product, technology, producer, purchaser, and distributor. As the United States became an increasingly child-centered culture, concern grew about the moral effects of popular culture on the young.

This was not simply a matter of its content: many educationalists shared philosopher Charles Horton Coolef’s disquiet about its “expressive” function in stimulating emotions. The “rapid and multitudinous flow of personal images, sentiments, and impulses”, he feared, produced “an overexcitation which weakens or breaks down character”.

One man who learned his trade from Griffith was Mack Sennett. Sennett worked for Griffith for a few years as a director and writer, but his interests were more in comedy than in melodrama. In 1912 he broke away and began to work for an independent company, Keystone. Here he learned to merge the methods of stage slapstick comedy with the techniques of film; the results were the Keystone Cops, Ben Turpin, and Charlie Chaplin. Sennett’s films used only the barest plot outline as a frame for comic gags that were improvised and shot quickly.

From the Sennett method, Charlie Chaplin developed his own technique and character. He began making shorts under the direction of Sennett, but in 1915 he left and joined with Essenay which agreed to let him write and direct his own films at an unprecedented salary. Here he fleshed out his tramp character; one of his first films for Essenay was The Tramp (1915). He continued making films that combined his own comic sense and acrobatic movements with social commentary and along with Mary Pickford became one of the first “stars.”

Later he made features, such as The Gold Rush (1925) and Modern Times (1936). Sennett and Chaplin began a period of great film comedy. Buster Keaton combined a deadpan look with remarkable physical ability and timing. He too began making shorts, but soon was directing and starring in features, such as The General (1926). Harold Lloyd ( The Freshman, 1925) and Harry Langdon ( The Strong Man, 1926) also created comic characters that demonstrated their individuality and imagination.

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