Monday, March 28, 2011
Memes About the 50's - Cultural Programming
There is a particularly pervasive trope that is often bandied about the blogosphere...it is a straw man argument, and frankly, I'm tired of it.
This is the meme that many Men are pining for the 1950's. That we think the 50's were utopia, and if only we could 'go back' to that era, everything would be just fine.
Conversely, we have the other side of the coin - that the 1950's were utterly horrible for women, and that it's because the 50's were so horrible that the 60's sexual and cultural revolution was inevitable because of just how bad the 50's were.
Both of these caricature descriptions of that decade are shibboleths that need to be put to rest once and for all.
What the 50's were, was the last hurrah of a pro-family, pro-monogamy, pro-American ideal message transmitted via mass media culture.
The Father role was not undermined in sitcoms...it was upheld and revered. You had a show entitled "Father Knows Best."
The role of housewife was not demeaned, and chaste, virtuous motherhood was the primary female role model.
Children were portrayed as respectful of their elders and well behaved.
This cultural programming did not create a perfect society. Indeed, perfect society is a pipe dream that will never be possible. Ever.
But the mass media culture of the 50's served one very important function: it reinforced the norms and values of an orderly society in which people clearly understood the roles and expectations they were to aspire to when they reached adulthood. It channeled both male and female sexuality into the society building, civilization affirming, nuclear family. It portrayed Patriarchy as benevolent and ideal...an institution to aspire to.
Most shows of the era did in fact follow the general principle that Father does indeed know best. It did not undermine or seek to overthrow the importance and necessity of the role of Dad in the family.
If a show where to be made with that same title by today's Hollywood Babylon, it would most likely be about a pedophile priest defiling young boys with an incessant laugh track and glowing reviews.
Other than that, you'd be hard pressed to find a competent, sage, still married and admirable Father character in the mass media culture today. No, now it's all about girl power, career women, super-mom's with bumbling idiot husbands and fathers who need to be set straight by all the females in their lives...from their prepubescent daughters to their old ladies, representations of family men in today's modern day culture now basically has devolved into "Father Doesn't Know Shit."
Contrast that with today's mass media cultural programming... I guess it's stupid for people who actually value Fatherhood and the institution of the Patriarchal family and the civilized society it engendered to wish we could turn the clock back to that era, eh? Better to "keep it real" and revel in the pervasive depictions of broken families, familial dysfunction, emasculated fathers dominated by super-women, and career women having it all.
Does art imitate life...or life imitate art?
Or does the so-called "art" of our cultural mass media, actually program life?