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Description of how conformity affected the 1950's American lifestyle.

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Description of how conformity affected the 1950's American lifestyle.

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  • April 12, 2003
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Alex Orr

3/30/03

Multimedia History

1950's

Conformity

Following World War II America saw an extreme decade of both conformity and nonconformity. A strong post-war economy meant there was money to spend. Settling down, raising a family, and owning a home were the established goals of the American dream. Many tried to attain the ideal family depicted on TV shows such as Leave It to Beaver and Father Knows Best. Deviating from this popular culture was the "Beat Generation."

The post-war economic boom of the 1950's in the U.S. resulted in overwhelming prosperity in comparison with the rest of the world. This economic boom produced a white, middle-class consumer culture in which that population had more money and time in which to pursue leisure activities such as television viewing and movie-going. These leisurely pastimes produced a conforming American popular culture. We define conformity as behavior in accordance with the expectations of a social group or adherence to societal and cultural norms. In the 1950's, these strict social norms were communicated primarily through television. Between 1952 and 1958 the amount of households owning a television set tripled from 3 million to 9 million. TV advertising created new consumer markets and TV sitcoms from the 1950's portrayed the conservative values and mores of the ideal American life. "Domestic" comedies were very popular and portrayed the stereotypical suburban white family in neighborhoods seemingly unaware of racial discrimination and ethnic problems, and where mothers never desired or were expected to work outside the home. During a Father knows Best episode it seemed that any problems facing the family could easily be solved in a 30-minute time slot. Shows like this promoted honesty and always had a strong moral lesson to end the program. Westerns were also extremely popular. The pioneering idea of cowboys living in the wild and woolly west where good and bad, right and wrong, were evident was...