If the American Dream had to be captured within a frozen image, how would the visualization be conveyed? For the majority of today's society, the image would likely include the traditional father, mother, and child(ren) standing pleasantly beside a moderate two story home, a well kept lawn, and neatly trimmed hedges. In the background of this family portrait, a guarded and welcoming neighborhood would appear, complete with similar home designs and family arrangements lining its streets. In other words, the image of the American Dream resides within the typical American suburb. And within this typical suburb lies (supposedly) the remaining components of the ideal American lifestyle.
From the moment William Levitt created the first official suburb in 1950, the suburban lifestyle has been viewed as practically utopian. This adopted myth has boosted suburbia into the most popular residency for Americans, housing approximately 138,231,000 or 55% of all Americans (Gillespie 4). For the average citizen, this popularity seems encouraging, assuming that the majority of our country's population is actively pursuing a lifestyle that includes a desire to work honestly and live modestly as well as to provide a stable and protected living environment for one's family. Unfortunately, things are not always as they appear. If examined closely, the popularity of America's suburbs is more disturbing than encouraging. Suburbia is actually a representation of the dehumanized characteristics that America's citizens have acquired and not a symbol of their wholesome zeal for a utopia. Using the American Dream as a facade, suburbia is simply a manufactured myth that allows Americans to disguise their diminishing family values, their hunger for socioeconomic status, and their lack of desire for social cohesion.
One of the key elements of the American Dream that is simultaneously associated with the suburban mythology is the traditional American family, complete with secure family values. Largely a result of the lifestyles portrayed on suburban-based television shows, the suburbs have consistently been deemed the ideal environment for the ideal family of high moral standards From the initial episodes of "Leave it to Beaver" in the 1950's to the modernized episodes of "Home Improvement" in the 1990's, suburban TV sitcoms have bombarded America with images of hard-working and devoted mother/father pairs who guide their essentially "normal" children through the obstacles of childhood and adolescence. As the television critic Michael V. Tueth revealed in a recent publication of the Journal of Popular Film and Television, these television shows allowed suburbia to evolve into the home of "parental wisdom and spousal forgiveness" as well as "children's fantasies and nonsense" (98). Surprisingly, because America's actual suburban children record and obtain overall success through adulthood, these television lifestyles did not seem too far-fetched. Unfortunately, through recent years, this affirmed connection between the suburbs and the "perfect" family environment has become more of an intended assumption rather than a reality.
While today's society places great significance on acquiring the appearance of the traditional America family, it places little, if any, importance on actually filling its shoes. When two teenagers recently opened fire in a Colorado high school, America stood in disbelief, not simply because the boys had randomly killed fifteen of their classmates, but because the boys had belonged to typical families who resided in popular Colorado subdivisions. Despite the argument of the suburban myth, the stability of strong family values within suburban homes does not seem to measure up to its American Dream standards. According to the June 5, 2000 issue of Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Weekly, "In a historic turnabout in the New York metropolitan area, more kids in the 7th through 12th grades in the...