Why is the era of reform so trendy?
// Katherine Alpen

After WWII ended in 1945, there was a mass exodus of families to the suburbs. In an attempt to disassociate themselves with the horrors of war, they drenched their lives in “normality.” Enter the idyllic 1950s image of perfect Caucasian families, complete with picket fences, perfect housewives, and an established order of roles based on gender, age, race, and wealth. If you fell out of place, someone would always tell you to step back in line.

So why, in today’s world, do we have such an infatuation with one of the most disillusioned decades ever to encounter North America? Is it the style? Perhaps it's smoking: we know it's bad, but we can’t help but be envious of a world where no one knew better, nor bothered to try. Maybe it was the music: Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Nina Simone, and Billie Holiday were highly influential, amongst others.

On top of that, shows like Mad Men and Pan Am are endlessly romanticizing the generation. The trend has gone so far as to inspire a new clothing line by Banana Republic, featuring suits, hats, and dresses reminiscent of the era. The public appetite is always willing to devour scandal, and people are curious to pick apart this generation because it has such a rose-coloured affectation to it.

Although episodes of Mad Men have showcased blatant racism, war, and sexism, the era is relentlessly glamorized. The newest show to be set in this era, The Playboy Club, is a prime example of disillusioned ideals, as it portrays exploitation as sexual empowerment and female success.

Technologically speaking, the 50s were a time of considerable advancement, with Sputnik, the first satellite, being launched by Russia in 1957. From a political standpoint, the development of tension leading to the Cold War and fierce anticommunist sentiments were significant players in the 50s, which led to a conservative, often racist, environment.

Current anti-terrorist views are reminiscent of the red scare in the 1950s. Similar to the Bush administration's “War on Terror”, the Truman administration went to war over the “defence of liberty,” thus inspiring involvement in the war in Vietnam. Also, the repressive political time inspired the youth to take action against their conservative governments. keen on disapproving its governments conservative action. Upon closer examination, the period actually mirrors our current global climate.

Given how uncertain our future is in regards to public health, the environment, and hunger, it is escapism at its finest to focus on a generation that appeared to have it all figured out: the confidence, the class, and the look of the 50s have charmed the socks off of today’s modern world, confirming that packaging, not content, creates the illusion of splendour.

// Katherine Alpen

// Artwork by Shannon Elliot

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© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: editor@capilanocourier.com