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The 1950s are often portrayed as a period of social cohesion, why is this misleading?

Despite television portrayals of families like the Cleavers or later (in the 70's) the Brady Bunch, society was neither a perfect family system nor did it perpetuate social cohesion. Having won the war to end all wars, WWII, American soldiers returned home with more money and promptly separated themselves from the rest of society in a white flight to the suburbs. Despite this singular movement by white families, the Cold War and the Korean War had as much impact on the 50's construction of social cohesion as was imaginable.

With the start of the Korean War came the similar hysteria associated with all wars: the abstracted and heavily radicalized stereotypes of Korean characters. No where was this more pertinent then in comics where superheroes attempted a comeback in the fight against Korea and communism. Back on the home-front however, the red scare quickly emboldened societal disfunction and rifts between whole sections of the population. The McCarthy trials only propagated this rift in society as it preyed on the fears and insecurities of the average American. No one was safe from the witch hunt in America, and this further disjointed American perceptions of social cohesion.

The 1950s were not the Cleavers: perfect hair, perfect family, white suburbia, good moral values, etc. The 1950s were full of anxiety and fear and doubt as citizens tried to come to terms with communism and a new war and luxury that was not available to them as children.


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