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

Looking back on the 1950s American culture, the broad picture of the U.S. seemed to show a more harmonious country than ever before. Classic shows like "Leave it to Beaver" and "I Love Lucy" portrayed the perfect American lifestyle, and the goal was to make the shows reflect real life. From the end of World War II in 1945 to the early 1950s, America was basically in control of the world economy and held a huge advantage with weaponry, as shown with the detonation of a plutonium and nuclear bomb over Japan. The youth's activity was also very clean-cut on the surface, with gender roles becoming stronger and clearer, and anarchy down to a minimum, especially in light of the coming decades. Socially, American culture seemed the most ideal of any decade…at least, on the surface.

Societal hysteria was raised in the 1950s society because of three things: the Cold War, the Korean War, and the war on comic books and other media. The aggression over nuclear weaponry caused internal panic. Ironically, this was one of the greatest peacetimes of the 20th century. The "baby boom" era was due to the advantageous economy after World War II. Mass consumption was almost expected at the time, because of less economic pressure and overall stability. The political aspect of American culture soon became engulfed in the looming threats of the Cold War. The "Red Scare" of the Russians' possession of nuclear weaponry prompted American propaganda (including anti-communist content from the comic book industry) to keep the citizens on high alert, to the point of panic. Writers began creating comic characters that combatted Russian enemies and staved off the threat of nuclear war. The same applied to the Korean War, the cartoons and broadcasts teetering on the point of political incorrectness.

Saying that the 1950s was a time of social cohesion can generally give people the wrong idea. With the often positive attitude that goes towards describing the 1950s, the threats, panic, and propaganda are almost overshadowed by the general good behavior of citizens. Crime still occurred, just nothing on an international level. Comic books were the only things that literally shouted the word "crime" into the mindsets of the youth. Essentially, the 1950s were a time of censorship. Other "bad" influences (such as rock and roll, and eventually the rise of television) were definitely present, but comic books received most of the blame, not only in America but on an international scale. Comic books were the most accessible form of entertainment, and just like any decade, the popularity of a franchise had to be criticized and ultimately censored. So the "social cohesion" that the 1950s seemed to have was more of a grand censorship for the younger generation. For a while it seemed to be succeeding. Needless to say, America would soon grow out of it.


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