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The 1950s: Teenagers take the Stage The not so Happy Days.

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1 The 1950s: Teenagers take the Stage The not so Happy Days

2 Teenagers Take the Stage The term "teenager" was rarely used before the 1950s. During the Eisenhower years, young people began to see themselves as a distinct group. Their attempts to forge an identity worried adults, who couldn't understand the shift. The change was connected to the nation's affluence. Earlier in American history, young people often had to work full-time jobs to help support their families' basic survival. By the 1950s, that was usually no longer the case. Teens instead worked part-time jobs or received allowances from their parents, giving them money to spend on fun non-essentials. In part, the phenomenon was inspired by the returning G.I.s of the late 1940s, who after surviving more than four years of World War II had a lot of wild oats to sow. Teens of the following decade imitated the defiant, rebellious, let- loose pattern of this slightly older group.

3 “Teenagers on the Rampage” Much to the delight of young people, adults wrung their hands over their children's strange and worrying behaviors. Author Fredric Wertham wrote a book in 1954 called Seduction of the Innocent. “Comic books,” he declared, “were behind the youth problem, causing everything from delinquency to dyslexia.” By 1955, 13 states had passed laws regulating comic books. That same year, Time magazine put out a special issue called "Teenagers on the Rampage." Psychologist Robert Linder claimed in 1954, "The youth of the world today is touched with madness, literally sick with an aberrant condition of mind." Fredric Wertham

4 Teenagers Take the Stage Fights among gang members, vandalism, car theft, and random violence were reported in the newspapers every day. But youth gangs had been around for generations; so too had urban violence. A rapidly growing population of young people and extensive coverage by the mass media made the problem seem far graver than it was. Young people adopted the fashions of gangs—the slang, leather jackets, and ducktail hair styles (just as many teens in more recent years have adopted the fashions of "gangsta" culture). But, then as now, most of these stylistically rebellious teens did not commit crimes or get in trouble with the police. Juvenile delinquency did exist.

5 Teenagers Take the Stage They owned cars, cruised the highways, and frequented fast food outlets and drive-in movies. They bought records and adopted rock n' roll as the sound of their generation. Rock was a form of music created specifically for teenagers, performed by young people, and marked by a more open sexuality than the kids' parents were used to. Popular radio disc jockeys like Alan Freed, Murray the K, and Wolfman Jack became, in a way, unlikely authority figures for Fifties youths. Instead, they eagerly embraced the mobile culture. American Graffiti Wolfman Jack

6 Teenagers Take the Stage Youth rebellion was aimed at parents and the confines of daily life, not at society as a whole. The only youthful rebels of the era who you might truly call revolutionary were the African Americans who participated in serious protests against wider injustices in society. Most white teenagers did not concern themselves with social problems and some educators referred to them as a "silent generation." Like many in the Fifties, they were restless. But as they grew up, they tended to adopt to the norms of the wider society. Almost half the young men of the era were drafted and served dutifully in the United States military. Even Elvis Presley, the epitome of defiant youth, was one of them. But the youth movement of the Fifties did not overturn society, as some grown-up experts feared it would. The U.S. Army

7 It’s Elvis’ Fault As the king of Rock n’ Roll and the first teen idol to teenage girls and boys, Elvis can indeed symbolize the generation gap that has marked American culture in the post-war period. In The Century: America’s Time, Peter Jennings describes the power of Elvis’ Rock ’n Roll when he writes, “But what mattered to its teenage fans was less the quality of the sound than its volume, less poetry than crudity, anything to puncture the sweet suburban mood of their parents which to many adolescents hung in the air like the family lie. When a Time writer groused in 1956 that rock did for music ‘what a motorcycle club at full throttle does for a quiet Sunday afternoon,’ youth could nod in approval, for that was precisely the point. “ Perhaps the most pivotal figure in the evolution of the modern teenager is Elvis Presley. The King of Rock’n Roll

8 Elvis and Ed The video series The Century explains that after only two months of having called Elvis vulgar and repulsive, TV’s “minister of culture and morality,” Ed Sullivan hosted Elvis and in effect surrendered to the youth culture. Rock and Roll was here to stay. Elvis’ famous first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1956 demonstrates two things. 1.The restrictions placed on what could and could not be shown of Elvis dancing. This demonstrates just how different America’s television standards have changed in the last fifty years. 2.Communicates the social and economic pressure placed on Mr. Sullivan to host Elvis. It spoke loudly to the social importance of the emerging teen culture in the 1950s. Elvis Presley’s first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show

9 Assignment 1.Watch the video clip of Elvis performing Jailhouse Rock.Jailhouse Rock 2.Watch the video clip of Katy Perry’s video Roar.Roar 3.Now let’s compare and contrast. How are these two performer’s similar? How are they different? 4.Interview a grandparent or adult who remembers Elvis’s debut and the social reactions surrounding it. Like most teens long to do, Elvis challenged the status quo and set trends that shaped youth culture. He gave this new youth culture an identity much like Brittany Spears, Rap Musicians, and Lincoln Park do today. The way he dressed, spoke, the lyrics he sang and the way that he danced provoked an energy in teenagers that adult society found licentious and offensive

10 Compare and Contrast Jailhouse RockRoar List the qualities that you see, hear, or experience in Jailhouse Rock that are different from Roar. List the qualities that you see, hear, or experience in Roar that are different from Jailhouse Rock. List here anything that is similar between the two songs, the video, or the performers. different same

11 Seeing Stars In the 1950s, as today, teenagers were influenced by stars of television shows, movies, and music. They read about their lives and personalities, studied their appearance and wardrobe, and imitated the things they admired. Tiger felt that she could not hope to measure up to most of the stars of her day. However, Audrey Hepburn was unique. Her difference from most of the other glamorous stars gave Tiger hope. Marlon Brando Elizabeth Taylor She believed that if someone like Audrey Hepburn could be considered attractive, then maybe she could too. Audrey Hepburn

12 Assignment 1. Research the popular stars of the 1950s. Find out what each person’s image was. Think of a modern star who is viewed in the same way today. 2. Use your information to design a poster. Write each trait or image, include the stars from the past and from the present, who share that trait or image. Use pictures of as many stars as possible. Here are the names of some stars from the fifties to get you started: Audrey HepburnFred AstaireMarilyn Monroe Katherine HepburnMarlon BrandoJames Dean Elvis PresleyEd SullivanMilton Berle Sophia LorenFred Mac MurrayAnnette Funicello Danny KayeBud AbbottLou Costello Mickey RooneyVincent PriceElizabeth Taylor


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