Am I annoyed by the 1950s globally? I don’t know. I hate it here in the UK, and to a degree, in the USA. Because that’s the 1950’s I’ve been exposed to. A cultural-historical phenomenon.
Now. I wasn’t even BORN then, so what the hell am I talking about, how can I hate a decade, and one I wasn’t even personally present for?!
I mean: I am annoyed how it is remembered when I hear people who were there talk about it; and I hate how it is portrayed in documentaries, on TV and in films. But I’m not completely unreasonable, I don’t hate all the films, TV and documentaries of then. Just the assumptions in an awful lot of it.
I am annoyed at the way people seem to associate this decade with a great wholesomeness. Everything in its proper place; all’s well with the world – it seems to have a feeling of provincial smugness and conformity. Especially in relation to the naughty dissipated 1960’s and those selfish gritty 1970s. Tsk!!
For a decade that contained the Cold War, the Korean War, the rampant terror at the idea of Communism (and the resultant McCarthyism), the Suez Crisis, the fact that being gay was illegal (till 1967 over here, in fact)…and that’s just off the top of my head – I don’t think this decade was really different to any other in terms of human behaviour. (I.e. lots of it still pretty unevolved.) We weren’t involved in a massive war at that time, and over here, there was the Festival of Britain to cheer people up and make them feel a bit more optimistic to begin the decade with; and the final end of rationing.
I think the war’s aftermath is partially what I am annoyed about. Here comes the feminist. All those women doing the men’s jobs while they were gone. Quite reasonable. And then the men come back and need their jobs back. Also quite reasonable. Except the bit where you don’t hear about any large movement of women (and/or men) saying – ‘but those women did well, maybe they should be working outside the home like we do, as well? Maybe some of us are happier indoors, some of us happier outdoors – let’s have a look at this and try and make it a bit more equitable…’
Now, now! Put your hands down!! I know its wrong to apply my 2011 perspective to the 1950s – things were as they were, then was then; and there’s been progress since. Betty Friedan was writing the Feminine Mystique and the American feminists happened, the quiet English feminists you don’t remember the names of happened, the Wolfenden Report happened; and lo and behold, many people are now equally free to go and be a bit miserable in an office or other outside job regardless of gender! Also, American Civil rights were starting. There were famous bus events with Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jnr. Though we didn’t have formal segregation here, there was plenty informal ghettoing occurring – so this all fed into the climate of change.
I just really do object to the comfy, cosy image of this decade we have NOW. We have hindsight, we have a fuller picture of events than you can usually have at the time – we have a lot more information. We could have a rounded view of this decade. Its good things (all the progress that WAS made – people fought back against inequalities, much good science started to really make strides), as well as the annoying (e.g. lets put women back in their boxes, and attempt to brainwash them via the media that all they want is marriage, children and a really shiny new fridge). Yet, so often, it’s portrayed as this safe, morally tidy Utopian past that we should all re-aspire to. When Conservatives mutter about ‘family values’ I think they are partially referring to the ‘50s. As well as Victorian Britain; you know, when not only the wimmen, but the plebs knew their places too!
I just find that…very annoying. I could actually make this post larger and probably sillier with my equal irritation at West Side Story, Rumble Fish, The Outsiders and films of this ilk. But mostly West Side Story – grrrrrrrrrrrrr. (This even though I adore Grease; equally silly in a different way, also set in the 1950s.) The hair, the clothes, the attitudes, the gangs, arghhhh…
No, I’m not going to argue this one any further. I shall likely persist with my annoyance at the entire 1950’s as I’ve set it out here. But since its so entirely personal, I despair of getting it across properly!
 Now, if I say ‘here comes the feminist’ and you groan, I make stern faces at you! If you are male, then you may think you are all New Male, but you can’t be, or you wouldn’t be bored already. Go and think about why you got bored when I said that? Think women are all free entirely now?? We aren’t you know. And if you’re female…well. If you’re old school female, and think its all about a strange combination of valid meritocracy, undilutedly fair democracy and feminine wiles, ‘the power behind the throne’ and all that (I know several like this), then I will probably not be able to get through to you, as you can’t see the problem. If you’re my age or younger, you might think Germaine Greer is a bit…dry, boring. Try Jo Brand instead. She is, in fact, a feminist. And funny. Feminism means: seeing both genders as Equal. Different, but equal. This is so utterly reasonable I don’t see how anyone can not nod and say, ‘go on…’