Sydney and Daren

Mattel, the famous toymaker and creator of Barbie, has been making dolls with different shades of skin color for years.  In 1967, it introduced Barbie’s cousin Francis, who looked just like Barbie, but she was painted brown. In 1969, Barbie got a black friend, named Christie. And in 1980, Mattel started manufacturing a black Barbie.  But, she looked almost exactly like the white Barbie.  FinallyIn 2009, Mattel decided that it needed to “diversify.”  It created six dolls that looked more African American for a line called So In Style.  But that was just the beginning.  This Wall Street Journal article gives a glimpse of how complicated doll-making can become.  Note, though, that the “freakishly skinny” doll body remains, well, “freakishly skinny.”

Grace and Trichelle. from Mattel


A New Look for Old Values

In April of 1947 Christian Dior released his Corolle line at the Fall/Winter Paris Fashion Week, and won over the fashion world. His line was a reimagination of femininity that had been lost during the Second World War. The look focused on accenting the waist, in order to create the illusion of an hourglass figure, and the result was a phenomenon. The collection was given its infamous name of “the New Look” by Carmel Snow, editor of Harper’s Bazaar, and the coined name came not only to define his collection, but also to define the fashion of the 1950’s.

Prior to the creation of his New Look, during the Second World War and the decade leading up to it, function succeeded fashion as the primary motive for clothes. This was due in part to the need to conserve fabric during the war, and in part to women taking the jobs men left behind and needing clothing they could move in. The wartime styles focused on shoulder pads and flat shoes, resulting in a more masculine silhouette. However, once the war ended and the men came back home, it was expected that the women would return to their households and the men would reclaim their jobs. The New Look was the perfect fashion counterpart to this change in social structure. After it became popularized on the runway, Dior’s style was imitated by cheaper clothing lines and sold to the masses in both America and Europe.

Emma The emphasis on femininity in Dior’s style reflected women’s newfound social position following World War Two, as they had moved from the workforce to the household, embracing a more traditional social structure. Dior’s overly feminine silhouettes made it impossible for women in the garments to perform none but the most feminine of tasks, making work impossible. The look also reflected a growing class divide in America, as it was easy to discern the rich who adopted the look in its couture form from their working class counterparts who made due the best they could. Dior’s New Look reflected a social movement that longed for traditional values and strived to obtain stability after the war. It was only in the 1960’s when women reentered the workforce did the appeal of the trend decline, as higher hemlines and a more androgynous look took its place. Posted by Emma Berdanier


San Marino: A Nation of Strongly Worded Letters

When we think of World War II, the first countries that come to mind for most people are Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, France, the USSR, Japan, and the United States. Although a vast number of nations were involved in World War II, a large majority of them have gone unnoticed and their contribution forgotten by most.

crowlOne of the more unwilling members of the war was San Marino, an enclave nation in Italy which claims to be the world’s oldest standing republic. Located on top of a mountain, San Marino has generally been regarded as an obstacle to advancing armies instead of an objective, and the Sammarinese have historically used this to their advantage. For example, when faced with impeding annexation by Napoleon, San Marino sent a diplomat to befriend Napoleon. The diplomat did his task so well that instead of conquering San Marino as he had originally planned, he offered to expand the borders of the country. Ultimately, Napoleon’s offer was refused as the Sammarinese were afraid of the revanchism (desire for the return of rightful land) that might be incurred by their neighbors.

Although San Marino was under the rule of Sammarinese Fascist Party during the war and had close ties with Italy, they did their best to remain neutral during the war. The New York Times falsely reported at one point during the war that San Marino had declared war on Britain, so the leaders of San Marino had to send a letter to the editor-in-chief of the Times saying that there must have been a misunderstanding. In 1944, San Marino once again sustained confusion with the British when it was bombed by the Royal Air Force when with they believed San Marino had become overrun with German forces, leaving 63 civilians dead and the country’s only railway destroyed. One month later however, the German army actually tried to overrun several buildings in San Marino to establish a hospital, but like so many times before, Sammarinese diplomats sent a strongly worded letter to Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini requesting that their sovereignty be respected.

Despite all of San Marino’s attempts to remain neutral, Allied and Axis forces clashed on Sammarinese soil at the Battle of Monte Pulito in July of 1944. The 4th Indian Division of Great Britain spearheaded the attack on the 278th Wehrmacht Infantry Division and took control of San Marino with little losses on both sides. The Republic was occupied by Allied forces for several months before being restored sovereignty, after which San Marino made claims for war reparations against Great Britain for a breach of neutrality, and eventually a token sum of £80,000 was paid the the Sammarinese. After the war, San Marino went on the elect the Partito Comunisto Sammarinese, the first ever democratically elected communist government and remained under it’s leadership until 1957.  posted by Harrison Crowl














Yeltsin goes to Houston (really–Clear Lake) and and shops at Randall’s

“It was September 16, 1989 and Yeltsin, then newly elected to the new Soviet parliament and the Supreme Soviet, had just visited Johnson Space Center.  At JSC, Yeltsin visited mission control and a mock-up of a space station. According to Houston Chronicle reporter Stefanie Asin, it wasn’t all the screens, dials, and wonder at NASA that blew up his skirt, it was the unscheduled trip inside a nearby Randall’s location.  Yeltsin, then 58, ‘roamed the aisles of Randall’s nodding his head in amazement,” wrote Asin. He told his fellow Russians in his entourage that if their people, who often must wait in line for most goods, saw the conditions of U.S. supermarkets, “there would be a revolution.’ ” Read the full blog/ article in the Chronicle here .  thanks to G.Campbell for this note. 

Godzilla: The Metaphor behind the Monster

Godzilla, or Gojira as he was known originally, is the monster poster child. Although he recently celebrated his 60th birthday in theaters, and is the longest running series in cinema history, he is still just as significant and easily recognized as he was when he first appeared in cinemas in 1954. Most remember him only as an unstoppable force of devastating destruction, though he has proven to have much more personality than that; William Tsutsui in his book Godzilla on My Mind quotes, “Godzilla in all his glory was spawned from a virtual primordial soup of political concerns, cultural samesinfluences, cinematic inspirations, genre traditions, economic crassness, simple opportunism and sheer creativity.” Many believe that the primary inspiration behind Godzilla was the U.S. use of nuclear weapons against Japan in 1945.

The film was released only two years after the U.S. occupation of Japan and reflected many of the themes that the war had brought up. Of course, the most obvious connection to WWII is the fact that in the plot of the story, Godzilla is woken up by nuclear tests. What follows is only the destruction and chaos left in Godzilla’s wake, without any understandable meaning behind the monster’s actions. If nothing else, the film served as a warning and brought up valid concerns about the decision of the United States to drop the nuclear bombs on Japan. Godzilla serves to symbolize destruction without any discernable purpose. He helps represent the dangers of questionable ethics of the Manhattan Project; the film would argue that humanity had not created a simple bomb, but instead, a monster. posted by Hillary Sames



Roosevelt and Hitler’s Programs

Though many would claim that there are few similarities between Roosevelt’s New Deal and the National Socialist program of Hitler, Wolfgang Schivelbusch draw’s eye-opening comparisons in his book Three New Deals, published in 2006. (The third these “Three New Deals” is Mussolini’s fascist program, but I will leave this part out for the sake of brevity). Comparisons can be drawn between charismatic leadership style and propaganda tactics to illustrate socialistic similarities between the two programs.

Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats, broadcasted over the radio, made Americans feel personally connected to their president and the proceedings of their government. Hitler, on the other hand, used public rallies to communicate to his public. These two very different tactics achieved the same effect of drawing the people in, making them feel involved, and fostering a sense of nationalism. Hitler would begin his public rallies by making himself appear a common man, then would emphasize that the nations values were under attack, and that something needed to be done. He ended each of his speeches with a statement of hope that somethicolesng would be done. Roosevelt related himself to the people by using the simplest words possible. In this way two men from very different backgrounds both made themselves relatable to their public.

The Hitler’s Nazi’s are known for their groundbreaking propaganda tactics. When one thinks of propaganda from Nazi Germany, the mind goes to posters of blond-haired, blue-eyed families of four, of films illustrating the dirty greed of the Jews, and of the swastika that symbolized who was loyal to the great country. Though these tactics are so often discussed, propaganda in America is often overlooked. The Blue Eagle campaign, established by Roosevelt’s NRA is not so different from Nazi propaganda. When a businessman joined the campaign, he was given a banner picturing a blue eagle and bearing the words “we do our part.” This symbol represented active support of the New Deal, and served the same purpose as the nationalistic films and posters and the swastika. If a business did not have the banner, then it suggested they did not support the American government. This forced many into compliance, and in turn, fostered a sense of pride in the New Deal.

Through charismatic leadership and propaganda tactics, Hitler and Roosevelt connected with and inspired their people. In these ways, Roosevelt’s New Deal is similar to Hitler’s socialism, however Schivelbusch emphasizes that the main difference between the two is that the New Deal maintained the constitutionality of the American government. posted by Kelly Coles