Built in 1955, Disney Land became the perfect representation of what society should resemble by the older generation that had lived through WWII and the depression. Every aspect of the park was designed to match the social changes occurring in the 1950’s because each ‘land’ in Disney Land represented a different mentality shared by all Americans as we exited WWII and entered the Cold War. Main Street U.S.A was the first land seen by all visitors the park. The architecture designed to match the olden style of “Main Streets” seen in most towns in the early 20th century had twists, such as paved roads and tourist shops instead of dirt paths and convenient stores. Main Street was meant to be both, a trip to the past for children of the baby boom generation, and a sense of optimism for the future for the older generations. Adventure Land was the representation of the American desire to explore with rides such as the jungle cruise that allowed park guests to encounter hippos, lions, and hostile natives. Frontier Land was designed to inspire freedom and patriotism. Mine cart rides, Mark Twain’s steam boat, and everything Tom Sawyer were used to represent man’s domination over nature. Tomorrow Land was created to inspire the public with new possibilities through space themed rides based on the space race. Mostly corporate fueled, Tomorrow Land featured showcases such as the Monsanto chemistry lab, Kaiser Aluminum’s geology lab, and the TWA Moon liner where park goers “rode to the moon”. Fantasy Land was created based on interacting with childhood fairy tales to satisfy the younger half of the baby boom generation. Many of the attractions in this area were things such as Alice’s Wonderland, and Snow Whites Scary Adventures where you follow Snow White as she escapes the witch. All of these lands exemplify Disney’s ability to execute complete control over his guest’s mentality, what the park would embody. What is more impressive is how he was able to build the park in the first place.
Walter Elias Disney proved his business prowess with the success of Disney Land since the park was built in a time period where other parks were being shut down. Aside from representing the changes of the 1950’s Disney Land was also built catering to the new consumer culture taking America by storm. The main selling points Disney used to capture the audience of 1950’s America was a visibly clean park that did not sell alcohol or have any adult performances. There was to be no gambling or games of chance at Disney land either, as many states were making it policy to outlaw these types of games with the new morality of the decade. The new consumer era led to more people owning cars and not relying on public transportation for vacations such as trolleys. Understanding this movement from methods of transportation, Disney built Disney Land off of a highway to make access to the park easier. All of the mentioned rules established by Disney in his building of Disney Land created a perfect family atmosphere desired by the 1950’s generation, and was the reason people flocked to the park. These rules created by Disney were the same reason that places such as Olympic Park in Irvington New Jersey, Kennywood Park in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, and Riverview Park in Chicago Illinois were shutdown. The other reason most parks were failing was due to race riots but Disney avoided that catastrophe as well. Main Street was claimed to be racist and a capitalist haven. The creation of no schools, or churches, only touristy shops, was seen as an attempt to limit any exposure of controversy. No minorities were represented in the park at any location causing controversy for those of color who visited. Ironically the complete optimism and lack of any social tensions represented in the park was the main reason for its success. The higher urban unrest became, the more the general public desired to get away from their problems. Disney Land became the center attraction for all who could not handle the changes happening around them, and as a result has become the massive park recognized across the world in today’s time. Disney also used television to aid in the funding needed to build the park and even created an entire television show called the “Mouseketeers”, dedicated to children coming to the park. Television was taking America by storm and Disney was one of the first to realize its potential for advertisement to the American family. The Park had problems as many places do when they first open their doors, but Disney quickly made alterations and within the first year of opening had an estimated 4 Million customers visit the park.
Disney understood his generation and was smart enough to understand how to quell those who would cause social unrest. Disney would later open Disney World in Florida in 1971, and parks across the world would follow his lead. There are few better examples that show how consumerism became the dominating force of American culture that still controls our society today. posted by Justin Roberson
As an African-American, I hate it when white people ask if I’d rather grow up in a past decade, especially if they ask about a specific decade before the 80s. It’s like white people don’t know the history of their own country. This idea became more evident to me when a predominantly white class I was in my freshman year was presented with the illustration on the right and asked which was a better representation of history. Almost all the white hands shot up ready to defend simulator B, citing technological advancements, (US) expansion, and in most cases time in and of itself. I will admit that some white students did choose simulator A but only to spit out some variance of the words, “history repeats itself” and in my opinion, that wasn’t good enough. So the ambiguously raced male in the front row, the middle eastern female to my left, and I look at each other, trying to figure out which one of us should explain how their markers of progress were weak and that institutionalized racism alone (not to mention homophobia and gender inequality) negated their seemingly positive arguments of progress.
To prove our point, I’ll speak about technology first and relate it to racism and race relations. I’m 21. I grew up with a game console in my home for the majority of my life. I saw the game consoles become hand-held and portable. I was taught in school how to use a computer and the internet. I‘ve had a cell phone since I was 13. I had to teach my grandparents how to navigate all of these aforementioned gems of technology. They had to re-learn what they were conditioned to know about technology and what was possible. To THEM, that’s progress but to someone who’s grown up in a new technological era, it isn’t. In the context of racism, for my grandparent’s generation, the civil rights’ movement was progress. For them, a black president is progress. For me, it isn’t because I was never taught to think that a black man couldn’t be president. One generation’s progress is the next generation’s norm. Today’s civil rights movement is fighting institutionalized racism, which is a direct opposing effect of the steps taken in the 60s and 70s by black civil rights leaders. Today’s black community is fighting statistics like the ones that show that black men are four times as likely to be murdered by police officers but less than half as likely to actually be committing a crime as white people. And the argument that black people fall into these statistics by committing worse crimes is a myth because white people commit almost 60% of violent crimes. Today’s black community is fighting dehumanization and double standards.
Recently in Baltimore, predominantly black crowds broke out in riots in response to the death of Freddie Gray, a black Baltimore resident wrongfully murdered at the hands of police officers like so many other black men in America. Although protesting and rioting for a legitimate cause, white people were so quick to promote peace or even worse to shame us by mentioning the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. (like white people aren’t responsible for his death) but silent on the brutal actions taken by the officers involved. During black riots white people condemn us for vandalism and stealing (again, like white people didn’t steal black people and metaphorically vandalize our entire lifestyle and culture) to create a context of criminality rather than social injustice. When covering unrest in Baltimore, words like thugs, criminals, and violence come to your TV screen without mention of the peaceful protests that happen in the same neighborhoods (sometimes even at the same times) as riots. But let’s talk about when white people riot. For example in 2011 a massive riot broke out in Vancouver over the Stanley Cup. During the riot 140 civilians were injured, 9 police officers were injured, and 17 police cars were set on fire. That’s a total of $5 million in property damages and 1200+ criminal charges. The headline the next day was ‘Those Crazy Kids’. So what was that you said about progress because besides the atrocities I’ve touched on I haven’t even mentioned erasure, underrepresentation, or appropriation of black culture. White people seem to forget how today’s America came to be (literally on the backs of black people) and when reminded become so uncomfortable and offended. White people don’t re alize that their history is one of pillaging, plundering, and oppression and that those three things are still happening in new forms and fashions like a new evil phoenix from the last generation’s ashes, perpetuating a cycle of superiority-complex-based intolerance on the part of white America. posted by Devon Rooks
Lyndon Johnson was notorious for being very good at getting things done. One of the ways that he did this was intimidation tactics aka “The Johnson Treatment.” The Johnson Treatment came from LBJ’s sense of emptiness that stemmed from his childhood. He needed to be constantly filled up and part of being filled up was being the best in the Senate as well as needing constant companionship, approval, and had insatiable appetites for women, work, and companionship. The Johnson Treatment consisted of encroaching on another’s personal space during a conversation, for example in the above picture. It makes the person that Johnson disagrees with feel uncomfortable and more likely to give up. LBJ would poke fingers in chests and wrap his arms around others as well. Johnson was 6’4 and used his size to his advantage. The Johnson Treatment was not just intimidation though. It was gaining power through personal relationships in general. LBJ knew that Senator Richard Russell and Senator Sam Rayburn were lonely, childless men and brought them into his house for dinner often. An example when his relationship with Russell paid off is when Russell led the filibuster against the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Russell would later say, As Richard Russell, the South’s leader in the Senate during the 1960s, put it to a friend a few days after Kennedy’s assassination: “You know, we could have beaten John Kennedy on civil rights, but not Lyndon Johnson.” Johnson also brought Chief Justice Earl Warren to tears in order to get him to serve on what is known as the “Warren Commission, which investigated the murder of former President John F. Kennedy. Johnson did it by making Earl Warren guilty and appealing to his sense of patriotism. Warren initially refused to serve on the commission and Johnson responded with “But here I’m asking you to do something and you’re saying no, when you could be speaking for 39 million people. Now, I’m surprised that you, the Chief Justice of the United States, would turn me down.” Posted by Jason Kotranski
The 1950s were a time where consumerism reached a high point. People were buying clothes, cars, and…ants? In 1956, Milton Levine began selling Ant Farms. He was a California entrepreneur and veteran who first began selling and making novelty toys when on return from duty in Korea. He and his brother-in-law Joe Cossman realized that the baby boom would mean that toys would be flying off the shelves soon and they were right. Their items ranged from animal balloons to “Spud Guns,” but perhaps the most peculiar and successful was their golden Ant Farm idea.
At a Fourth of July barbecue, while watching ants, Milton wondered if he could create a fun observation of ants in their natural habitat. While these did exist (they were called “formicaria”), they existed in purely educational contexts like museums and schools. The observation toy included a fun environment, Milton coined as an “Ant Farm” where he placed little plastic farmhouses and windmills at the top of the sand-filled clear box where the hard-working ants could be observed in plain view. The farms were sold at $1.98, the success was surprising. To this day more than 20 million Ant Farms have been sold globally. The success of the Ant Farm is just one example of the new generation of movers and shakers who revolutionized the entrepreneur’s business. Milton is just one innovator of the time who saw the opportunity, the baby boom, and anticipated the new consumer interest. By Kirsten Wolfford
Some say that President Reagan’s demand that Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev “Tear down this wall!” marked the end of the Cold War, signalling “the end of history.” Tear Down this Wall
1954, arguably one of the greatest American journalism exposés was broadcasted into homes across the nation. Edward R. Murrow, a leading TV journalist for the CBS news network, was in the process of taking down one of the biggest conduits of fear in America at the time — Wisconsin junior Senator Joseph McCarthy. The Senator was leading the anti-communist charge in America, traveling around the country, claiming to have in his possession the names of a specific number of people — all in the State Department — who were active members of the Communist Party and members of a spy ring. At the height of his influence, McCarthy went so far as to claim Communist infiltration of the CIA. In the years after World War II, the House Un-American Activities Committee dismissed 500 persons due to their “questionable loyalty.” McCarthy jumped on this Red Scare, fueling the fire and assuring the American people there were indeed Communists in high offices of government. Despite McCarthy’s claims, no evidence can be found to support the claim that he caught and removed any actual communist sympathizers from Congress.
Although most Americans did not agree with McCarthy’s drastic methods of examination and extraction of false testimonies from members of the State Department, few were willing to speak up for fear of being singled out and investigated themselves. Few, that is, except Edward R. Murrow. Murrow dedicated his journalism and documentary news series See It Now to challenging the “situations of fear” that affected American society. In 1954, Murrow and his producer wrote a segment exposing Senator McCarthy, challenging his ideas and asking America to question McCarthy’s validity. Murrow pointed out the fine line between investigation and persecution, paralleling in his most famous attack the junior Senator to a line in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”
Edward Murrow’s expose on McCarthy is seen as one of the major events leading to McCarthy’s censuring by the Senate later in 1954. Unlike the House Un-American Activities Committee, McCarthy attacked not only Communists but liberals, threatening the bipartisan coalition between conservatives and liberals that was essential to the nation in the period after World War II. Murrow also represented a new kind of reporter coming into focus during the 1950s and 60s. Network executives no longer held the keys to programming; reporters were taking over, and shaping the American mindset along the way.
Check out George Clooney’s 2005 Good Night and Good Luck for a look into Edward R. Murrow’s journey to bring down Joseph McCarthy. posted by Elizabeth Roach