Constructing a Culture

Constructing a Culture

Post-World War II: The Rise of the Teenager

As men and women returned home from war, how did post-World War II American life change?

What ideals emerged? 

How were teenager's identities shaped as the new ideology emerged? 

As a result of postwar fever, adults created a network of resources and tools to coerce and disseminate their concocted standard of upstanding American youth to teenagers across America.   

Post-World War II life had changed as GI’s returned home to begin families, and the rise of the middle-class began with the creation of suburbanization in the early 1950s.[1] In response to movement to the suburbs, the social-emotional American landscape promoted homogenization, blandness and conformity.[2] During this same moment, the American post-war life gave rise to a new class of people: teenagers. 

Despite the growing terror spreading across the American landscape, teenagers were viewed as a "threat" that could be controlled. Film and print media attempted to constrain teenagers by using different modes of educational material. Informational sources such as The Journal on Audio-Visual Learning and Educational Screen: The Audio-Visual Magazine aimed at disseminating information and promoting conformist ideology to educators, who in turn, cultivated and circulated "idealist" dogma upon their students, American teenagers. Across America, teens were "tuning in" to films created by production agencies such as Cornet. During this same moment, magazines such as LIFE circulated photo-essays concerning the new group and acted as an agent of culture to the public using multidimensional images. The hope was that the image would "speak louder than words" and further impress white, bourgeois ideals upon the impressionable youth. 

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[1] Donald Miller, “Program 23: The Fifties/From War to Normalcy,” Video, Fred Barzyk (2000; WGBH Education Foundation.), Online Video.
[2] S. Mintz & S. McNeil, “The Cold War,” Digital History, Retrieved (January 7,2016)


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