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Hollywood, which is the most famous and influential motion picture industry in the world, has had some significant impacts on American life through the decades. One period when these impacts were especially felt was in the 1950s. This was the period immediately after the devastating Second World War, and it was characterized by significant economic growth in the US.
As the country experienced affluence and growing social contentment, the rapid growth of suburbs began to occur. Many young families left the cities and settled in the more affordable and spacious housings created in the suburb areas. The actions of the people who lived in the suburbs were largely influenced by the media. This paper will argue that in the 1950s, Hollywood caused changes in the suburban family by presenting a certain idealized version of how suburban life was supposed to be.
Hollywood in 1950s America
Hollywood had enjoyed great success in the US up to the late 1940s with numerous films being produced. However, the 1950s were characterized by an increase in TV ownership throughout the US. The TV gained great popularity during the 1950s, surpassing film to become the most popular form of entertainment in the US. People no longer had to go to the theatres to access film entertainment.
As more people switched to the TV, the film industry had to adapt itself. Hollywood started producing programs that were meant for TV consumption. These TV programs began to address the growing phenomenon of suburbia. Hollywood set out to influence the conduct of American suburb families.
Influence of Hollywood on Suburban Families
Hollywood emphasized on the importance of the nuclear family unit. It presented this unit as a fundamental component of society. Without the nuclear family, Hollywood suggested that the society would have no sense of community, and this would lead to its destruction. Couples were encouraged to marry and bring up families together. Conservative values were encouraged, and divorce was discouraged.
The gender roles suburban families in the 1950s were also influenced by Hollywood. Women had taken on a more active role in society during the wartime period. Women had been engaged in production aspects and had taken careers. The 1950s period was a time of peace, and suburban development favored the establishment of homes by young couples. Hollywood presented women as caring mothers to their children and dedicated wives to their husbands.
This representation encouraged women to forsake careers and instead settle as wives and mothers. In Hollywood media, the women were exhorted for bearing and rearing children in their homes. The women were portrayed as being supportive of their husband’s efforts and showed great loyalty. On the other hand, the suburban male was the provider and the protector of the house.
Hollywood encouraged conformity in the suburban families during the 1950s. Conformity was deemed mandatory for the cordial existence of society. The suburban houses were identical structures mass-produced to reduce cost. This portrayed a vision of homogenization, and it encouraged conformity. Families were expected to demonstrate social contentment and act in a manner that did not cause strife in society.
Hollywood films and TV shows showed the typical suburban house with characters who acted in the manner that American’s was supposed to. Hollywood managed to influence society by presenting screen characters as though they were real people.
This technique ensured that the public was convinced that the actors they saw on TV and in the movies were the same people they dealt with every day with the same human problems. This effectively blurred the lines between fact and fiction, making it easier for the society to believe the message that was being passed through the American screen.
Hollywood fostered a forced sense of community and idealized living for the suburban inhabitants. In TV shows and films, suburban life was presented as the ideal life for Americans. It was presented as a fulfillment of the American dream, and every person worked to reach this goal of owning a one-story building with a small backyard and a front lawn.
The residents of the suburban residency were supposed to act in an idealized manner. The ideals of community and neighborliness were ingrained into the Americans through TV shows that showed characters enjoying barbeques and pool games in a spirit of community.
Values of consumerism were encouraged by Hollywood. The TV images showed the items that the ideal suburban family should have. Material possessions were held in high esteem, and the average suburb family had a car and a variety of appliances. The family was encouraged to purchase more home goods even if they did not necessarily need them.
This paper set out to show how Hollywood promoted changes in suburban families in the 1950s. It began by highlighting the importance of TV development in the 1950s. TV increased the reach of Hollywood by making it easy for families to access media at the comforts of their homes.
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The paper pointed out how gender roles were influenced by Hollywood images of women as wives and mothers and men as breadwinners of the family. Hollywood ingrained suburban families with the lofty ideals of community and neighborliness and greatly influenced their ways of living. From this paper, it is clear that the fictional images projected by Hollywood helped to shape the lives of the American’s living in the Suburbs during the 1950s.