1950s of the Future: Freedomland vs. Stepford Wives

 

Qu’elle Future!

When the 1950s and early 1960s are discussed by the retrospective experts of academia and PBS hush-toned documentaries, traditional families are generally portrayed as vehicles for an oppressive patriarchy. They are nothing more than little capsules of conformity; individual bulwarks against personal expression and freedom; a suppression of human nature and appetites.

Culture was reflected in the popular radio and television shows at the time. Leave It To Beaver, Father Knows Best, and Ozzie and Harriet were all shows that seemed to reinforce this notion. Today, they’re used by the progressive left and the radical feminist movement as examples of an oppressive, conformist society. They mean to scare people into thinking this would be America’s future if conservatives had their way, especially if President Trump is re-elected. Women would lose their right to vote! Birth control would be banned! Abortions outlawed!! (Okay, this one wouldn’t be bad) America would be awash in Old White Man power and no one will stop them! But these are just outlandish caricatures of the views of the time.

They had it backward from the beginning. The American trajectory from the 1950s and 1960s was headed to prosperity, equality of opportunity for the sexes, and declining racial disparity. But a funny thing happened on the way from Baby Boom to Woodstock: a growing federal government “safety net” and conscripted cultural conformity. For all the high hopes of a rebellious Hippie Generation – the protests, fighting the Man, and questioning authority – the left grew up and became exactly what they purported to be against. What the left is doing now, is…whitewashing history to advance their own agenda and using fear of a return to a false history to do it.

The Civil Rights movement was well on its way – the support and outspokenness of political and civic leaders together, with a strong foundation in Christian churches helped shift momentum towards equality. And government intervention, like the 1968 Fair Housing Act, actually did little to nothing to help black families rise out of urban poverty. In 1970, 42% of black households owned their homes. In 2017, it was 41%. As for women in the workforce, the number has increased exponentially, as well as the number of women with higher education degrees. But is it making for happier women? Studies show it has not, further, it has created a backlash of sorts and a return to a more traditional view of gender roles in the home.

These trends create a terminal problem for the radical idealism that started in the 1960s through the 1970s. The Baby Boomer generation set out to change the world, and by god they did, just not for the better. The welfare state created a dependent class and the war on families and traditional American values of patriotism, individual freedom, and self-reliance became sources of shame, not pride. If only the Donna Reeds of the suburbs and Alice Kramdens of the cities would unite in burning their bras and kicking their oppressive husbands to the curb – only then would we finally breathe the air of freedom!

But being a contrarian is different from being a nonconformist. The left conflates the two, then uses it to declare their ownership of individuality, human progress, and justified rebellion. What they want to do is claim their political and cultural views of an egalitarian utopia as morally superior, while ignoring basic human nature. It is an impossible task. So they double down on silencing and shaming anyone who dares utter a contrary word to their dogma.

Michelle Obama railed against women who voted for Trump. Hilary called them traitors. Joe Biden stated out loud that black voters who were undecided on whether to vote for him or President Trump “ain’t black.” And Carla Hall, writing an op-ed in the LA Times agreed with him. One needs only to look at the resistance to Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court to understand the left’s devotion to the abortion cause.

The press, too, has closed its collective mind. Instead of indulging intellectual curiosity and holding the powerful accountable to the people, it plays its dutiful part of partisan lapdog perfectly and obediently. Mostly gone are the days of a local street beat, now swallowed by the petty, junior-high catty club of a national press corps and cable news. News has always been big business, but now it’s far more business than news. The explosion of social media has transformed the enterprise into a multiple platform superhighway of information into a narrow road of approved viewpoints and carefully curated narratives. The side that chided Nixon for paranoia and witch-hunts are now engaging in the very behavior they once rebelled against. They’ve turned the Red Scare on its head and play the part of Walter Winchell finding Russians under every voting booth. “Russia!” has nearly overtaken the left’s use of bigot as a catch-all accusation to into which they dump any truth they find inconvenient.

It’s telling, that not only do self-proclaimed Progressives continually mischaracterize traditional gender roles. Being the keeper of a home is one of the most important and crucial responsibilities for the continuation of our strongest ties: that of the family. The left likes to use women who gravitate towards traditional household roles as depressed and neglected. But that’s usually the situation in which modern feminists find themselves. Even in 1958, The Donna Reed Show episode (aptly titled “The Male Ego”) Donna’s husband laments the modern housewife, “What happened to the days beyond recall when a man made decisions? Women control the PTA. They own 70 percent of the nation’s wealth. They dictate where we live, how we live…Today the PTA, tomorrow the world!” this doesn’t sound like a man with a tight grip on the goings-on of his wife.

In 1972, Ira Levin wrote the satirical novel The Stepford Wives, and it was immediately adopted as the cause around which a generation who thought themselves counter-culture warriors rallied. But the left only wants to ‘stick-it-to-the-Man’ if they aren’t the Man. They would be burning their face masks like they burned their bras. They would object to a public school system that indoctrinates instead of educates. They would truly welcome contrarian ideas and hypothesis about climate. They would recognize the undeniable science about the unborn. They would welcome the heterodox views of minority groups, who want to make freedom, not government dependency, a priority and reality in their lives.

When the post-political elites (they are above the petty politics of debate and know liberalism is the only accepted ideology) discuss traditional mores, it’s with the poison tongue of disdain. They robotically repeat condescending tones, reassuring themselves of their faultless views. They are unable to see the nuance in the sexes because they have banished the idea from their mind. They are unable to accept the dignity of work and independence because they see themselves the savior of the minority underclass.

This is how post-modern ‘art’ sells in the millions of dollars: that something so hideous could demand the fawning admiration of an elite class that should, well, know better, considering they’re supposed to be the arbiters of fine taste. And I wonder if they truly believe a post-modern ink-spot to be the most profound art since the Mona Lisa – or are they just lemmings in a pop-culture driven crowd, moved only by the sheer force of their depraved needy acceptance of their well-heeled peers? It is less about strength in the herd, than acceptance in the herd.

It’s similar to organizations like the NBA or companies like Sony publicizing support for BLM or espousing critical race theory nonsense. It would be silly if it weren’t so dangerous. Do these companies comply with the radical left as they fawn over Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dog because they believe it, or because they seek immunity from cancellation in the herd? They bop along in their privileged world, unable to hold or accept views opposed to their own.

I think they’re more Stepford than they will ever acknowledge. They conform not because they think they’re right, but because they’re afraid they’re wrong.

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  1. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    JennaStocker (View Comment):
    Yes, that’s well said. But I think for the vast majority of people who scoff at the values of 1950s America have only a superficial knowledge and self-awareness to believe this. Most just look at the caricature and say, yep, what an oppressive display of white male patriarchy. Cue Redemption Road or Pleasantville, even American Beauty is cut from this cloth. It’s a disdain for the traditional, prudent, conservative. I really think we’re closer to agreement than otherwise…

    Don’t forget Deliverance – they’re sure that one is a documentary.

    Part of the driveway to our house is a dirt road.  Whenever we give directions to people on how to get there, we always say, “Turn right onto the dirt road and drive about a hundred yards and you’ll see our driveway.  Don’t pay any attention to the banjo music.”

    Young people usually don’t get it . . .

    • #31
  2. Rightfromthestart Coolidge
    Rightfromthestart
    @Rightfromthestart

    I grew up in the 50s in NY , in our neighborhood due to either  alcoholism or death two functioning parents were a rarity, those TV  suburban families were our North Star. We all watched those shows and thought ‘I want that’ and almost all of us achieved it. So even though I didn’t have it at the time, I have zero patience for the left’s continuing distain for the suburban 50’s lifestyle. 

    • #32
  3. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Rightfromthestart (View Comment):

    I grew up in the 50s in NY , in our neighborhood due to either alcoholism or death two functioning parents were a rarity, those TV suburban families were our North Star. We all watched those shows and thought ‘I want that’ and almost all of us achieved it. So even though I didn’t have it at the time, I have zero patience for the left’s continuing distain for the suburban 50’s lifestyle.

    We need 1950s social mores with 21st century gadgets . . .

    • #33
  4. JennaStocker Member
    JennaStocker
    @JennaStocker

    Stad (View Comment):

    Rightfromthestart (View Comment):

    I grew up in the 50s in NY , in our neighborhood due to either alcoholism or death two functioning parents were a rarity, those TV suburban families were our North Star. We all watched those shows and thought ‘I want that’ and almost all of us achieved it. So even though I didn’t have it at the time, I have zero patience for the left’s continuing distain for the suburban 50’s lifestyle.

    We need 1950s social mores with 21st century gadgets . . .

    What more could you want??

    • #34
  5. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    Rightfromthestart (View Comment):

    I grew up in the 50s in NY , in our neighborhood due to either alcoholism or death two functioning parents were a rarity, those TV suburban families were our North Star. We all watched those shows and thought ‘I want that’ and almost all of us achieved it. So even though I didn’t have it at the time, I have zero patience for the left’s continuing distain for the suburban 50’s lifestyle.

    I find your comment interesting in context of the continuing debate whether movies and television should represent actual reality or be aspirational.

    I keep reading arguments that shows must feature disgusting people and families because audiences can’t relate to shows that depict “ideal” families; that the audiences will watch only shows in which the families are as dysfunctional as their own. But you are suggesting that for at least some, presenting the “ideal” family (or at least a decent family) might help form aspirations people sometimes end up being able to achieve.

    • #35
  6. JennaStocker Member
    JennaStocker
    @JennaStocker

    Rightfromthestart (View Comment):

    I grew up in the 50s in NY , in our neighborhood due to either alcoholism or death two functioning parents were a rarity, those TV suburban families were our North Star. We all watched those shows and thought ‘I want that’ and almost all of us achieved it. So even though I didn’t have it at the time, I have zero patience for the left’s continuing distain for the suburban 50’s lifestyle.

    It’s important to keep in mind that families come in all circumstances and conditions. It’s been this way from the beginning of time and the 1950s were no exception. What was portrayed on television at the time was certainly an ideal. In today’s much more liberal-excess culture, the traditional family (whether in-tact, and with warts and all) is looked upon as an abnormality, and it’s reflected in how that type of family or person is portrayed on television or in movies. The left constantly uses the caricature of the 50’s fictional tv family as what conservatives want to force on everyone (think married couples sleeping in separate twin beds).

    • #36
  7. JennaStocker Member
    JennaStocker
    @JennaStocker

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    Rightfromthestart (View Comment):

    I grew up in the 50s in NY , in our neighborhood due to either alcoholism or death two functioning parents were a rarity, those TV suburban families were our North Star. We all watched those shows and thought ‘I want that’ and almost all of us achieved it. So even though I didn’t have it at the time, I have zero patience for the left’s continuing distain for the suburban 50’s lifestyle.

    I find your comment interesting in context of the continuing debate whether movies and television should represent actual reality or be aspirational.

    I keep reading arguments that shows must feature disgusting people and families because audiences can’t relate to shows that depict “ideal” families; that the audiences will watch only shows in which the families are as dysfunctional as their own. But you are suggesting that for at least some, presenting the “ideal” family (or at least a decent family) might help form aspirations people sometimes end up being able to achieve.

    Great observation! Can I add that Hollywood likes to present a lot of these families as having some deep, dark, underlying secret or irredeemable problem? It’s very similar to how modern military vets are very often portrayed as returning home from war psychologically broken, emotionally unstable, or extremely violent, or all of the above.

    • #37
  8. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    JennaStocker (View Comment):

    Rightfromthestart (View Comment):

    I grew up in the 50s in NY , in our neighborhood due to either alcoholism or death two functioning parents were a rarity, those TV suburban families were our North Star. We all watched those shows and thought ‘I want that’ and almost all of us achieved it. So even though I didn’t have it at the time, I have zero patience for the left’s continuing distain for the suburban 50’s lifestyle.

    It’s important to keep in mind that families come in all circumstances and conditions. It’s been this way from the beginning of time and the 1950s were no exception. What was portrayed on television at the time was certainly an ideal. In today’s much more liberal-excess culture, the traditional family (whether in-tact, and with warts and all) is looked upon as an abnormality, and it’s reflected in how that type of family or person is portrayed on television or in movies. The left constantly uses the caricature of the 50’s fictional tv family as what conservatives want to force on everyone (think married couples sleeping in separate twin beds).

    To be fair, the canard about separate beds was due to the Hollywood Production Code that came into force in 1934.  One simply could not show a couple in a bed together, and of course on TV the stricture was even more rigidly followed.  It’s a funny irony that anyone would look at that depiction from 50s TV and film and think it realistic, much less some sort of puritanical wishful thinking of the time.  To think that way requires a deliberate ignorance of the context, and an obtuse literalism in the viewing.

    • #38
  9. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    JennaStocker (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Rightfromthestart (View Comment):

    I grew up in the 50s in NY , in our neighborhood due to either alcoholism or death two functioning parents were a rarity, those TV suburban families were our North Star. We all watched those shows and thought ‘I want that’ and almost all of us achieved it. So even though I didn’t have it at the time, I have zero patience for the left’s continuing distain for the suburban 50’s lifestyle.

    We need 1950s social mores with 21st century gadgets . . .

    What more could you want??

    A microwave oven?

    • #39
  10. JennaStocker Member
    JennaStocker
    @JennaStocker

    Stad (View Comment):

    JennaStocker (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Rightfromthestart (View Comment):

    I grew up in the 50s in NY , in our neighborhood due to either alcoholism or death two functioning parents were a rarity, those TV suburban families were our North Star. We all watched those shows and thought ‘I want that’ and almost all of us achieved it. So even though I didn’t have it at the time, I have zero patience for the left’s continuing distain for the suburban 50’s lifestyle.

    We need 1950s social mores with 21st century gadgets . . .

    What more could you want??

    A microwave oven?

     !

    Who needs a microwave when you can have a Broil-Quik Chef?! I mean it does 5 times the work! All for $59.95

    • #40
  11. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    • #41
  12. Mikescapes Inactive
    Mikescapes
    @Mikescapes

    JennaStocker (View Comment):

    David Foster (View Comment):

    “For all the high hopes of a rebellious Hippie Generation – the protests, fighting the Man, and questioning authority – the left grew up and became exactly what they purported to be against.”

    If you listen to the songs of the late 1960s and early 1970s, there is a lot of emphasis on *individual freedom*…that emphasis is absent from today’s “progressive” left, with their orientation toward collectivism and conformity. It’s not totally clear to which they are the same people, though…many 60s & 70s leftists, such as David Horowitz, have disclaimed leftism.

     

     

    I agree with you about the songs of the times resonating with a freedom theme, but I think it’s more of a freedom absent responsibility. That responsibility is a resounding factor in the WWII generation. Good point about former radicals like David Horowitz. The conservative group I belonged to in college brought him in to speak (with the help of YAF). The leftist illiberal student groups valued free speech so much, they staged a big protest to prevent him from speaking. But he spoke. Freedom won that day. I doubt if it would today.

    I was a teenager during the 50s. We rebelled mainly against our parents. Getting drunk, underage driving and sex were the usual theme. Never against the system. Justice was blind in education and family values. Remember, there still were families back then. Sure there was discrimination, but we never used it as an excuse to burn down the Pentagon. We were conformist, but never to the extent of the following generations. Group think poisoned the well of the 60s. It started to become hip watching the Chicago 7 on TV, etc.

    B/t/w, in the late 50s massive legislation and judicial decisions started to bring down the walls of discrimination – legally. Did Black riots contribute to the legislation enacted? I’ll give you that one. But it doesn’t explain Whitey’s violence which I believe was largely Marxist inspired. Far too many White suckers fell for it, and still do. That applies to the Boomers and their progeny.

    We in the 50s believed in constitutional government intuitively. Not the case today.

     

    • #42
  13. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    Rightfromthestart (View Comment):

    I grew up in the 50s in NY , in our neighborhood due to either alcoholism or death two functioning parents were a rarity, those TV suburban families were our North Star. We all watched those shows and thought ‘I want that’ and almost all of us achieved it. So even though I didn’t have it at the time, I have zero patience for the left’s continuing distain for the suburban 50’s lifestyle.

    I find your comment interesting in context of the continuing debate whether movies and television should represent actual reality or be aspirational.

    I keep reading arguments that shows must feature disgusting people and families because audiences can’t relate to shows that depict “ideal” families; that the audiences will watch only shows in which the families are as dysfunctional as their own. But you are suggesting that for at least some, presenting the “ideal” family (or at least a decent family) might help form aspirations people sometimes end up being able to achieve.

    The GLoP guys discuss that, among other things, in the “Happy Problems” “episode.”

    • #43
  14. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Django (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    JennaStocker (View Comment):
    Yes, that’s well said. But I think for the vast majority of people who scoff at the values of 1950s America have only a superficial knowledge and self-awareness to believe this. Most just look at the caricature and say, yep, what an oppressive display of white male patriarchy. Cue Redemption Road or Pleasantville, even American Beauty is cut from this cloth. It’s a disdain for the traditional, prudent, conservative. I really think we’re closer to agreement than otherwise…

    Don’t forget Deliverance – they’re sure that one is a documentary.

    I remember seeing an interview with the stars of the movie where Ned Beatty said that women “got it” whereas men generally didn’t. Must be true because I have no idea what he was talking about.

    All I saw was that evil exists and you are occasionally forced to deal with it. BTW, I already knew that.

    My assumption would be that Beatty didn’t “get it” either, or he could have at least tried to explain “it.”  Which suggests to me that there wasn’t really an “it” to get, but some people – perhaps just some women – made up an “it” so they could claim superior wisdom.

    • #44
  15. Columbo Member
    Columbo
    @Columbo

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    JennaStocker: I think they’re more Stepford than they will ever acknowledge. They conform not because they think they’re right, but because they’re afraid they’re wrong.

    I love this point, Jenna! Conforming, behaving, repeating their dogma, walking in lockstep–that’s what they live for. I just wonder if in a country like America whether they will realize how imprisoned they are in their own beliefs? Great post!

    Since they can’t think for themselves, they were educated in government schools, they will never be able to realize their own slavery and imprisonment to their herd. And their vanity will always push them toward endless behaviors to impress the rest of the herd.

    • #45
  16. JennaStocker Member
    JennaStocker
    @JennaStocker

    Columbo (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    JennaStocker: I think they’re more Stepford than they will ever acknowledge. They conform not because they think they’re right, but because they’re afraid they’re wrong.

    I love this point, Jenna! Conforming, behaving, repeating their dogma, walking in lockstep–that’s what they live for. I just wonder if in a country like America whether they will realize how imprisoned they are in their own beliefs? Great post!

    Since they can’t think for themselves, they were educated in government schools, they will never be able to realize their own slavery and imprisonment to their herd. And their vanity will always push them toward endless behaviors to impress the rest of the herd.

    It’s no longer contained to the left. Public education is a poisoned well and the general public values Government controlled “safety” to freedom & liberty.

    • #46
  17. Columbo Member
    Columbo
    @Columbo

    JennaStocker (View Comment):

    Columbo (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    JennaStocker: I think they’re more Stepford than they will ever acknowledge. They conform not because they think they’re right, but because they’re afraid they’re wrong.

    I love this point, Jenna! Conforming, behaving, repeating their dogma, walking in lockstep–that’s what they live for. I just wonder if in a country like America whether they will realize how imprisoned they are in their own beliefs? Great post!

    Since they can’t think for themselves, they were educated in government schools, they will never be able to realize their own slavery and imprisonment to their herd. And their vanity will always push them toward endless behaviors to impress the rest of the herd.

    It’s no longer contained to the left. Public education is a poisoned well and the general public values Government controlled “safety” to freedom & liberty.

    “Too much” of the general public values Government……

    • #47
  18. Bill Berg Inactive
    Bill Berg
    @Bill Berg

    @jennastocker enjoyed your post, plus mann of the comments, and believe you would enjoy “The Great Society” by Amity Shales. 

    The “Decadent Society” by Ross Douthat seems also applicable. 

    The links are to my “shorter than the book” (though often too lengthy reviews) blog posts. 

    Congrats on post of week! 

    • #48
  19. JennaStocker Member
    JennaStocker
    @JennaStocker

    Bill Berg (View Comment):

    @jennastocker enjoyed your post, plus mann of the comments, and believe you would enjoy “The Great Society” by Amity Shales.

    The “Decadent Society” by Ross Douthat seems also applicable.

    The links are to my “shorter than the book” (though often too lengthy reviews) blog posts.

    Congrats on post of week!

    Both great book picks. I appreciate your insightful reviews. Being intellectually curious is a strength in short supply these days, but you seem to have it in spades. Thank you for your kind words!

    • #49
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