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Did the Popular Culture of the 1960 Do More Harm Than Good? Essay

The 1960’s reflects a huge change in people’s lives, where young people started to rebel against the traditional norm, therefore starting the counterculture and social revolution. Not all of these were good and sensible; however in my opinion, these changes were essential to the development of technology, fashion and lifestyle, and they more than just made up for the harm caused.

Arguably one of the most significant changes was the fact that those from the younger generation started to gain money, and status. Source A states, “Today’s youth has money, and teenagers have become a power. In their struggle to impose their wills upon an adult world, young men and women have always been blessed with energy, but never, until now, with wealth. After handing mum a pound or two, they are left with more spending money than most of their elders, crushed by adult obligations.” Never before had the youth been blessed with wealth; in US this may have been the result of its longest uninterrupted economical expansion in history. The youth were “a social group whose tastes are studied with respect – particularly by the entertainment industry” because they learnt in no time that young people were willing to spend their money as long as they were sold what they wanted.

All television programmes and films were previously aimed at young children and middle-aged people. The film industry faced a turn in their original style as they realised the significance of the younger generation to the expansion of their success. This decade is said to be ‘the end of the Hollywood Studio system, and the era of independent, Underground Cinema’. Genres such as musicals, historical drama, psychological horror, comedy and science fiction became the new trend. There were other major sub-genres which were at its peak during this decade too, for example spy films were especially popular, and it is said that this was because of the combination of the audience’s fear of the Vietnam War, and their desire to see exciting and suspenseful films. The 1960’s had brought another huge change in music as well. Although the specific ‘date’ of the break between the 50’s music and the 60’s music is unclear, it is generally said to be ‘before the
British invasion’ and ‘after the British invasion’ of American music. By the ‘British invasion’ we are referring to the numerous British artists and groups of admirers and emulators of American rock n’ roll, whose fame and popularity abruptly increased in the US during the early 1960’s. The most well-known and influential would probably be ‘The Beatles’, who had a huge impact not only on the ‘1960’s music’ but also on the ‘1960’s fashion’. They were hugely appreciated by the nation, and we can prove this through source B, part of a description of a certain day in 1964, written by actress Joanna Lumley in her autobiography; on “a hot summer’s evening”, “instead of the rush hour an extraordinary silence and emptiness had descended upon London, on England, on Britain… No one was to be seen by the flower-stall, the newspaper stand…The nation held its breath because that evening the four Beatles, all the Fab Four, were appearing live on ‘Juke Box Jury’”. From the way the actress depicts her trip to her “aunt’s flat” from the “tube station”, we can confirm how intrigued everyone was by the Beatles – enough to abandon their work and hold their breath just because they were appearing ‘live’ on a television show. This source is supported figuratively by fact that on its release in August 1963, “the band’s fourth single, ‘She Loves You’, achieved the fastest sales of any record in the UK up to that time, selling three-quarters of a million copies in under four weeks” (according to Wikipedia). They were typically regarded as “being cool, hip, smart, lippy, charming and funny”, and many people thought “It was very heaven to be alive” to be able to watch them. Source C informs us of how the attitude of the Beatles’ fans in the 1960’s were different to today’s who are “a little more reserved”, although he explains that the supporters were “never as crazy as they used to say it was” anyway. Paul McCartney, stated that “If you’d see a bunch of kids coming towards you, you could stop them. They’d only want your autograph; and you could chat”, and he was so sure of this because “the thing about fans was I used to do the same thing myself. I felt like I understood what they were on about”.

The sources B and C support each other because the “bunch of kids” mentioned in source C could easily include Joanna Lumley, who is recalling her youth in source B, describing that “it was very heaven to be alive”. She is recollecting the memory of seeing the usual rush hour London deserted, and
Paul McCartney says that “There’d be a lot of screaming”, which both portrays that of the excitement of the audience.

Not only did their songs influence the rest of the singers that followed, it even reached into the ‘fashion’ world. People imitated their Beatle haircut (also known as the mop-top because of its resemblance to a mop), causing some toy manufacturers to begin producing Beatle wigs. It is said that in the Brezhnev-dominated Soviet Union, mimicking The Beatles’ hairstyle was seen as an extremely rebellious act. Young people were called “hairies” by their elders, and were arrested and forced to have their hair cut in police stations. The Beatles would wear Edwardian collarless suits, occasionally in black but later in grey, adopted from the Mod youth cult which was at its peak in the UK at that time. Some very famous artists and groups include Elvis Presley, The Supremes, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Ray Charles, Otis Redding, James Brown, The Temptations, Janis Joplin and The Who. Two very popular fashion items introduced to the ‘Swinging London’ in the 1960s include Mary Quant’s mini-skirt and Jackie Kennedy’s pillbox hat. Women’s false eyelashes and their varied arrangement of their hair were a prominent trend throughout the decade. The two most famous super models then were Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton, both very thin. 91-pound Twiggy was the iconic figure of the fashion industry, her name originating from her waif and twig-like appearance. Although it was the fashion industry, pop culture and magazines that actually promoted the ‘drive’ for thin figure, people sometimes blame her for causing making women self-conscious about their bodies, striving to achieve bodies as thin and stream-lined as hers, sometimes going over the top to do so. The biggest problem concerning models at that time, however, was that of sexual exploitation. It may be thought of as rare for models to have sex with their clients, but according to fashion models who had spoken out about the problem, it actually was a daily occurrence. The ‘Hippie Movement’ began as a youth movement in the early 1960’s, escalating later on to a larger-scale, more formal sub-culture as it spread to other countries across the world. ‘Hippie’ is said to be originally derived from the word ‘hip’, which comes the Black culture and denotes ‘awareness’. Being a hippy meant questioning authority and its
power, desire for peace and the rejecting of middle-class materialism and the whole military-industrial complex in favour of a more spiritual, more environmentally conscious approach. They played a very important role in the Vietnam War, for they voiced their anti-war sentiments, protesting both violently and non-violently in order to change the world’s view on certain things, including war civil rights. The increase of rather ‘accepting’ people also meant that racism was getting less severe.

Despite all these wonderful changes, some people weren’t too happy about the popular culture in the 1960’s. Mary Whitehouse, a British campaigner against the ‘permissive society’ and the “founder of the Women of Britain Clean Up TV Campaign”, was one whose motivation was strongly derived from her traditional Christian beliefs. Source D shows part of an article in the Daily Mail, 1964, where she states that “Authors who speak out strongly for the established Christian faith and write plays which inspire a sense of purpose and hope find it extraordinarily difficult to get their work accepted”, explaining further that this “became necessary because of the built-in censorship which the BBC exerts against much which is good and clean in our national culture”. In reality, she is implying how the BBC is barricading the majority of what is “good and clean” in the Britain culture, discretely pointing out the changes that has started to occur in the decade which revolves around the theme ‘popular culture’.

Her opposition to the popular culture in the 1960’s is also supported by other issues that started to emerge typically at this time concerning fashion, music and culture – these range from minor ones such as the spread of Beatlemania, known as the “social disease with no cure”, to extreme diet and anorexia and sexual exploitation.

With this knowledge however, I personally think that there have been enough positive changes to make up for all the negative outcomes. Bearing in mind the fact that the youth had rapidly started losing their respect towards the elderly, and how the youth-dominated culture had resulted in many bad catastrophes, I believe that this decade of popular culture had given youth opportunities that would never have been available to them before, had
effectively taught us to ‘learn from our mistakes’ and ‘improve our lives’ thereafter, and have consequently done more good than harm.

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