Essay, Pages 5 (1015 words)
Describe the growth of teenage culture in the USA in the period of 1955 to 1975
The children of the post-war Baby boom were becoming adolescents during the 1950s, and in the process, a distinctive ‘teen’ subculture began to emerge. Teenagers now had more money and free time than any other previous generation. They also, unlike their parents teenaged lives had not experienced economic depression or a World War. During the 1950s, a wave of juvenile delinquency swept across middle-class society. One socialist went so far as to declare that ‘no social problem has wrought deeper concern in the United States.
By 1956, over a million teens a year were being arrested. Car theft was the leading offence, but larceny, rape, and murder were not uncommon.
“The entire city is being ‘terrorized’ by juvenile gangs” announced a Boston judge. Access to cars enabled teens to escape parental control, and gave unprecedented mobility to young people. In the words of a journalist, cars provided ‘a private lounge for drinking and for petting or sex episodes.
‘ Many concerned parents observed, and blamed the delinquency problem on a new form of music that emerged during the post-war era, rock ‘n’ roll.
When the film ‘The Blackboard Jungle’ appeared in 1955, people drew a direct connection between the behaviour of the films juvenile gang members and the rock ‘n’ roll songs by Bill Haley and the Comets featured in the sound track. In 1955 Life magazine published a long article about a mysterious new ‘frenzied teenage music craze,’ that was creating ‘a big fuss.
‘ Parents everywhere thought the new craze about rhythm and blues music, which had been adopted into the rock ‘n’ roll era, was unsuitable and an insult against themselves.
Some parents banned their children from listening to the music, but this only helped to push their children farther away and encouraged them even more. Parents took it so badly mainly because rhythm and blues (R & B) music was sung by black Americans; the ‘older generation,’ called this type of music ‘race music. ‘ African American singers such as Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Ray Charles, and Chicano performers such as Ritchie Valens were suddenly all the rage among young, white middle-class teenagers eager to claim their own cultural style and message.
Read also about Teenage Culture
At the same time, Elvis Presley, a young truck driver from Memphis started experimenting with ‘rockabilly’ music, which was his own unique blend of gospel, country-and-western, and R & B rhythms and lyrics. Elvis’s long hair and sideburns, his knowing grins and disobedient sneers, his leather jacket and tight blue jeans-all shouted defiance against adult conventions. Young teen girls soon flocked to his performances in tight jeans and small shirts to witness the ‘white, black singer,’ for them selves.
Boys also soon copied the way he dressed and acted. This prompted cultural conservatives to urge parents to confiscate and destroy Presley’s records because they prompted ‘a pagan concept of life. ‘ Rock ‘n’ roll not only survived such assaults, it flourished as an exciting new, and different music directed at young people experiencing the turbulence of puberty. It gave adolescents a self-conscious sense of being a unique group with distinctive characteristics.
Linked to this rapidly developing music culture was the anti-war movement, some young people in protest of the ongoing Vietnam war turned to ‘an alternative lifestyle,’ hippies were strongly against war, one of their many sayings was ‘make love not war. ‘ They were also fed up of suburban life and soon rejected middle class values and materialism. To do this they went back to nature to develop ‘their own culture,’ they wore flowers in their hair to depict the hit song of 1967 by Scott McKenzie called ‘San Francisco (be sure to wear flowers in your hair),’ they had weird cloth clothes and a wide acceptance of drugs such as marijuana and LSD.
Free love and drug abuse usually came together, and the discovery of the ‘pill’ gave teens an opportunity to experiment while being safe at the same time. The easy life with no job or homes or commitments was very appealing. The hippies followed large groups such as the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, and Big Brother and the Holding Company. The student movement also added to the teenage culture of the 60s, with many groups campaigning for civil rights or opposing the government it was not surprising that the bolder youth generation soon joined in the conflicts.
By the mid 1960s many students had joined in with large demonstrations for one course or another, as widespread political activity was spread across the colleges and universities in America. Soon many students began to feel that the American system was corrupt as the assassination of Kennedy, and the stories of atrocities in Vietnam destroyed the optimism which was previously present in the earlier part of the decade. To start with students demanded a greater say in running their own educations, but soon their attention was turned to the ‘evils’ in society with the Vietnam War and racial discrimination being the two main targets.
The student movement stance won support from millions of teens around America and soon one of the first and most important student protest groups had been formed. The ‘Students for a Democratic Society,’ or SDS had formed groups in 50 universities by 1965, and its anti-Vietnam stance won it increased support when the nation heard the announcement that President Johnson was sending bombing raids over Northern Vietnam. At the end of 1965 the SDS had 10,000 members at 150 colleges and universities.
The united force of all of the teenage culture, between 1955 and 1975 was enough to reform the United States of America for a lifetime, and in that lifetime, as the teens of the 50s, 60s, and 70s grew up, the parental culture and society changed, and with it, a wider world wide respect of cultures and societies changed. All of this is a direct result of rock ‘n’ roll, the Flower Power movement, and the Student protests.