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Q. 5. Source I suggests that attitudes to Elvis Presley were beginning to change by 1958. Use the source, and you own knowledge, to explain why this was happening. By 1958 Elvis Presley’s popularity and acceptability with adults was still unchanged, and his manager, Colonel Parker, decided to revamp Elvis’ image to better suit the tastes of the older generations. In order to achieve this Elvis was persuaded to do what every other young American man was obliged to do at the time: spend time assigned to the US Army for National Service, wearing fatigues and earning a pittance.
This gained him good publicity as can be seen from Source I, which is obviously keen on Elvis as it is using him to demonstrate the brilliance of America’s society and American democracy. The article is making use of his rise to fame (how he was a “nobody who became a somebody so quickly”) to prove how the ‘American dream’ (how anybody can be famous and dreams can come true in America) is really possible. The article also states how Elvis did not simply use his riches and influence to ‘buy his way out’ of this duty to his country.
By serving his time in the Army alongside other, ordinary draftees and not asking for special favours, and because of the good publicity he got from it, Elvis gained great respect from the older, patriotic generation, making them feel less negative towards him. It would have seemed now to parents that Elvis was setting a good, nationalistic example to their children, showing them the right path, and they liked him and the impact he was having better for this reason. He was also seen as not rebelling against what society expected of him, again making him more acceptable by the old as a role model for the young.
The source differs from sources B and C in that it is not being critical of Elvis, and it is showing how he might have a good influence rather than a wholly bad one. The opinions have changed so much at this point and continued to change after Elvis returned from the Army mainly because Elvis was no longer as shocking, and therefore not as dangerous an influence on the young, or the morality of American society through outrageous television performances (after the third Sullivan appearance, Elvis’ manager raised his television price from $50’000 to $300’000, and the networks refused the new proposal, so Elvis didn’t do TV again until 1960).
For example, Elvis shocking ducktail haircut was shorn, and ‘Pageant’ magazine reported: “Fans cried, parents sighed. ” On becoming a G. I. in the Army, Elvis said: “It’s a duty I’ve got to fill, and I’m gonna do it. I guess the only thing I’ll hate about it is leaving my mama. She’s always been my best girl. ” This showed that Elvis had family values, and love for his mother, which would have made him seen more normal and down-to-earth (or less shocking and less rebellious). Again Elvis would have made parents think he would lead their children the right way, rather then corrupting their morals.
By the time Elvis had returned from the Army in 1960, his TV appearances would have lost their initial shock. He was still popular, but the primal hysteria was gone, and shortly the fan magazines for teenagers would have had the Beatles to talk about. After joining the Army, Elvis also changed his musical style, performing some religious songs and doing a duet with Frank Sinatra, the ‘grown-up’s’ music star, making him a lot more acceptable, even likeable. It was around this time that Elvis started to star in his own films, but these films weren’t action packed or shocking.
They were mainly romances and love stories, portraying the softer, tenderer side of Elvis that seemed less threatening to the adult generation. Generally, adults’ attitudes towards Elvis were beginning to improve by 1958 because of the change in his image. The youth however maintained their rebelliousness, and Elvis’ popularity among teenagers dropped slightly as they saw that adults found him more acceptable, or lost interest because he was no longer as downright shocking or rebellious as before.