Breaking from dominant wisdom that casts the trend as wholly defined by Ronald Reagan's politics or the rise of postmodernism, Back to the Fifties reveals how Fifties nostalgia from to was utilized by a range of audiences for diverse and often competing agendas. Films from American Graffiti to Hairspray and popular music from Sha Na Na to Michael Jackson shaped - and were shaped by - the complex social, political and cultural conditions of the Reagan Era.
By closely examining the ways that "the Fifties" was remade and recalled, Back to the Fifties explores how cultural memories were fostered for a generation of teenagers trained by popular culture to rewind, record, recycle and replay. Link Either by signing into your account or linking your membership details before your order is placed. Description Table of Contents Product Details Click on the cover image above to read some pages of this book!
Industry Reviews "A vital and innovative book that accomplishes the critical task of evolving our conceptions of nostalgia, the Fifties, and the Reagan Era itself through richly detailed analyses of landmark films, soundtracks, music videos, performers, and star legacies.
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Though all four appear to triumph over the personal challenges they face within the plot of American Graffiti , their fates prove to be tragic or ambivalent. John, apparently through no fault of his own, ends up killed by an automobile, the fate he vaguely feared in the movie and the fear of which led George Lucas himself away from hot-rods and toward movies. Toad is killed in Vietnam. Steve never escapes the world of Modesto, which seems much less exciting from the point of view of an adult what could be more dull than being an insurance agent? Modesto in is presented as a time when conflicts were local and manageable and challenges could be met and conquered.
What was to come would not be so simple.
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Though we tend to think of the cultural conservatives of the s and s — real and imagined — as simply rejecting rock and roll and postwar youth culture entirely, American Graffiti and the other nostalgic Seventies invocations of the long Fifties present a milder, but in certain ways more culturally powerful, form of conservative response to the Sixties. I suspect that, since the release of Star Wars some four years later, he has rarely been compared to either one. Other than a couple of Asian and African American faces briefly glimpsed in the high school sock hop scene and a couple of probably Latino members of the Pharoahs gang neither of whom has many lines , the large ensemble cast is entirely white.
This probably had less to do with Modesto in real or imagined and more to do with Hollywood even the New Hollywood in The audience at American Graffiti appears to be ecstatically happy condescending toward its own past—how cute we were at seventeen, how funny, how lost—but for women the end of the picture is a cold slap. Set in , American Graffiti compresses into one night the events from high school graduation to the opening of college in the fall. At the close, it jumps to the present and wraps up the fates of the four principal male characters—as if lives were set ten years after high school!
The pilot for the show, originally entitled New Family in Town was actually filmed for ABC in with the cast that would eventually appear in Happy Days. George Lucas, trying to locate people to play teenagers in American Graffiti , saw the pilot and hired former child star Ron Howard who played Richie Cunningham in what would become Happy Days as part of his ensemble cast in American Graffiti.
In fact, American Graffiti as a whole became a cinematic template.
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I have no answer to the question. For instance, my father, who was in his early 20s when this hit the theaters, loves this movie. He has seemingly a key word been nostalgic for the s nearly all of his adult life. He displays no connection to those events. They were almost too confusing to comprehend. The film, then, as Ben notes, can be seen as a kind of wishing away of that trouble—if it was not, precisely, nostalgia for the fifties itself.
Carroll portrayed the decade i. As I search around for things to think about, I keep coming back to visions of the pre-Sixties American past in the long s.
Ben, Thank you for this fantastic post. Both those films make a strong case for the necessity and inevitably of the Sixties upheavals, revealing a rottenness at the heart of, respectively, small-town society and the suburban bourgeoisie. Generational conflicts are absolutely foregrounded in both in the form of an older woman and a young man , which strikes a diametrically opposite tone to your excellent reading of Graffiti.
Thanks for this, Andrew! As for the distance between the conservatism of nostalgia and the conservatism of backlash? Very interesting question especially since backlashy conservatism very often features its own aggressive brands of nostalgia.
Ben — Nice essay. It seems Ebert is unsure whether to see the film in generational or in historical terms. Yet farther on, he explicitly rejects the idea that reception is differentiated by cohort, and adopts a strongly historicist frame that analogizes historical periods and cultures as holistic formations, capable of sudden transformation. Whole cultures and societies have passed since Time is spatialized, and culture is temporalized; we exist at their intersection, where they collapse into one another.
And, have we come any farther since he wrote those lines, whatever that might mean? Can I lose — or recover — my innocence watching re-runs of events that occurred before I was born? Do you remember where you were in ?