Some say that it is useless to speak of world peace or world law or world disarmament - and that it will be useless until the leaders of the Soviet Union adopt a more enlightened attitude. I hope they do. I believe we can help them to do it. But I also believe that we must reexamine our own attitude - as individuals and as a Nation - for our attitude is as essential as theirs. And every graduate of this school, every thoughtful citizen who despairs of war and wishes to bring peace, should begin by looking inward - by examining his own attitude toward the possibilities of peace, toward the Soviet Union, toward the course of the cold war and toward freedom and peace here at home.
President John F. Kennedy, American University Speech, June 10, 1963
The Cold War was a time in American History during the twentieth century where the Communist nations were fighting against the non-Communist nations. However, the main countries involved, or the ones leading the two sides were the United States and Russia. The United States led the fight against Communist nations, like Russia. But these intense rivalries didn’t just go on in the type of government that should be used or in who could develop the most advanced and most powerful nuclear weapon of the time. This rivalry went into the culture of American societies. The Russians were always being viewed as the toughest rival and the team to beat according to the US. It is similar to how teams think of the defending champions in a sport. The team playing the defending champions wants to come out hyped up and with their “A-game” every time they are competing with them. Another impact it had on the American society was how people started acting and thinking. In many of the movies and television shows of the time, most people wouldn’t have noticed, but the directors and producers were hiding subliminal messages in them. Some of them depicting how awful the Russians were or how supreme the Americans were. But was American society affected by the Cold War, or was America just trying to make their society better to show it off to the other countries? Basically, did America’s way of life and economy during the cold war improve because they wanted it to show it off or was it a necessity?
The Cold War did affect the American’s way of life. America was a young nation and it was just beginning to develop into a dominant country. It first really just established itself as a world power during the two world wars. Therefore, the cold war was a time in which Americans were trying to get a name for themselves by showing how great, life in their country was. Shows like Leave It to Beaver and Father Knows Best portrayed the stereotypical American families. Even though everyone knows that there is no such thing as a perfect family, people still enjoyed watching these types of shows. Commercials, or shows like I Love Lucy, showing the stereotypical woman or housewife in the kitchen were another way of showing things off. It is really very difficult to always own the latest models of things coming out. So a woman in a kitchen with all the new appliances is really unlikely. This was another way of showing off to other countries how life was or wasn’t. However, the show I Love Lucy, mainly showed how much freedom a woman had when her husband wasn’t home. Lucy constantly did foolish things that weren’t exactly the ways women were supposed to have been behaving. Once again, the United States was portraying how great life was in America compared to other countries. The majority of the television shows during the 1950s showed no poverty, death, ethnic mi, or racial tension. It just presented the “perfect world.”
Juxtaposed, it could be argued that the Cold War didn’t help shape the American society. American life could have just formed like how it was supposed to happen; like human nature. When the men all came back from World War II, many women lost their jobs and weren’t as active as they were during the time of WWII. The jobs were all given back to the men, and women were once again treated very delicately. They went back to their old ways of life when a woman’s life wasn’t supposed to be strenuous. That then caused the emergence of the “in-the-house-all-day” housewife. The idea of the housewife then became more exaggerated and led to the creation of the various commercials portraying the “perfect lifestyle.” All of these reasons point to the society being shaped naturally just by the way things were turning out.
The cold war affected all parts of the American society including politics. The major political event during the time was the Red Scare. The Red Scare started back a few years before the 1920s and went away relatively for awhile during World War II. However, as soon as the war ended, the hysteria over communism went away a little bit. The “Reds,” as communists were called, were seen as a danger to the United States and their citizens. The Red Scare brought out one of the most “politically repressive periods” in U.S. history because it took away many freedoms of expression, political activism and press. It kept on going, however, due to the American communists, communist sympathizers, and citizens trying to achieve social justice. Most of these people were intellectuals (writers and academics), government officials, political figures, teachers, college professors, and entertainers.
The main effect it had on Americans was that off fear. Many Americans were afraid of a communist take-over and all the violence that followed it. Most of these fears were portrayed in science-fiction movies, like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Thing, Invaders from Mars, and The Blob. These films all presented traits similar to either the communists or the stereotypical description of communists. In The Blob, the blob shows how the communism is spreading slowly, but effectively over everything. Like it is “creeping” through relatively unnoticed. In Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the aliens act like the communists in that they possess similar goals, which are to “take over the town’s military, government, and other types of authority.” These are similar to what Anti-Communist Americans believed that the “Reds” were trying to do. All of these movies also show how directors and producers tried to show Americans hidden messages about communism. Therefore, it is likely that the directors were Anti-Communist.
Another aspect of entertainment influenced by the cold war was music. Rock and roll was the most popular style of music at the time and there were some songs that weren’t really dealing with the cold war in general, but there were some songs in which the topic of the song dealt with a situation in the cold war. It’s typical audience was teenagers and young adults, similar to the listeners of rap and hip-hop in today’s society. Elvis Presley, “the King of Rock and Roll,” was probably the most popular rock and roll star of the time. His music was different from others because he was the first to combine both “black and white sound.” However, his dancing did bring on some criticism from the older generation of people because they perceived it as obscene and indecent. Elvis, though not directly in his songs, was influenced by the Cold War. According to his Federal Bureau of Investigation file, he was an “undercover informant against radicals he saw as undermining the nation.”
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