What are the cultural values that characterized the 1950-1960’s? • What values, needs did people think suburbia would fulfill? Did it succeed? • How did television and marketing influence consumption patterns and what are the consequences today?
suburbia • “The place of wide lawns and narrow minds” (Ernest Hemingway) • Stereotypes of Suburbia: • Repression • Whiteness • Patriarchal • Conformity • Suburbia ‘covering up’ a twisted, dark reality underneath: • Edward Scissorhands, American Beauty, The Stepford Wives (1975/2004), Pleasantville, Blue Velvet
POST-WWII CANADA: • The “Baby Boom” • Soldiers returning home • Strong economy, high consumer confidence • Family allowances (“baby bonuses”) - 1945 • Social security, unemployment insurance act - 1940
Population growth • 12 million in 1946 18 million 1961 (50% growth in 15 years) • Immigration: 1952 limited by ethnic origin • Demand for labourmore open policies • 2.5 million new immigrants between 1945-1947: many refugees and displaced persons from Europe • Pre-WWI immigrants settled in western prairies/farmlands • Post-WWII immigrants mostly settling in cities
urbanization • Construction boom: housing, schools, factories • Growth of cities: immigrants, where most new jobs are • Urbanization: the movement of people from rural to urban • ~1900, 2/3 of people live in rural areas • ~1970, 2/3 of people live in urban areas • Cities become more crowded, dirty • Those who want (need) to work in city, but also want to have more space, a detached single family home, a garden • Large housing developments built just outside cities: Suburbs
suburbia • Traditional family, family focused • Some women lose jobs to returning veterans, some still work • Emphasis of traditional femininity, domestic goddess (advertising) • Big homes need stuff: household appliances, gadgets, furniture, décor • Environment: low density housing, large lots, pesticide use for perfect lawns/gardens, individual automobile commute to work and services • Dependency on cars: more affordable, more access made suburbs possible
materialism • Optimism, consumer confidence • The good life = the latest technology and products (status) • Competition with neighbours (“Keeping up with the Joneses”) • Conspicuous consumption: • The spending of money on and the acquiring of luxury goods and services to publicly display economic power • Not to satisfy any physical need, but rather to gratify the psychological craving for status or the esteem of others.
advertising • Boomer generation: purchasing goods for kids • Shopping as a past time, shopping mall as cultural gathering place • 1950’s: most families have a TV in the home • Growth of advertising industry • Less regulation on truth of claims (safety, health risks, promised results) • Increased rate of new products, versions (planned obsolescence)
Legacy of the baby boom • 60’s/70’s: protest generation • Echo boom (Gen Y, 1982-1995) • Demand for social services as they age through the system
Legacy of the suburbs • Today: 2/3rds of Canadians live in suburbs • How they are known, remembered, parodied in culture – what they have come to symbolize in national memory • Environmental impact: patterns that persist today (car culture) • Urban sprawl and loss of farmland • Building on sensitive lands: erosion, groundwater contamination • Consumerism: waste, planned obsolescence • Suburbs today: more ethnically diverse