Friday, December 24, 2004

Back to the '50s? We'd rather pass

Back to the '50s? We'd rather pass
Richard Walter
December 24, 2004 WALTER1224
We romanticize and idealize the 1950s. How else to treat that deplorable decade?
The era of "Father Knows Best" and "Ozzie and Harriet" was also that of McCarthyism, of Jim Crow, of unspeakable kitsch in food, fashion, architecture and design. Music, too, was Guy Lombardo and Lawrence Welk until sweetly corrupting rock 'n' roll finally liberated mainstream audiences.
How many of us would want "The Simpsons" canceled in favor of a resurrected "Leave It to Beaver"?
For women in the '50s, careers didn't have glass ceilings; they had ceilings of high-tensile steel. As late as 1967, a woman runner was plucked from the still men-only Boston Marathon she had tried to join.
Yet the notion persists that those days were solely sweet, serene and secure. Public discourse was civilized. God -- a wise and kindly old white man with a long white beard -- was not only in heaven but at long last in the Pledge of Allegiance. Kids reciting that pledge, however, upon the command "Take cover!" dove under their desks, trembling in terror over nuclear annihilation. Did we believe our state-issue pressed-board tables would protect us from a hydrogen bomb?
Comedian Lenny Bruce was arrested, handcuffed and hauled off to jail for using language in a private grown-ups' club that Tony Soprano now speaks routinely to millions of TV viewers on a Sunday night. Does this demonstrate the coarsening of the culture?
In a word: no. In those days, as now and always, the older generation saw the culture as already debauched....