Friday, March 21, 2014

Gilbert "A Cycle of Outrage: America's Reaction to the Juvenile Delinquent in the 1950s"


1. "But for all these positive conclusions Americans remained puzzled and distressed by the activities of postwar teenagers. Perhaps that is why speeches and newspaper and periodical articles sought to introduce and explain to the public a phenomenon that was already very familiar. Certainly adults did not lack exposure to adolescents. Yet hostility and suspicion cast a pall of misunderstanding between generations and within families, communities, and institutions devoted to the young. At their worst - and to many observers, the worst already prevailed - teenagers lacked a sense of the line between good fun and delinquency." pg.12
        This statement could so very easily be applied to any subsequent generation after WWII, I feel. (It could also easily apply to groups other than teenagers for that matter.) But I think that's the point Gilbert wants to subtly make as well: that after the war, it becomes a cycle of adults attempting to analyze, understand, and categorize the new generation of youth and their icons. Humans are generally fearful and suspicious of that which they do not immediately understand, and so we seek to explain and control the unknown by any means we can. It's a more in-depth analysis and historical look of one of our core assumptions: that teens are "other" or alien life forms who make no sense to adults.  

2. "The frenzied dances, music, and ritualized family rebellions forewarned of a larger and very serious social problem." pg. 13
          This strikes me as funny, because Gilbert doesn't comment on what the serious social problem actually was, just on what it was perceived to be at the time. Being a teen is a social construction, so really, the "very serious social problem" being talked about here doesn't have to do with the subjects under scrutiny, but those who are doing the scrutinizing. But this is a historical article, not a gender studies article, so it makes sense Gilbert doesn't say much about this.

3. "Yet to be successful, films had to evoke sympathy from young people who were increasingly intrigued by the growing youth culture of which delinquency seemed to be one variant....These films broke new ground for Hollywood because each simultaneously generated a good deal of controversy (including the accusation of prompting delinquent behavior) and each stimulated enormous interest in, and perhaps participation in, a new youth culture." pgs. 178-179
           Oh, Hollywood. It never fails as a beacon of what's wrong (and, I guess, what's right) with American culture. What came first then, the idea that teens of the 1950s were susceptible to delinquency, people adopting this idea, or movies about the idea? Gilbert uses analysis of movies about this topic because it's easily accessible, we can get a better glimpse of the atmosphere in the 1950s through film because film is directly a product of an era, and since we didn't witness it firsthand, this is the best we can do to understand at a very general, broad level. 

I decided to look up other films surrounding this era and gathered some clips for you to check out:
The Lords of Flatbush (1974) - has the Fonze in it!

Hey Good Lookin' (1982)
West Side Story (1961)

I also would like to have discussed Alan Freed and the DJs who introduced new rock n' roll acts to American teens - or the role of adults influencing youth culture, and the lack of mention of them when people talk about youth in the 1950s.

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