Youth Rebelliion In The 1950s

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History Essay By Ben Roberson

During the 1950’s there was significant social change taking place in America. Young people were dissatisfied with certain conservative aspects of society and their conduct reflected this. They embraced the rock and roll culture, the new style of music and also the new styles of dancing and dress that were associated with it shocked the older more conservative people. Young people were also quick to protest against the controversial issues of the 1950’s. Civil Rights, the Vietnam War and general politics provided fuel for an already blazing fire. Mass production meant cheaper motorcycles and cars, providing the young people with freedom that was previously not with in their reach. A barrier formed between the older and younger generations due to a lack communication. This was extended by the media’s inaccurate portrayal of the young people. All of these factors left the older generation trying to understand their children’s behaviour.

Elvis Presley’s timing was perfect, the cross over from old-fashioned music to newer styles was in full swing. The older generation saw Rock and roll as being scandalous. Elvis was one of the most popular performers and his regular dance moves such as his famous gyrating hips caused quite uproar. However their disapproval only added to Elvis’s popularity and made him a hero to the young people. These older conservative types saw Rock and Roll as the start of a dangerous trend where the morals and values that were so important to them were under threat. Rock and Roll originated in New Orleans where it was performed for a black audience in clubs, and this is a very important part of why it was considered to be inappropriate for a white audience. Indeed many people believed Rock and Rolls sole purpose was to bring young white people down to the level of the black people. Young people were breaking away from the ways of life and conservative attitudes, habits and past times of their parents and defining themselves through music. Marlon Brando and James Dean came to be cult idols. Marlon Brando starred in “The Wild One”, made in 1954 about a rebel bikie gang. Marlon Brando plays Johnny, the leader of the bikie gang. In essence he expresses the values and the life style the youth aspired to. The things that aroused outrage among parents in these movies were scenes containing smoking, drinking, motorc...

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...d not relate to it. Many of the issues such as racism, were attitudes so deeply ingrained in the older generation’s psyche that they couldn’t even begin to understand why they should wish for change. The older generation felt betrayed, the younger generation felt misunderstood and the media failed to act as a positive medium between the two.

The social changes of the 1950’s were startling for older generations but in hindsight can be seen as inevitable. Evolution of culture was heavily influenced by the evolution of technology. The new Rock and Roll culture incensed the already concerned older generation. The older generation found the new life style, views and ideals of the young scandalous because they couldn’t understand them. This was caused by lack of communication and the media giving an incorrect representation of the youth. Bibliography
Zinn H, A peoples history of United States, London, Longman Group Limited, 1980
Unger I, American History 2, (reconstruction to present), New York, Monarch press, 1971
Twombly R, Blacks in White America since 1865, New York, David McKay company Inc, 1971
“The Wild One”, 1954
“Dancing in the street”, whole lotta shakin, 1996, BBC worldwide
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