“Leave it to Beaver” ran from October 4, 1957 to June 20, 1963, “the Cleavers exemplifying the idealized suburban family of the mid-20th century,” according to Wikipedia, but the New York Times called the show, “too broad and artificial to be persuasive,” which reminds me of the current Republican candidate for president. I’m sure the show was ideal to its white bread audience back then. The onlinepedia goes on, “Characters are nearly uniformly white and middle-class. Only one African-American had a speaking role during the run of the series; in 1963, Kim Hamilton played a maid…”
Yeah, racial segregation still existed in our country in the “fabulous fifties.” The late 50’s and early 60’s were a time of social repression and conformity, especially for minorities and women. “The pill” had not been invented yet, and abortions were illegal. Roe v. Wade would not decriminalize abortion until 1973. Few women worked outside of the home, and fewer went to college. If you want a sense of how women, mostly secretaries, were treated in corporate America, watch “Mad Men.” Equal pay? Laughable.
Our president was a famous military general, but as a man who actually experienced the hell of war, he was reluctant to involve his country in more of them, even warning against the perils of the “military-industrial complex.” “McCarthyism” raged, accusing fellow Americans, mostly government employees, entertainers, educators and union activists (i.e. liberals) of being “Un-American.”Oh, and they searched closets for homosexuals, too. The accused weren’t “one of us.” Sound familiar? Turn on FoxNews if you need a refresher.
Corporations began to rise, as did the pursuit of the MBA and creative finance, which would devolve into Bain pioneered “downsizing” and “oursourcing.” Television and advertising sold to us and our consumer binge began. Americans conformed to corporate norms, and jumped on the ladder in pursuit of the almighty dollar. As the affluence of whites rose in the suburbs, inner cities and their mostly minority inhabitants were easily ignored as they decayed. Writer Norman Mailer called the 50’s “one of the worst decades in the history of man.”
It wasn’t the worst for everyone. If you were white and educated, the 50’s were a time of incredible prosperity, a great deal of it fueled, ironically, by government spending like expanded Social Security, the G.I. Bill, and the Interstate Highway System. It’s no surprise the primary constituency of today’s Republican Party are white men. They long for the “good old days” of the “fabulous fifties,” so if you want to go back there, vote for Ward Cleaver… and Tagg Romney as the Beaver.