New Explorations of Girls’ Media Culture
Edited By Mary Celeste Kearney
6 “We Didn’t Have Any Hannah Montanas”: Girlhood, Popular Culture, and Mass Media in the 1940s and 1950s Rebecca C. Hains, Shayla Thiel-Stern, and Sharon R. Mazzarella 113
sIx “We Didn’t Have Any Hannah Montanas”: Girlhood, Popular Culture, and Mass Media in the 1940s and 1950s Rebecca C. Hains, Shayla Thiel-Stern, and Sharon R. Mazzarella Millennial popular culture in the United States teems with images of teen-age girls. From Disney’s Hannah Montana to the Twilight saga; from High School Musical to Gossip Girl; from the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants to jour- nalistic headlines promising to reveal “The Truth about Teen Girls” (Luscombe 66), popular images of teen girls are everywhere. One might ask how teen girls became such a sudden focus of popular culture, but the truth is that girl culture developed in the early twentieth century and has only been rediscovered in recent years (Schrum). Through oral histories of American adult women who grew up during the 1940s and 1950s—and, specifically, who were teenagers during the 1950s, when teen culture was considered to be at its post-war height—we seek to understand how girls came of age in the United States at a time characterized by a proliferation of mediated images of and for teenage girls. Modern collective memory offers a vivid image of rock and roll-loving, Seventeen-reading, poodle- skirt-wearing teenagers who grooved to American Bandstand (WFIL/ABC/syndi- cated 1952–1989) and The Ed Sullivan Show (originally Toast of the Town; CBS 1948–1971). Popular cultural artifacts perpetuating such images of 1950s’ teen- age girls decades later include Happy Days (ABC 1974–1984) and Grease (1978). This nostalgic vision, though an evocative cultural construct, fails to...
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