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Sex, Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll

The Evolution of an American Youth Culture

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Douglas Brode

Sex, Drugs, & Rock ‘n’ Roll analyzes the cultural, political, and social revolution that took place in the U.S. (and in time the world) after World War II, crystalizing between 1955 and 1970. During this era, the concept of the American teenager first came into being, significantly altering the relationship between young people and adults.
As the entertainment industries came to realize that a youth market existed, providers of music and movies began to create products specifically for them. While Big Beat music and exploitation films may have initially been targeted for a marginalized audience, during the following decade and a half, such offerings gradually become mainstream, even as the first generation of American teenagers came of age. As a result the so-called youth culture overtook and consumed the primary American culture, as records and films once considered revolutionary transformed into a nostalgia movement, and much of what had been thought of as radical came to be perceived as conservative in a drastically altered social context.
In this book Douglas Brode offers the first full analysis of how an American youth culture evolved.
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Chapter 8. Formulating a Feminine Mystique: The Emergent American Woman on Film

Extract

← 136 | 137 → ·8·

FORMULATING A FEMININE MYSTIQUE

The Emergent American Woman on Film

“You don’t own me,I’m not just one of your many toys . . .And please, when I go out with youDon’t put me on display, ‘CauseYou don’t own me.”

—John Madara and David White, songwriters/ Leslie Gore, original performer, 1963

On November 10, 1966, Penelope (Arthur Hiller), starring Natalie Wood as the title character, premiered. Wood played an upscale young woman who apparently has it all: married to the handsome man of her dreams (Ian Bannen), now manager of a prestigious bank. But there’s a problem: Penelope is miserable. She doesn’t suffer abuse. If anything, her husband places Penelope on a pedestal, worshipping her as the perfect woman: beautiful, smart, funny and, best of all (from his point of view), the ideal housewife. Bored to tears, Penelope develops an odd obsession. She’ll become a robber. Her target will be her husband’s bank. When she tells her psychiatrist (Dick Shawn), he attempts to get Penelope to offer some viable motive for such anti-social behavior. No matter how hard she tries, Penelope cannot answer that question.

← 137 | 138 → In fact, the answer had been presented three years earlier. In The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan (1921–2006) interviewed middle-to-upper- middle-class housewives, discovering that, behind smiling Faces, many suffered from severe frustration, even depression, despite achieving what they’d been told, when young, they most desired. “I want something more”1...

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