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Youth Culture and Media: Case Study

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Youth Culture is the way adolescents live and the norms, values and practices they share. In this case study, I will explain the growth of youth culture during the 1950s and 1960s.

In this particular time a true awakening of youth culture was about to be taking place.

A time of discovery between generations and the difference how the youth culture dramatically was changing. A decade marred by social unrest, civil rights injustice, the rise of the working class, rebellion and separation from other generations. This case study will focus on how the young people of this generation started something different, from the jobs they worked to the products they bought, the music they listened to and more. This time was such a separation from other generations and will explore the reasons why and how it affected others, the youth themselves and how it shaped a new wave culture.

'A development as a commodity and an industry from the turn of the last century to its current driving force in the global economy. Fusing film, music, literature, diaries, fashion, and art, this epic cultural history is an astonishing and surprising chronicle of modern life sure to appeal to pop culture fans, social history buffs, and anyone who has ever been a teenager.' -Jon Savage (Teenage: The Creation of Youth Culture)

During World War II many people delayed starting a family, so once the war ended the number of marriages and births soared. This increased in births among young and older couples which created the baby boomer generation. While happy new families were celebrating, the economy was about to take a turn and change, including production since the population was growing and the workforce was expanding. When the baby boomers began entering the workforce, they increased the size of the labour markets. Historians have used the word boom to describe many aspects during the 1950s. The economy was booming, goods like cars were being bought more and workers making more money booming with income. Rates of unemployment and inflation were low, and wages were high. So the middle class had more money to spend than ever before. Because the variety and availability of consumer goods expanded along with the economy, they also had more things to buy.

This is the start of the growth of the youth and how they were gaining more freedom and separation from other generations before. When there are many options for a young person to gain more freedom, they will take it and go. For example, many young people were working factory jobs instead of attending schools, and gaining more money in the moment, therefore the market was in high demand of factory workers, construction and so forth.

All of these components set the tone for the perceptions of the entire decade. The six decades which elapsed have seen more advances impacting on our lives than any comparable period of history. Many of the developments which influenced the way we live now were set in motion in the years following the war and it was important for the youth at this time to truly understand and express who they really were. One of the factors that caused the growth of how the youth of the 50s were changing was media and television. This had a major impact, since previous generations didn’t gave access to televisions, just radio and what was broadcasted was limited.

In August 1957, teenagers across the US would rush home every day after school and turn on their television set, if their parents allowed them to watch that is, they started to watch teenagers dance on television. It was called American Bandstand. The first national daily television program aimed just to teenagers. Philadelphia where the show was filmed at, emerged as the epicenter of the national youth culture. The show would broadcast nationally every afternoon from 1957-1964 and featured performers by the biggest names in rock and roll. For the millions of young people across the country who watched and danced along in their living rooms, these American Bandstand youth helped to shape the image of what teenagers looked like. More than fifty years of after the show first broadcast, American Bandstand’s repetition of youth culture remained closely linked to the legacy of the show and also to further questions such as race, serration and civil rights.

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In August 1957, teenagers across the US would rush home every day after school and turn on their television set, if their parents allowed them to watch that is, they started to watch teenagers dance on television. It was called American Bandstand. The first national daily television program aimed just to teenagers. Philadelphia where the show was filmed at, emerged as the epicenter of the national youth culture. The show would broadcast nationally every afternoon from 1957-1964 and featured performers by the biggest names in rock and roll. For the millions of young people across the country who watched and danced along in their living rooms, these American Bandstand youth helped to shape the image of what teenagers looked like. More than fifty years of after the show first broadcast, American Bandstand’s repetition of youth culture remained closely linked to the legacy of the show and also to further questions such as race, serration and civil rights. Billboard magazine journalist Fred Bronson, for example, argues that American Bandstand was a “force for social good”. Bronson based this claim on Dick Clark’s memory that he integrated the shows studio audience when he became the show’s host in 1957. “I don’t think of myself as a hero or civil rights activist for integrating the show”, Clark contents, “it was simply the right thing to do.” In the context of local and national mobilization in favour of segregation which was an issue during the 50s/60s era. But this teenage show was already causing stir with the dancing and rebellion for its time. So the show did not broadcast people of colour on the show, it continued to discriminate against black teens. The real story of this television dance show in the post war era is much more complicated than the host, Dick Clark suggests. It requires understanding not only how the show influenced and was influenced by racial discrimination and civil rights activism in the city’s neighborhood and schools. This show also used television production strategies to construct an image of national youth culture and encourage viewers and advertisers to see the show as the centre of this imagined community and new wave generation. As the television program that helped define teenage identity for a generation, American Bandstand is remembered by millions of people in the United States and internationally is viewed as a powerful symbol of an era in American culture.

Another key factor in the growth of this generation was fashion and how it was dramatically changing. The 1950s marked change in fashion and nothing would be the same again. The change came faster than hits on the pop charts. The fashion was emerging from behind closed doors of the gilded salons. The exclusive pre-serve of the rich and titled and was bursting onto the street. Customers of all ages, but mainly the youth and teenagers were embracing the new trends. The younger generation was finding their voices, began to use clothes to express themselves, exploring fashion power as a symbol of identity, a mark of belonging and of difference. Defining the generation gap was becoming big business for the marketing men and fashion was one of their most effective tools. During this time, fashion magazines were at an all-time high, in demand and selling off the stands. Popular newspapers were no longer complete without a fashion desk, a fashion editor and a regular fashion deadline, as a result, trends became dynamic engines driving sales. The fashion world didn’t get press like this in previous years, so this was defiantly something different. New easy care fabrics and system of mass production coupled and loads of young people wanting to be the best dressed in town. One popular example the youth of the 50s created was the British rockabilly style, 1957, the skirt of the gingham dress would have been held out with layers of net petticoat, a style some young girls would wear to a dance hall. In 1951 a popular dress that included rounded hip and shoulder lines, tiny waist, and high bust line are achieved with a short, fitted jacket atop a voluminous skirt. Teens in the 50s started to dress more ‘inappropriately’ some might say, but it wasn’t, it was just completely different from the previous generations before.

Young girls started to wear pants, and shorter skirts and go out dancing all night to rock and roll. Teenage boys had a little more freedom to be casual, wearing dungarees (or jeans) in the style James Dean and Marlon Brando, popular screen actors of the day. The 1950s marked the first decade that teenagers were called teenagers, and companies increased their marketing of clothing to that demographic.

In May 1950 clothing rationing ceased in Britain, almost exactly four years after the Second World War officially ended in Europe. Teens made themselves known. A flurry of consumer goods denied to war torn Europe were available and a consumer boom was actively encouraged. It was intended to offer equal shopping opportunity, ensuring everyone, rich or poor alike, meaning the young kids of this era could wear top quality clothes and have more freedom and options on dressing the part of the new generation trends.

Young girls started to wear petticoats under gathered skirts and paired with cardigan sweaters and bobby socks with saddle shoes or low heels. For the teenage boys, the Teddy Boy style, as discussed in one module reflection, was mainly 'British subculture typified by young men wearing clothes that were partly inspired by the styles worn by dandies in the Edwardian period, which Savile Row tailors had attempted to re-introduce in Britain after the Second World War.” These Teddy boy teens were also known for being a rebellious side effect to the introduction to rock and roll music. This statement came from many older people commenting on the style, which was the previous generation, hence the growth of these teens starting something new. The Teddy boy attire was in fact a new clean cut and trendy start, an Edwardian era mixed with rock and roll. Most young men in this era adopted this look and it caught on as the popular look for youthful men in the 1950s in Britain and America.

'These single young people with cash from paid work soon had their own fashions, own music, own cafes, own milk bars and by the end of the decade even their own transport in the form of fuelled scooters. Teenagers suddenly dominated style in clothes, a generation gap began to emerge between parents and teen offspring. It seemed almost unholy at the time and was viewed as rebellious, but compared to later anti-fashion and anarchic movements it was all rather innocent.'

The growth of the youth in the 1950s didn’t just stop at fashion and music, it also became another form of freedom from inside their own homes. The teen bedroom is where media and identity intersect. Since young girls and boys were gaining more freedom and independence outside they started gaining it from the inside of their homes too. They started to spend more time in their bedrooms, listening to records, gossiping about the opposite sex, planning fun freedom nights out and so forth. This was known as ‘bedroom culture. The teens and young people in the 50s started this cultural trend that still exists today. It tends to be home centered, the generation who started more time doing leisure activities and having time to sit and enjoy music and just talking. Both boys and girls during this time partake in bedroom culture. An atmosphere of fun, freedom and evolution of youth culture soundtrack. The bedroom becomes the site of gender production and represents an attempt to create privacy, which was particularly important to this generation. The new type of atmosphere was surprising and shocking by their parents, the older, and quite a different generation previous to these youngsters of this time. Before the bedroom culture, most teens would spend time in the family room, and kitchen with the family. They would listen to the radio, read, tell stories, play cards and so forth with members of their family. The new teens broke this conservative trend of family time, mainly when everyone was done with dinner or on the weekends, and they started spending their time alone, or with friends in their own space, their bedroom. This was just another factor how freedom for young people was growing during this era.

Another look into this new trend, which was founded by, Angela McRobie, who developed this theory of bedroom culture, the look of teens and the private space that is theirs which offers needs for freedom, entertainment and communication. McRobbie explained “it was introduced after the war, as girls were seen to be more focused on remaining home, being a mum and marriage than her brother or male peers. More time was spent in the home, because of their domestic orientation, which involved engaged in consumer products that might improve their appearance and enjoying entertainment, music or books with girlfriends.” This was just one form of example on how the youthful generation spent their free time.” (Mcrobbie) Whether the girls were going out on dates or staying at home, bedroom culture still expressed individual freedom and expressing yourself in the privacy of your own space.

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Youth Culture and Media: Case Study. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 2, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/youth-culture-and-media-case-study/
“Youth Culture and Media: Case Study.” Edubirdie, 27 Dec. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/youth-culture-and-media-case-study/
Youth Culture and Media: Case Study. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/youth-culture-and-media-case-study/> [Accessed 2 Mar. 2024].
Youth Culture and Media: Case Study [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Dec 27 [cited 2024 Mar 2]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/youth-culture-and-media-case-study/
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