In 1950s American culture, teenagers were the focus of sustained media attention. A recently defined social category, “the teenager” ignited hopes and fears about changes in America’s political and economic landscapes. Films about teenagers in this period often portrayed them in extreme terms, either as obedient followers of social systems or as juvenile delinquents who threatened an idealized American way of life. Images of teenage girls further reflected American society’s emphasis on domesticity, marriage, and parenthood following the disruptions of World War II.
In this ARTbreak talk, Dr. Ilana Nash surveys the dominant images of teenage young women in this era, linking them to social concerns that preoccupied American industries and institutions. Dr. Nash is an Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at Western Michigan University. Her research focuses on the intersections of youth, gender, and media. Her publications include American Sweethearts: Teenage Girls in Twentieth-Century Popular Culture (Indiana University Press, 2006).