Let me ask you a purely academic question: Hello?
— Dean Blehert

Monday, February 20, 2006

Memo to the Class of '59

Time stopped in the '50's. I was born in the '40's, which is where the REAL movie stars (Gable, Hepburn, Tracy, Cooper) are from (well, from the 30s, too), but I first noticed I was noticing there was a world in the '50's, which is a time period hard for me to distinguish from an artificially sweetened news magazine ("The Weekly Reader") for kids passed out in school with its photo of "the car of the future," all fins, chrome and cockpits, and articles about America, the good guy.

So I grow old from the 50's, except there's no growing FROM them, because the 50's won't go away, because they were "modern times." They were what the American Dream had been waiting for: cars like space ships and every home agleam with all the modern conveniences, just a few more diseases and racial and political unpleasantnesses to clean up (by explaining to Africa and India how silly and unmodern such things were and showing them the cars, lawns, offices and supermarkets) before we would all be Ozzie and Harriet and not have to feel guilty about it, because everyone else in the world without regard for race, creed or color (as long as it was nothing outlandish) would be Ozzie and Harriet too.

Time had to stop there, because where could you go after "modern." (Yes, now we say "Post-Modern", which is another way of saying "Damn it, it's still the 50's and it pisses me off!")Beyond "modern" lay science fiction, and no one really goes there. People keep struggling to understand the 60's. They find the 60's complex because they assume they already understand the 50's -- the insufferably bland and insular and bovine 50's, that we blame the world for not being like anymore.

But we're still there, even Generation Z or whatever we're up to now -- they're still in it, though they don't remember Marilyn Monroe, cowboy movies, or the Korean War. We make our future, decide it, agree upon it -- or we don't. The 50's was when America stopped creating a future, so we live there -- in the last future America created.

But what of the mad 60's dream? Nah, that's self-conscious stuff, like counting sheep to fall asleep, the effort to out-create the solid, easy 50's agreement that had settled hairdos and everything else in the world forever and to come. The 60s protested too much. The 50s just were/are. We live in an old dream that is falling apart, unless we can bully a bit of future into being with our art.

Maybe someday someone will understand the 50's so that we can stop living in them. I hope so: They're getting mean. Maybe they need our love.

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