The 1950s are fast becoming what the 1960s were not all that long ago. Which is to say that the era that set the stage for the obviously upheaval-heavy '60s is getting its own undressing, and the interlocutors are finding all sorts of fascinating stuff. Historian David Halberstam, who logged time in the era as a journalist and civil rights struggle participant, helped nudge the era's current popularity with hisbook
, which gives this exhaustive six-tape series its name. And given art historian Karal Ann Marling's consideration of the era as the dawn of "visual culture" in her ownbook
on the 1950s, it's fitting that this set is so geared towards the visual. From its coverage of the McCarthy era and the baby boom to its study of the growth of affluence as a national ideal, the set roots many of its themes through the ways 1950s culture came together as a visual spectacle. First there is television ad-mogul Rosser Reeves and the leveraging of the television as a sales machine, then there's Richard Nixon's first career salvage job via television, then there are the running visual (and literary) constructions and interrogations of domesticity, and much more. Also prevalent in the set, though, is the concurrent rise of the "men's magazine" (i.e.,Playboy
), the then-alluring first edition of theKinsey Report
, and the spread of a manifest culture of desire--which in writing sounds amply intellectual but in viewing is fast-paced, compelling, and easy to engage for long periods of time. ...