Consumerism Essay Assignment 3
Write an interpretive essay that integrates your analysis o f the Fiestaware, the
souvenir pennants, the blue jeans, and documents A-D. The essay should
address the following questions:
What roles have consumers played in the economic and political transformation o f the United States between the Depression and the Cold War? How did consumer products connect individuals with wider economic, political, and social developments during that period?
I wish there were one word in the English language that meant exciting,
frightfully important, irreplaceable, deeply satisfying, basic and thrilling all
at once. I need that word to tell you how much your awareness of color
means to you in decorating. It is the rock on which your house is built.
Without a keen sense of color, without the ability to get real enjoyment and
excitement out of lovely colors, we might as well quit right now I firmly
believe that nothing contributes so much to the beauty of this world as
color. And, happily enough, I believe with equal conviction that every man,
woman and child alive has within him a true instinct for color . . . . No decoratoreither professional or amateurwho is worth her salt really plans
her color schemes from a card index file. The world is full of beautiful colors to choose from and everyone has her own individual preferences. Select
the loveliest colors you can findthrow them together and your own
taste, resourcefulness and independence will carry you through .... The
day of drab, timid colors is past. We are beginning to learn the magic of
colorthe glorious chance it gives us to turn a dreary room into something
miraculous, and the relative cheapness with which the transformation of
the whole feeling of a house may be brought about by its gay, fearless use.
Source: From Dorothy Draper, Decorating Is Fun! How to Be Your Own Decorator, New York: Doubleday, 1939, p. 27.
Many Americans now "travel," yet few are travelers in the old sense of the word. The multiplication, improvement, and cheapening of travel facilities have carried many more people to distant places. But the experience of going there, the experience of being there, and what is brought back from there axe all very different. The experience has become diluted, contrived, prefabricated ....
Even within the United States to go from one place to another is no longer to travel in the old sense of the word. Not only because, as we often hear, the culture of different parts of the country has been homogenizedso that wherever you go in the United States you see the same motion pictures, hear the same radio programs, watch the same television shows, eat the same packaged foods, select from the same ice cream flavors. We all know how desperately Chambers of Commerce work to create local color, how auto license plates advertise unreal distinctions. Alabama is the "Heart of Dixie," Arkansas is the "Land of Opportunity," Illinois is the "Land of Lincoln," Maine is "Vacation-land," Minnesota has "10,000 Lakes," North Dakota is the "Peace Garden State." All this is obvious.
But in addition to this, the democratizing of travel, the lowering cost, increased organization, and improved means of long-distance transportation within our country have themselves helped dilute the experience. Even here at home we are little more than tourists .... The more we move about, the more difficult it becomes not to remain in the same place.
From Daniel J. Boorstin, The Image, or, What Happened to the American Dream, New York: Atheneum, 1962.
[The students were] dressed Revolutionary Street Fighter. After the strike at [San Francisco] State, middle-class students didn't show up on campus any more in letter sweaters or those back-to-school items like you see in the McGregor ads. They dressed righteous and "with the people." They would have on guerilla gear that was so righteous that Che Guevara would have had to turn in his beret and get bucked down to company chaplain if he'd come up against it. They would have on berets and hair down to their shoulders, 1958 Sierra Maestra style, and raggedy field jackets and combat boots and jeans, but not Levi's or Slim Jims or Farahs or Wranglers or any of those tailored hip-hugging jeans, but jeans of the people, the black Can't Bust `Em brand, hod7carrier jeans that have an emblem on the back of a hairy gorilla, real funky jeans and woolly green socks, the kind that you get at the Army surplus at two pair for 29 cents.
From Tom Wolfe, Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers in Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers, New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1970, p. 126, describing students at San Francisco State University in 1969.
New beauty is free. Liberated from hang-ups over form and function, unencumbered by tradition or design. A freaky goddess surveying her . . .
realm. Kite high, moon pure. Groovy, powerful, and weird! . . .
Exhibitionism is the quiet side of violence: it aims to provoke . . . . No wonder it dominates the fashions of the `60s . . . . The same turmoil and insurrection that provides the terror of our times also inspires its greatest
achievements. The style of the `60s is creative anarchy.
From an article by the rock critic Richard Goldstein, Vogue .