Culture

There is no single culture that can define suburbia. It is not its own culture, but that of combined influences. The evolution of music appropriation, developing youth culture, the growth of consumerism, the increasing racial segregation, and many other things both influenced and were influenced by the suburbs.

“If noir dramatized the postwar crisis of the public city, Disneyland encapsulated the utopian aspirations of the suburban society…” (Avila, pg. 8)

The driving force of the creation of the suburbs was control and containment. By the end of World War 2, the entire world, and particularly the United States, was concerned with the idea of containment and compartmentalization. It started to become a primary part of the general culture. In the suburbs, people could live privately, but publicly display their wealth and conformity how they felt appropriate. 

conformity district

A snippet of a comic describing the best aspects of suburban living.

Before the use of widespread public transportation, many cities were primarily walking cities, which meant that everything was very densely packed. When you could afford another form of transportation, the city became much more spread out. At this point, having a car was a median of wealth, and the suburbs functioned as a means to escape the interior portion of the city. The process of redlining and these types of divisions further pushed this boundary of wealth, “… local zoning laws and discriminatory private practices (such as redlining by banks, real estate developers, and so on) facilitated movement of resources and white flight to the suburbs and at the same time trapped minorities in poor urban conditions.” (pg. 156 Windstorm) Racial, gendered, economic, and political fears could be shifted towards safety in these areas.

This safety was then thrown out the window with the uprising youth culture and rebellion of “the norm”. This can be seen in their music and recreational activities (think sex& drugs& rock&roll). Youth culture was a way for young individuals to “define themselves” and break free of the boundaries that were being built around them. 

 

Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thorton- Hound Dog (1952)

Elvis Presley- Hound Dog (1957)

Over time, the rebellion of this music grew to be the edge of acceptability. Families were buying these appropriated albums and watching Elvis on television. It still wasn’t completely acceptable in the household, but it wasn’t “as bad” as the African American equivalent of these songs. (even though the songs basically lost all coherent meaning in the process)

Television also rose as a strong cultural influence in society. It offered public stimulation, education and entertainment all while being able to stay in the privacy of your own home. It was a continuous reminder of what the household ideals should be, what the family as a whole should be striving for. Programs like the Mickey Mouse Club taught children how to behave. 

 

— BAM