After Aquarius Dawned: How the Revolutions of the Sixties Became the Popular Culture of the Seventies

After Aquarius Dawned: How the Revolutions of the Sixties Became the Popular Culture of the Seventies

After Aquarius Dawned: How the Revolutions of the Sixties Became the Popular Culture of the Seventies

After Aquarius Dawned: How the Revolutions of the Sixties Became the Popular Culture of the Seventies

Synopsis

In this book, Judy Kutulas complicates the common view that the 1970s were a time of counterrevolution against the radical activities and attitudes of the previous decade. Instead, Kutulas argues that the experiences and attitudes that were radical in the 1960s were becoming part of mainstream culture in the 1970s, as sexual freedom, gender equality, and more complex notions of identity, work, and family were normalized through popular culture--television, movies, music, political causes, and the emergence of new communities. Seemingly mundane things like watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show, listening to Carole King songs, donning Birkenstock sandals, or reading Roots were actually critical in shaping Americans’ perceptions of themselves, their families, and their relation to authority.

Even as these cultural shifts eventually gave way to a backlash of political and economic conservatism, Kutulas shows that what critics perceive as the narcissism of the 1970s was actually the next logical step in a longer process of assimilating 1960s values like individuality and diversity into everyday life. Exploring such issues as feminism, sexuality, and race, Kutulas demonstrates how popular culture helped many Americans make sense of key transformations in U.S. economics, society, politics, and culture in the late twentieth century.

Excerpt

“This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius,” announced the famous song of 1960s possibilities from the popular rock musical Hair (1967). Pundits, commentators, promoters, and advertisers, knowing a marketable concept when they heard it, promptly appropriated the word “Aquarius” to associate themselves with the future it represented. “Aquarius” symbolized a new way of life facilitated by the rapid unseating of norms and traditions wrought by the civil rights movement, the antiwar movement, the sexual revolution, the counterculture, and the beginnings of the women’s and gay liberation movements. These challenges to the status quo began on the edges of American society, finally reaching the public consciousness around 1967 or 1968, until they were undeniably present and frequently puzzling in their significance. Photographers filmed the most startling expressions of change and journalists described them, while sociologists tried to quantify their dimensions. the public response to the newness chronicled in public forums was mixed. Some welcomed Aquarian values. Others feared the nation hovered on the brink of revolution. Most were ambivalent about the prospect of radical sixties causes, ideas, and new institutions becoming the norm.

A decade later, America was a different nation. Not everybody changed, and few fully embraced the sixties ethos shorthanded in the song from Hair. Still, across the country, values like sexual freedom, gender equality, more complex notions of identity, work, family, and new attention to leisure, pleasure, and informality found their ways into the everyday lives of ordinary people. Americans worried less about fitting in and following rules. They did not trust the leaders or institutions that had governed previous generations. Instead they were, as a Joni Mitchell song said, “busy being free.” Freedom took them to many new places. Whatever “Aquarius” actually meant, and it meant different things to different people, versions of it became the new normal for millions of Americans.

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