Crossroads: American Popular Culture and the Vietnam Generation

Article excerpt

Crossroads: American Popular Culture and the Vietnam Generation Mitchell K. Hall. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005.

"Popular culture in the postwar United States underwent a revolutionary transformation," writes Mitchell K. Hall (1). It is an assertion with which few would argue. In Crossroads: American Popular Culture and the Vietnam Generation, Hall describes this revolution, showing how the electronic mass media evolved from approximately 1950 to 1980 and how baby boomers used them. Hall's book is organized chronologically into five chapters: "Popular Culture Before Vietnam"; "Golden Age and Blacklist: 1955 to 1960"; "New Frontiers: 1960 to 1968"; "Booming Business: 1969 to 1975"; and "The End of the Tunnel." For each era, he addresses the business structure, content, and audiences for movies, television, rock and roll music, as well as for sports, allowing readers to see comparisons and linkages. Hall argues that these expressions of popular culture, especially their connection to youth, "provided both a measurement of and a stimulant to larger social and political changes" (ix).

Two main themes permeate Hall's book, contributing to his thesis that American culture and media stood at a crossroads in the Vietnam era. First, Hall explains how the entertainment industries in the early 1950s were tightly controlled by six big recording companies, five major movie studios, three commercial television networks, and professional sports leagues centered in the Northeast and Midwest. Over time, this structure eroded, creating an explosion of entertainment opportunities and making popular culture an even more essential part of people's lives. second, Hall notes that in the early postwar years, media content tended to be by adults for adults. However, the dominance of the youth culture changed that, popularizing content that was rebellious and counter culture and often breaking ground with regard to portrayals of gender, race, and sexuality. …

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