American Culture in the 1970s

By Will Kaufman | Go to book overview

Acknowledgements

When Martin Halliwell cornered me at an American Studies conference and asked me to contribute a book on the 1970s to his 'TwentiethCentury American Culture' series, I positively blanched. 'Come on,' he said. 'You know the references.' I'm still not sure what he meant. The seventies wasn't really my area, professionally — I was much more at home in the nineteenth century (the Civil War, Mark Twain) or, at the very latest, the 1930s (Woody Guthrie). My scholarly work on the seventies was limited to a few articles and chapters on Kurt Vonnegut and anti-Nixon satire. So, even now, I wonder if what Martin really meant was: 'Come on. You were there.'

If you can remember the 1960s, so the joke goes, you can't have been there. Well, I can certainly remember the seventies, and not always fondly. I entered my teens in 1971 — not a period of unalloyed happiness for many people. My mother was recently widowed, a lowpaid secretary trying to support three boys through a string of job losses against a backdrop of high inflation and high unemployment: the previously unheard-of combination called 'stagflation'. For a brief period my mother had a paid job in the local office of the anti-war pressure group, SANE; consequently, I often found myself in the midst of turbulent demonstrations in the waning years of the Vietnam War, including the May Day march on Washington in 1971. The war was Nixon's, the battered economy was Carter's, and the comedy was Gerald Ford's (courtesy of Chevy Chase on Saturday Night Live), In my home town of Montclair, New Jersey, I was in the first class of children to be bussed across town to a school that neither of my older brothers knew anything about and for reasons I only barely understood. After gym class one day in 1974, the locker room reverberated to the wild chants of 'Ali! Ali! Ali!' I watched Anita Bryant get hit in the face with a pie on national television. The girl next door asked me

-viii-

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American Culture in the 1970s
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • American Culture in the 1970s iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures vi
  • Case Studies vii
  • Acknowledgements viii
  • Chronology of 1970s American Culture xi
  • Introduction - The Intellectual Context 1
  • Chapter 1 - Fiction and Poetry 27
  • Chapter 2 - Television and Drama 55
  • Chapter 3 - Film and Visual Culture 81
  • Chapter 4 - Popular Music and Style 113
  • Chapter 5 - Public Space and Spectacle 139
  • Conclusion - Rethinking the 1970s 167
  • Notes 182
  • Bibliography 208
  • Index 225
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