Cultural upheavals and the emergence of the counterculture in 1960s America

Aslett, James (2007) Cultural upheavals and the emergence of the counterculture in 1960s America. BA dissertation, University of Portsmouth.

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    1960s America saw huge change, politically, culturally and economically; people began to question their government and the ideals that were being relayed to them. During this period there were some significant upheavals that divided American society and caused people to develop a new set of morals and ideals regarding contemporary society. This new set of ideals differed from the mainstream and the disenchanted people that adopted this new consciousness came to be known or to be part of the counterculture. The counterculture was not a political movement but rather a new consciousness that was reacting against mainstream society, Kenneth Westhues argues that a counterculture is a group of people who, because they accept such nonconformist beliefs and values they tend to, drop out of the society (Westhues, 1972, p9), this is true of the 1960s counterculture to an extent but instead of completely dropping out of society, they bought their non-conformist ideals and values into mainstream society and became motivators of change. The values and beliefs that the 1960s counterculture adopted were reactionary against the rigid social norms of the 1950s, the war in Vietnam, segregation in the Deep South and women's rights. People wanted to be free from the government's oppressive ideals; they wanted freedom to create and construct their own values; thus promoting independence and equality. This new consciousness spread to popular culture, musicians took it upon themselves to exploit the fact that they were 'popular' and use it to become the voice of the new counterculture. A new permissive attitude towards sex and drugs was adopted by these musicians and with the globalisation of TV into most American homes; these musicians amongst other popular figures became the voice of the youth. The counterculture didn't spread to the film industry until the end of the 1960s; the film industry adopted a much tighter regime than the music industry where individual expression was readily encouraged. The film industry began to see the influence of this new culture when the influx of young, fresh film school bred filmmakers began to fill their studios. The aging studio moguls had lost control of their audience and couldn't cater for their needs. They reluctantly handed over power to these directors; many were immersed in the counterculture and could give this new youthful audience what they wanted. Elsaesser (2000) identifies this transition with the cultural upheaval "The protests against the Vietnam war, the Civil Rights movement and the emergence of feminism gave birth to an entirely new political culture, acutely reflected in a spate of movies" (p38). This new genre of movie started with Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde (1967), a paradigm of 1960s American counter culture. It had two anarchistic revolutionaries fighting against the Capitalist authority, disillusioned by the false appeal of the 'American dream'. The parallel ideal of transformation and change reflected the socio/political climate which is why this movie received such a cult following; the rising counter culture saw this movie as a stimulus for change in their reckless modern worlds. This film marked a huge turning point in the American film industry; directors had been given the power to explore taboo subjects such as sex, drug taking, extreme violence, homosexuality and other subject matter that would never have been allowed ten years ago. This new type of personal film was branded the 'new Hollywood', it carried on throughout the 1960s and through the better half of 1970s. Many critics believe the demise of the New Hollywood can be attributed to Steven Spielberg with Jaws (Spielberg, 1975) and George Lucas with Star wars (Lucas, 1977); the first two Hollywood blockbusters. To fully understand the impact that these directors and their films had on the industry and American society, one must first examine the social context that they were involved in and what they were reacting against. There are two main aims of this dissertation, firstly to identify the extent to which the films of the New Hollywood reflected the socio/political climate of the time and wh

    Item Type: Dissertation
    Departments/Research Groups: Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries > School of Media and Performing Arts
    Depositing User: Jane Polwin
    Date Deposited: 20 Jan 2011 12:47
    Last Modified: 28 Jan 2015 11:13

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