5 points: the 1950’s teenagers

1. During the 1950's a new identity was found by teenagers. Many areas helped to find this new identity. One of them was entertainment. Music became a big influence in teenagers lives. A new genre of music, originally performed by African Americans, became a large influence to the lives of teenagers. Its fast paced, catchy rhythm made some parents go crazy, as they believe the music was garbage. Teenagers saw this as a way to rebel against their parents. They began listening and dancing to the music, and it became even more popular when sensation Elvis Pressley began his career. Not only did he support and sing the new genre of music, his dance moves and the way he dressed influenced many teenagers to be like him. With his slick hair, flashy cloths, and “sick” dance moves, teens couldn’t resist him, and they all wanted to be like him.

2. Advancements in technology contributed to the teenagers rebellious ways. The abundance of resources growing up made teens a cocky group. They didn’t want to do work, they just wanted to sit around and watch their new television. When they got yelled at, they took a ride in their new automobiles, which were becoming abundant at the time. This made it easier for teens to get away from home, and escape the control of their parents. Better advertising and filmmaking helped create teen idols that everyone wanted to be. This brings me to my next point.

3. Fashion changes occurred in teens. As teenagers watched movie stars’ style change, they wanted to be just like them. For example, James Dean, who rode motorcycles, wore leather jackets, and grew his hair long, was one of the most influential rebels to teens. Teenage boys began to wear this style and they became known as “greasers.”

4. Social changes occurred in teenagers. Before the 1950’s, a teenager would get a smack to the face for talking back to their parents, but the 1950’s teens rebelled against this. They rarely listened to parents, and looked for escape routes to doing what their parents wanted. For the first time, dating came into play. Teenagers began dating throughout the high school years, which had never been done by past generations and was not supported. The new environment and influences also made teens more interested in sexual contact. This was strongly not supported before marriage.

5. The better post-war economy contributed to the teenagers rebellious ways. Money that would have been stored away for the future by families ten years ago now became the allowance of a teenager. They could do whatever they wanted with the money. Whether it was saving up for a car, going to the ice cream parlor, or going to a drive through movie, the allowance gave teens more freedom. They could now buy there own gas and pick up their “girl-friends” and catch a movie instead of having some family time. Not all teens received an allowance, but those who did were pretty lucky.

Primary Sources

This photo shows Elvis Presley at one of his concerts. He is doing one of his many moves that drove kids, especially girls crazy. He was an influence to many teenagers.
If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them. They're quite touchy about anything like that, especially my father. They're nice and all -- I'm not saying that -- but they're also touchy as hell. Besides, I'm not going to tell you my whole goddam autobiography or anything. I'll just tell you about this madman stuff that happened to me around last Christmas just before I got pretty run-down and had to come out here and take it easy.

This is an excerpt from J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye”. This book shows the life of a rebelling teenager. He stays away from his parents, uses foul language, drinks alcohol, smokes, and more. He was a little more extreme than a typical teenager, but the point is that he lived on his own, not wanting any help.

This research all supports the idea of lost innocence, and new identity in the 1950’s teenagers. Teenagers during the 1950’s took advantages of their new freedoms and technology. They rebelled against commonly known living styles in many ways, which I explained above. There are three main reasons for their rebellion, advancements in technology, such as the larger automobile industry. Teen idols were being created, and influencing fashion and social lives. Also, the better economy allowed for increased allowances, less stress, and made teens greedy. They wanted to rebel against their parents and society to create their own way of life. Had these points never shown up or occurred, the American teenager may not have been the same in the 1950’s and may not be where it is today.

Works Cited

"Elvis Presley : In Concert : Las Vegas : August 20, 1969." Elvis Australia. Elvis Presley Music, n.d. Web. 15 Nov 2011. http://www.elvispresleymusic.com.au/pictures/1969_august_20.html.
"Excerpts from 'The Catcher in the Rye'." Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, January 29, 2010. Web. 15 Nov 2011. <http://articles.latimes.com/2010/jan/29/local/la-me-jd-salinger-excerpts29-2010jan29>.
Goldberg, David E.. "teenagers, post world war II." American History Online. Facts on File, n.d. Web. 15 Nov 2011. <http://www.fofweb.com/NuHistory/default.asp?ItemID=WE52&NewItemID=True>.