Rebecca Clouser

Television in the 1950s

Socially: In this era, women often conformed to the role of a housewife and caretaker of the home because it was oftentimes portrayed in television advertisements. More times than not, advertisements were targeted for women because they were the ones whom went out and did the grocery shopping. The idea that a women was meant to live for her husband and family only was the image that was associated with the 1950s; advertisements in all media at the time proved this.

This advertisement for a Hoover vacuum cleaner backed up the idea that women were to be the caretakers of children and the home. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't be particularly excited about receiving a vacuum cleaner as a gift. Because women were forced into the role of the domestic caretaker that gets upon at the crack of dawn to make themselves beautiful and send the kids off to school, ads such as this one often portrayed the woman as being perfectly made up and hair in place.

Those few women that did work once the men returned from being overseas were made to seem "stupid" and "incapable." In this commercial for a Xerox machine, the secretary is portrayed as unable to do simple tasks except for using the copying machine. You may also notice that she also is quite dolled up and actually applies mascara toward the beginning of the advertisement. Women used in advertisements were either attractive or television icons; there were no Plain Janes in this field at the time.

Diplomatically: Diplomatically, television influenced Americans greatly. The Public Service Announcement (PSA), "Duck and Cover" was created to warn small children what to do if an atomic bomb were to ever be dropped on the United States. At this time, the Cold War was in full throttle and the constant threat of a bombing was looming over ever person in the USA.

This PSA educated the younger generation on the proper procedure to handling the drop of an 'A' bomb, or an atomic bomb. Diplomatically, this made children perceive the Soviet Union as an extremely negative force that was strictly against everything that the United States stood for. This negative perception has a lot to do with the dislike some people still have with Russia today. Keep in mind that World War II just happened and everything that was on television stated that the the Soviet Union, Germany, etc. were enemies.

Economically: Economically, television influenced every aspect. Oftentimes, TV was the only form of amusement and entertainment that lower class families could afford, while middle and upper class families bought a set because it was considered social suicide to go without one.

Over 15 million dollars was invested in the television industry in this era. This is quite a bit, if you consider how much inflation has occurred over the last several decades, and the first television sets were probably a good deal cheaper than even the cheapest set you could find on the market today. In addition, advertisements created a new era of self indulgence in which the everyday person saw a commercial for a product and subconsciously wanted to try it/buy it.

This chart shows that the average American watched about 4-5 hours of television daily in 1950.

Politically: Politically, television created a whole new medium of which a presidential candidate could divide and conquer. Most famously, the John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon debate changed the way running for the presidency occurred. Because this was the first election year that TV was in use, Kennedy and Nixon began the great journey of televised campaigning that otherwise would not have been.

Television brought the average American citizen straight into the political issue that they cared most about. Each voting American could more easily tell each candidate's intentions while casting their judgement for whom they believe is best suited for office.

Because this was such a new medium, there was much controversy of who actually won the debate of the candidates. Those that watched the television saw a healthy Kennedy that shined in comparison to the pale and sickly looking Nixon said Kennedy won; those that listened to Nixon's experienced words in comparison to Kennedy's lack thereof believed that Nixon won.

Politically, TV brought the candidate into each and every American's home. I believe that it is true that seeing is believing and without the sight of who is running, you truly are unable to decide the winner of a presidential election.