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“”It's called the American Dream, 'cause you have to be asleep to believe it.
“”If Americans want to live the American Dream, they should go to Denmark.
The American Dream was a concept promoted by American advertising in the post-World War II era. Based around a belief in "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," this ideology stated that anyone can pursue their dreams through hard work, free choice, and loyalty. Its aim was to not only to provide an idealistic lifestyle for Americans to follow, but also to encourage citizens from other countries to come to America to find their fortune. It is cited as one of the starting points of both today's consumer-based culture and American exceptionalism.
The term was coined in the 1931 book Epic of America by James Truslow Adams.
It was promoted by television shows of the era, such as Father Knows Best and Leave It To Beaver. These programs displayed a supposedly honest, suburban lifestyle. In this scenario, the father was the head of the household and the pinnacle of knowledge. The mother had no interest in working outside the home. Instead, she did the household chores, aided by all the fancy new gadgets that made housework a breeze. In a change from before the war, smaller families were encouraged, with two or three children being the new norm.
It should also be noted that this ideology was based around "keeping up with the Joneses," a concept which promotes purchasing goods in order to maintain the appearance of a socioeconomic status that is the same as one's neighbors. If a man didn't, say, buy a new car because his neighbor has one, then he was generally looked down upon for what was perceived as a lack of wealth. This indicates a tiered hierarchy in social standings, where people without certain key items were of a lower class.
While influential during the fifties, it came under some criticism from hippies and associated radicals during the sixties for placing too much importance on the accumulation of material wealth.
Works such as The Death of a Salesman point out that people may have difficulty in achieving this idealized lifestyle.
Why the 50s?
In more modern times, the American Dream has become a fantasy or golden age for die-hard Republicans, replacing the Gilded Age (this being the golden age of 1950s conservatives). What's incredibly funny is that the man in charge at the time was responsible for the Interstate Highway System, NASA, the expansion of Social Security and the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, the bitch-slapping of Arkansas, the 90%* marginal income tax, and warned against a "military-industrial complex." Try again.
Perhaps the most glaring meaning of the American Dream can be found in China, where the "Chinese Dream" has been adopted by Xi Jinping as a government slogan. It essentially boils down to "hey, here's some more money in your pockets so you can handwave the abuses of our dictatorship for a few more years."
Not to be confused with
- "Americone Dream," Ben & Jerry's ice cream tribute to Stephen Colbert
- Virgil "Dusty" Rhodes, a professional wrestler whose ring nickname was "The American Dream"
]eef you weeeel...
- The Prelinger Archives contains loads of educational films from the good old days as well as excellent information on those sneaky commies. Of particular note are the productions by Coronet Instructional Films.
- Carlin on the American Dream
- In the 1972 Brink of Disaster parts 1 and 2, the 1950s struck back in the guise of the Christian fundamentalist Harding University which had earlier made several educational film about the righteousness of 1950s America, starring "Professor Clifton L. Ganus, noted young historian"
- For reference, Republicans freaked out when Obama let it return to an astonishing... 39.6 percent. *Not what the rich actually paid for their full income, just the last tier.