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Culture Revolution in the 1960s

The Culture Revolution of the 1960s can be called global as it touched and influenced a lot of spheres of human life, including values, education, lifestyles, entertainment, law, and even economics in some way. Those ideas, which emerged in the sixties, have evolved and continue to develop nowadays.

There were different factors, which fostered the cultural changes. One of them is the fact that the sixties were the era of teenagers and young adults. Their number exceeded 70 million people, as Susan Goodwin and Becky Bradley claim. They, born after the war in the time of baby-boom, had views different from those, which were common in the conservative fifties (Goodwin and Bradley). Their refusal to accept the old ways like something obligatory ended up in a cultural revolution that embraced not only the U.S.A. but also Europe and Latin America as well.

Changes Caused by The Culture Revolution in the USA

The U.S.A. experienced different changes besides cultural issues, in the 1960s. For instance, the Civil Rights movement is thought to have altered society in a very radical way. Peaceful protests and sit-ins of Martin Luther King Jr. and Stokely Carmichael caused considerable developments in social behavior and the way the black people were treated. Another fact about the sixties is the tripled number of Hispanic Americans, which were recognized as a repressed minority. For this reason, Cesar Chavez suggested creating the United Farm Workers Association. American Indians, which were not satisfied with the way they were treated, in turn, started defending their rights in the courts and through protests. The question of the men and women rights equality was also urgent in the 1960s. There was the National Organization for Women functioning at that time. Different objections and protests against inequality of men and women resulted in the amendments concerning gender to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Goodwin and Bradley). In addition, the birth control pills and other contraceptives, which were brought into use, allowed women to plan their future lives without leaving the career aside (“Society and Life in the 1960s”). Movements for freedom of speech took place in the sixties, as well.

The sixties became the time when abortions started to be considered legal in some states. The hippie movement is also reported to gain momentum at that time. Those people propagated the freedom of sexual relationships and strange religions; hippies advocated for the use of drugs and brought rock music into vogue. The 1960s also marked the beginning of the rivalry between the U.S.A. and Cuba, after Fidel Castro overtook the power in the country. At that time, the war in the U.S.A. and Vietnam began; John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. were murdered; intensive space explorations brought their first results as John Glenn became the first American in orbit of the Earth, and Neil Armstrong – the first man on the Moon (“1960s News, Events, Popular Culture, and Prices”); the first vertebrate was cloned, and artificial heart put into the human’s body; first movements to protect the environment began. Since 1965, all producers of the cigarettes have been obliged to place the information about the harm of smoking on the packs.

Still, the most considerable and memorable changes for people all over the world, not only for those who witnessed the process but for later generations, were those that touched the cultural sphere. The Cultural Revolution in the 1960s altered the way people perceived and treated the world, in which they were living. It was the time of new trends in fashion, new directions in music, literature, cinema, and architecture. The artists felt free to show their vision to the rest of the world; they took chances without a fear to be misunderstood.

In the 1960s, architecture was one of the spheres, which had gone through serious alterations. The architects made Modernism evolve; it was “a move to an even more streamlined contemporary look” (Goodwin and Bradley). The skyscrapers in the U.S.A. were different from those in Europe; starting from the sixties, they had been of the American type of structure. John Burgee and Philip Johnson were the people who created the modern look of skylines in different places. Playing with lite and space, architects were able to build the constructions considering their purpose, for example, I.M. Pei in his Cleo Rogers Memorial Library. As the sixties signified the beginning of the space explorations just like the movements for the civil rights or creation of the Beetles, certain futuristic and space elements were used in some buildings like the NASA complex at Houston (Goodwin and Bradley). The creations of such artists as Louis I Kahn brought the feeling of severity to the American building trends. Robert Venturi, for example, made more impact on the trends of architecture with his theories, than with his constructions. Venturi’s philosophy of “complexity and contradiction” made the architects pay more attention to the multiple meanings in style (“Robert Venturi”). He stressed that Modernism had a reductive simplicity that had to be changed (Goodwin and Bradley). Other architects became known for the details they brought into the furnishing style; they included Herman Miller, Verner Panton (Danish Design Centre), and many others.

Literature was the sphere that underwent gradual changes, as well. It reflected the political processes, and burning social issues of that time; for instance, in Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird, the issue of racial distinctions was discussed. Gwendolyn Brooks, Margaret Walker Alexander, and Maya Angelou’s ideas on gender and race in their works, created different views on the feminism developing in America (“Maya Angelow”). Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem were the writers who laid the path to feminism in America. Sylvia Plath and Marry McCarthy suggested that women in society should obtain different roles, not only those accepted and propagated in the 1950s. People were disillusioned with the system, and writers reflected these feelings in Catch-22 or One Flew over the Cockoo’s Nest (Goodwin and Bradley).

Marshall McLuhan developed the idea that mass communication was the stimulus to the development of the modern world, people, and society. His scope of the “global village” (Kappelman) is represented in his works The Gutenberg Galaxy and Understanding Media.

The sphere of education was affected, as well. The post-war baby-boom resulted in a great number of students in colleges. Young and hot-tempered, they protested against anything they were not able to tolerate. One of such things was the opposition against the discrepancy between the military draft age and voting age (Goodwin and Bradley), that is the young men had to do their service in the Army but were not allowed to vote yet. In the sixties, there was a return to teaching basic thinking skills as a solution to the educational problem of the fifties.

As there were a lot of young people in the 1960s, the fashion, style, and tastes were influenced by the occupation and interests of these youngsters greatly. They dictated their own rules, which were different from those of the fifties; they suggested new ways of thinking and introduced new trends. Consequently, one of the spheres that were altered by these tastes, views, and directions was fashion. New occupations stemmed from the old ones as their streams. For instance, skateboarding came into vogue when the surfers started using skateboards to practice when it was not the season for surfing. In the sixties, the Barbie dolls, introduced by Mattel (Goodwin and Bradley), became very fashionable as they resembled the grown-up women more than the toys produced earlier. The other manufacturers had to invent something new and different in order not to lose their clients. For that reason, Hasbro, one of the producers of the toys, launched a completely different from others product. He started manufacturing G. I. Joe, a “male” toy and attracted interest to his playthings. Another manufacturer, Thomas Dam, created a character, which was destined to become “a good luck symbol for all ages” (Goodwin and Bradley). At that time, slot cars became so popular among children and adults that they overtook the toy trains.

Fashion is a sphere that is gradually changing all the time; the old trends are replaced by new and the new ones are very often replaced by old. In the beginning of the 1960s, the crew cuts were popular among men while bouffant hairstyles were in women’s vogue (Jones). With the flow of time, the hairdos altered to either very short or very long (long women’s hair was typical for hippies). The males were not left behind; they tended to wear long hair; beards and mustaches came into fashion at that time. For black people of both genders, it was typical to have an afro hairstyle.

Clothes became different, as well as hairstyles. In the beginning of the1960s, women were required to wear knee-length dresses when in public (Goodwin and Bradley). In the middle of the sixties, however, there appeared a tendency to wear shorter dresses or skirts, and hot pants with go-go boots on. Men’s clothes, as Susan Goodwin and Becky Bradley claim, had a renaissance at that time because it became colorful; Nehru jackets came into fashion. By the end of the decade, fashion trends had changed again. Women tended to wear long “granny dresses” or peasant skirts, as the period of the hippie was in its rise then. The sixties are memorable among most people of all generations for their fashion on the bell bottoms. Everyone tried to find this type of jeans and pants as all singers and actors wore them. By the way, the sixties were the time of the unisex dresses introduction (Goodwin and Bradley).

Music is that the cultural sphere, which has changed the most. The performers of that time are well-known even to a present-day generation. For example, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were those who began a new era in the music; they introduced and popularized the beat and pop or rock style (“Society and Life in the 1960s”). When Elvis Presley came home from the Army, he continued to form his own unique culture of music and dance, making thousands follow his rhythm. According to Susan Goodwin and Becky Bradley, the Tamla Motown Record Company was among the first companies that enabled millions of people to have access to the black rhythm and blues, female groups and some black men like James Brown and Jimi Hendrix (Goodwin and Bradley). Some performers like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and many others brought back the folk music, which was rather popular among hippies, back. The Beach Boys created the music, which seemed to be intended for the high school students. There were also the bands, which became known by making music, which seemed to be inappropriate for them; for instance, the Righteous Brothers were white but used the African American motives and beats to create something inimitable and very special.

Hippies, who were among the originators of American, or it is appropriate to say, of World counterculture, are memorable for their strange tastes and values. For example, they are reported to attend different music festival rather often, which is not strange. The odd fact is that gathering there they propagated freedom of sexual relationships, which might have fostered the later homosexual movements for equal rights and legalization of this type of relations. What is more, they promoted peace, love, and happiness; while these influences are good, LSD could be considered to be really negative because it advocated the use of drugs.

The extreme changes to the world of music were brought in by Donald Buchla and Robert Moog. In 1960, they invented the modular synthesizer and enabled the composers to create the electro-acoustic music. This invention signified the beginning of a new era in music because the greater part of performers started using different electronic devices, which completely changed the way the music was performed, recorded and perceived.

Television, cinema, theater, and radio had undergone serious changes in the sixties just like other spheres had. Television was the most influential among these four as, by the end of the decade; there had been TV sets in almost all homes (“Society and Life in the 1960s”). In 1960, “The Flintstones” became the second prime-time cartoon show after “Rocky and his Friends” (Goodwin and Bradley). As it was intended, the show belonged to those types of programs, which were watched by the whole family. The show promoted the shooting of this kind of programs; for example, “Alvin and the Chipmunks” and “Mr. Mango” were created later, but “The Flintstones” made it clear to producers that the audience would like similar shows. The late sixties brought humor programs into vogue; for instance, “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In” gathered a lot of people in front of their TV sets (Goodwin and Bradley). In the 1960s, different sitcoms and family shows began to appear on television.

The theater was affected by the Culture Revolution, as well. New performances appeared on stage as there was a deviation from classical dramas by Shakespeare and others. This change enabled young playwrights to show their works to the greater audience. Edward Albee was the most famous playwright of that time. Although there remained some classical works on stage, the sixties were considered to be the era of musicals. This type of theatrical performance appeared not only in Broadway, New York but in other American cities. If to consider Europe, musicals became popular there, as well, though they were performed there earlier, in Paris, for instance.

The Broadway musicals, which were rather popular, served as the scripts for films, for example, “Sound of Music” and “My Fair Lady,” the first music shows, were later transformed into movies. In the sixties, Audrey Hepburn became a well-known star, after she had acted in “My Fair Lady” (Goodwin and Bradley). The Disney productions were rather popular. Some of the movies contained political motives, like “Dr. Strangelove”. Starting from the 1960s, sex themes had appeared in the films rather often. Producers did not care about the previously tabooed topics of sex, violence, and obscene language (Goodwin and Bradley); allowing them to appear on the screen. Moreover, the scriptwriters and filmmakers showed their support of the movement for freedom of speech.

As in the fifties, radio remained the most important source of music in times of Culture Revolution. The most remarkable change in this sphere was the switch from AM to FM standard (Goodwin and Bradley). “American Bandstand” was the television supplement to the radio, as it propagated the latest songs and showed how to dance to them. This program laid the beginning to today’s music channels.

All in all, the Culture Revolution of the 1960s brought significant changes not only to the cultural spheres, but also those of social life and politics. In one of his programs, James Madison (Princeton University) stated that the group of historians proved that the Culture Revolution caused “a decline of confidence in institutions and authority, the growth of political cynicism and transformation of popular culture and values” (“Impact of the 1960s Cultural Revolution”). This means that the Cultural Revolution made both negative and positive effects. Considering the negative impacts of the changes in the sixties, it is possible to point out that the spread of hippies’ attitude to life fostered the spread of careless lifestyle, which advocated for free sexual relationships and taking drugs. Still, there were positive outcomes of the Revolution as, during that time, a lot of talented people enabled the world to enjoy their creations and performances. Moreover, it was the time when the freedom of speech, civil rights, and equality rights movements took place and changed the conservative attitude towards many things. The Culture Revolution left its mark on almost every sphere of life of people from all over the world.

Works Cited

  • Danish Design Centre. “Verner Panton: Vision and Play.” Arcspace.com. 8 Sept. 2003. Web. 7 Dec. 2013.
  • Goodwin, Susan, and Becky Bradley. “1960-1969.”American Cultural History. Lone Star College-Kingwood Library, 1999. Web. 7 Dec. 2013.
  • “Impact of the 1960s Cultural Revolution.” American History,31 Aug. 2013. Web. 7 Dec. 2013.
  • Jones, Paul. “1960s Elegant and Graceful Hairstyles.” Hairdohairstyles.com. 15 Mar. 2012. Web. 7 Dec. 2013.
  • Kappelman, Todd. “Marshall McLuhan: “The Medium Is the Message.” Probe Ministries International, 2001. Web. 7 Dec. 2013.
  • “Maya Angelow. Global Renaissance Woman.” Maya Angelow.com. 2013. Web. 7 Dec. 2013.
  • “Robert Venturi.” Great Buildings.com, 2013. Web. 7 Dec. 2013.
  • “Society and Life in the 1960s.” English Online. Web. 7 Dec. 2013.
  • “1960s News, Events, Popular Culture and Prices.” The People History, 2013. Web. 7 Dec.2013.