America was very far from perfect in the early 1960s. In much of the nation segregation was the law of the land and women certainly had far less opportunities than men, just to mention two of society’s inequities. And I’m quite aware the first issue of Playboy, featuring Marilyn Monroe in the nude, was published in 1953. At the same time, there’s no denying that America back then was a far more innocent, family friendly country than it is today.
And so, 55 years ago, when we sat together and watched Leave It to Beaver, we didn’t say to ourselves, “How corny! There’s not a family in the nation like the Cleavers.” Instead, it was as normal to us as it was entertaining.
In a word, Americans in the late-1950s to early-1960s enjoyed watching Father Knows Best and The Andy Griffith Show. Today we enjoy watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Secret Diary of a Call Girl. (For the record, in contrast with Bruce-Caitlyn Jenner, the patriarch of the Kardashian family, Robert Young, who played the father on Father Knows Best, was never crowned “woman of the year.”)
In the late-50s to early-60s, Annette Funicello was a popular, young female star singing songs like “Pineapple Princes.” Today it’s Miley Cyrus, singing songs like “Wrecking Ball” – in the nude, riding a wrecking ball, on her music video.
Take an old show like Dennis the Menace, which aired from 1959-1963, and think of some of the things he got in trouble for. (After all, he was called a “menace,” right?) In the first episode, “Dennis successfully eludes a babysitter (whom he has never met) and sneaks out of the house and goes to a cowboy movie that his parents also go to while [his friend] Joey is left with the babysitter, pretending to be Dennis.” In the next episode, “Dennis and [his closest friend] Tommy replace a fallen street signpost but fail to notice they’ve put it up with the street names facing in the wrong direction.” Oh, what a menace!
Today, we would be following Dennis’s journey on reality TV, waiting for him to get out of the juvenile detention center after robbing an elderly man in broad daylight. Will Dennis ever change, or will he end up dead before his eighteenth birthday? And rather than Dennis having that old scruffy hairdo with that shock of blond locks always out of place he would be sporting a purple Mohawk, wearing earrings, an eyebrow ring, a lip ring, and adorned with tattoos galore. (If you think I’m exaggerating, watch some clips from Beyond Scared Straight.)
Or consider that on I Love Lucy, Lucy and her husband slept in separate beds. Could you imagine today’s version, where the show would feature partial nudity (after all, it’s a family show, so there has to be some modesty), mild profanity, constant sexual innuendos, and kids who do not show the slightest respect to their parents?
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SOURCE: Ask Dr. Brown