Project 2 - Cultural Anxiety and the Atom Bomb
The author E. B.
White articulated an underlying fear felt by 1950s Americans in the
following passage from his 1949 essay “Here is New York”:
subtlest change in New York is something people don't speak much
about but that is in everyone's mind. The city, for the first time
in its long
history, is destructible. A single flight of planes no bigger than
a wedge of geese can quickly end this island fantasy, burn the towers,
the bridges, turn the underground passages into lethal chambers,
the millions. The intimation of mortality is part of New York now:
in the sound of jets overhead, in the black headlines of the latest
All dwellers in
cities must live with the stubborn fact of annihilation; in New York
the fact is somewhat more concentrated because of the
concentration of the city itself, and because, of all targets, New
York has a certain
clear priority. In the mind of whatever perverted dreamer might
loose the lightning, New York must hold a steady, irresistible charm.”
the pride of scientific achievement in harnessing the power of the
atom came the knowledge that our world had irrevocably
and that we might all be annihilated.
IN THIS PROJECT:
- Find out
more about how these fears became part of popular culture.
- Then, create a web page, with an original
title, in which you briefly
illustrate and describe at least one example from five (5) of the categories
- Now, assume
that you are a teenager in Middletown, U. S. A., in the 1950s and that
these images and ideas are a part of your life.
for your viewer a day from your ‘50s life in which all of your
free to be creative here!
CATEGORIES (you must choose 1 example from 4 of these categories)
Music - Who could forget hits like "50 megatons"
or "Old Man Atom"?
Movies - We worked out our anxieties by screaming at the monstrous
results of atomic testing gone wrong:
Giant Gila Monster (1959)
A west Texas teenager who wants to be like Elvis fends off mutant
desert reptile with the help of his friends.
of the Crab Monsters (1957)
Researchers on a remote island disappear at the claws of mutant crustaceans.
my personal favorite – giant atomic mutated ants. The picture
closes with the apocalyptic lines: "We haven’t seen the
end of Them . . . . We’ve only had a close view of the beginning
of what may be the end of us."
of the Giant Leeches (1959)
You get the picture . . . .
Beast from 20,000 Fathoms
Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
Creature with the Atom Brain (1956)
Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman (1958)
Or we transferred
our Cold War fears of invasion from Communists to aliens:
Came from Outer Space (1953)
Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
vs. the Flying Saucers (1956)
find plot summaries & posters on the web for all of these.
Civil defense drills, fallout (bomb) shelters, and the Emergency Broadcast
System - We had to be prepared for the mushroom cloud.
Toys and comics – Maybe if we played with it, we could
somehow control it.
Art or literature – Artists and writers confronted the
anxiety of the decade.
Your choice – Find another example of atomic influence
in popular culture.
some websites to start you off:
people hailed rather than feared the atom and thought it would take us
to new heights:
you interested in art? New York became the center of the art
world in the 1950s as a young group of artists known as abstract expressionists
grappled with the post-war reality of man’s vulnerability and irrationality:
The Authentic History Center:
title for your page
- 400 –
500 words of text
parenthetical citations for all material either paraphrased or directly
of sources for both text and images at the bottom of your page in MLA
- At least
name that reflects your project
- At least 2 pages with navigation between pages
- Link from
your menu page to the project and from the project back to the menu
to an at least one external website, opening in a new window, that gives
your viewer additional information
to an audio or video clip
- Alt tags
- At least
1 thumbnail of an image
due: March 9
Defense poster.” Online Image. Civil Defense Museum. 9
February 2004. <http://www.civildefensemuseum.com/artgal/artgallery.html>.
Dr. Solar, Man of the Atom. Online Image. Authentic
History. 9 February 2004. <http://www.authentichistory.com/images/1950s/atomic_comics/atomiccomics01.html>.