by Amanda Williams, JOU 1005 student
Danielle Evergreen, age 70, was born in rural Nebraska in 1953. She was born into a nuclear family of farmers and spent most of her childhood learning how to help her parents with domestic duties such as cleaning, cooking and baking, gardening, and tending livestock. Danielle’s described her parents as conservative with high expectations for her duties around the house, “but then again, we are Polish!”
The pressure her parents put upon her to maintain a traditional lifestyle later translated to her adult life after getting married in 1975. As she settled down, she thrived as a traditional housewife and mother, eventually bringing 6 beautiful children into the world. While she loved being a caretaker to her lively, spunky, and “testing” children – there were several times that she found herself “wanting to do something more” with her life, leading her to start several of her own businesses on the side as a hairdresser, cake baker, and florist.
While Danielle lived her life according to the conventional values she was raised with, many of her favorite memories involve bra-burning, loud concerts, and riding on the back of her sons’ motorcycles in the summertime. Danielle’s zeal for life has only been amplified by the advancements in technology she has seen throughout her lifetime – especially regarding the radio, TV, and magazines.
According to the textbook, “in 1956, the creation of limited playlists further refined the format [of radio] by providing about 50 songs that disc jockeys played repeatedly every day. By the early 1960’s many stations had developed limited playlists of only 30 songs” (7.2 Radio).
When asked about the music that she listened to growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, she claimed: “We had the best music then…those were the days to grow up! America was the greatest country on earth and everyone knew it; much different universe than today’s cultural climate. I still love that music. It’s so different from the hateful, curse-filled, jarring, disrespectful ‘music’ that young people are offered today. They are missing out on so much heart and soul of those wonderful, relatively innocent days.” A song that was particularly special to Danielle was
Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison, released in 1964 because her father would regularly joke around with her mother by saying “Mercy!” as heard in the song when she’d dress up or walk into the room unannounced. Despite her distaste for today’s musical content, Danielle alluded to her approval of modern sound quality as her experiences with the radio growing up were far less “clean” and “clear” than what she hears today.
Interestingly, she attributes this to the dynamic between singer and instruments as singers in modern recordings are typically the main point of audio with the music taking the backseat. Comedically, she mentioned that as being another reason why music has declined in “goodness” — “musicians don’t have to try as hard anymore!”
Midcentury television “ignored current events and political issues…appeal[ing] to a general family audience. Chief among these types of shows was the domestic comedy – a generic family comedy that was identified by its character-based human and usually set within the home” (9.2 Cultural Influences on Television).
Danielle echoed this, especially regarding the television she watched in her young and coming-of-age years: “Back in that day, all television was wholesome. It was content everyone felt tied to in some way. I suppose we still have that now… but with far fewer things to watch, it was a lot harder to slip comments in that everyone might not agree with back then. At least to me, TV seemed like a way to unite communities during that time. Now it’s just as bad as the newspapers.” Additionally, Danielle commented on the discrepancy mentioned in the textbook that states “the families and lifestyles presented in domestic comedies did not encompass the overall American experience by any stretch of the imagination” (9.2 Cultural Influences on Television).
She reflected on this concept by sharing how, at times, the “hand-washed little families” shown on television brought up feelings of inadequacy and sadness within her as her mother “just didn’t seem like the type of moms shown on the box…she had far more fire than those women, and she wasn’t as proper. Growing up, it felt like that meant my mom wasn’t as good as the ones I saw on TV, but now I know that she was just real.” Some of the shows Danielle recalls as her favorites throughout her lifetime are Bewitched (1964-1972), The Brady Bunch (1969-1974), Golden Girls (1980’s), and Married with Children (1980’s).
The style in which magazines were published in Danielle’s late teens and early twenties reflected how cultural and political events painted the once black-and-white America into a colorful palette with specs of flower power, Vietnam blood, a stark contrast of skin colors in the same room, and pink and blue hues blending into purple. The textbook describes the visual and aesthetic significance of magazines “although magazines had been running illustrations since the 19th century, as photography grew in popularity so did picture magazines” (5.2 History of Magazine Publishing).
Danielle spoke about the magazines from her “younger days” particularly as they related to “colorful and flashy advice columns during [her] teens” and specific journalists that inspired many of Danielle’s beliefs and the belief of her peers growing up. For instance, Danielle recalled Gloria Steinem, founder of New York Magazine and Ms. Magazine, being “one of the most kickass chicks of the time. She had so many ideas and she gave us all an example of what it means to speak our minds as women in a man’s world.”
While magazines seem to be a dying medium in today’s technologically advanced world, Danielle remains loyal to several magazine subscriptions and enjoys the nostalgia of looking back at a particular publication in her collection when she wants to remember a particular event, or even cut out a physical article to add onto a collage. In addition to the experiential differences between physical magazines and online magazines prevalent in today’s world, Danielle also noted a difference in the prices. When she was young, a magazine copy would often run between 10-20 cents; “I don’t think I can buy anything for 20 cents anymore…not even a piece of gum, isn’t that just too funny?”
Lessons from Danielle
The textbook’s objective analysis of historical media trends compared with Danielle’s first-hand experience offered an immersive understanding of how society is truly void without the conversational dialogue, spreading of ideas, and creativity that mass media offers each person on an individual level. The aspect of this interview that I found the most interesting was reflecting on how impactful each different aspect of media was during the 20th century; these days, it seems like social media, movies, music videos, and books all blend together in one way or another…probably because most of us watch one thing while reading another at the time!
In comparison to Danielle’s descriptions of her media consumption habits, I feel awestruck at how much I take for granted – and conversely, how little I properly intake and meditate on. A wide array of knowledge, entertainment, and everything in between has always been available to me – now, I understand that has only become possible as a result of decades of artistry, technological advancement, and trial-and-error progression.
**The interviewee’s name has been changed at the request of the writer.