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Feb 6, 2020 in Psychology

Image of an Ideal Teenager in the 1950s

Every epoch, century, or even decade has particular norms and tendencies that serve as an example of a proper behavior, appearance, and personality. The middle of the twentieth century outlined its characteristics of an ideal person. Early in the 1950s, plenty of educational films were released, which aimed at presenting perfect patterns of social behavior, personal life, attitude to studying and relaxing, as well as relationships with family and friends. All these short movies, which now seem to be silly and too simple, carry a precious general idea about the image of an ideal young individual of the 1950s. Most of them present instructions for the teenagers, focusing on the development of proper social values and personal features in future adults. 

First, popularity was a prominent feature of an ideal teenager in the 1950s. A popular person was socially active, friendly, and cooperative. The film “Are you popular?” describes a popular teenager as a calm, helpful, and sensible personality, who has a smart and neat outfit, as well as a pleasant appearance. Furthermore, only punctual and organized people could be popular among their peers. For example, a girl had to always be ready in time, and making notes not to forget something important and preparing herself in advance for every event helped girls to be organized. Sensibility in relationships with the opposite sex was another crucial feature of a respected and popular teenager. Both girls and boys were expected to be considerate towards their feelings and express their interest in one person, but not in all boys or girls at school. 

 
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Another key element of the popularity among teenagers in the 1950s was an active social interaction with peers and engagement in numerous parties, projects, and events. According to the film “The Outsider”, an ideal teenager should possess such features as cooperation, openness, and willingness to help others. What is more, a person had to avoid judging others and lowering personal self-esteem to be successful in communication. In the movie, Susan Jane, who is an outsider, misunderstands her schoolmates and their attitude towards her. Thus, the barrier grows between the girl and her peers making Susan reserved and unfriendly. The movie illustrates the importance of being open, polite, and nice to the surrounding. The directors exposed the idea that teenagers should not judge loners, but instead welcome and help them to escape the role of an outsider. 

Not only low self-esteem but also arrogance could separate teenagers from the peers and make them outsiders. In the 1950s, friends and reputation were crucial for teenagers. Thus, those, who did not want to cooperate with others, ignored them, and considered themselves to be better than the people around, were not invited to the parties and not welcomed by peers. Such people were called “snobs” and were disliked by the community.  An ideal teenager of that time had to judge people not only by their mental characteristics but also by their personality, openness, and diverse interests. School gangs avoided and mocked loners who were paying no attention to their classmates or schoolmates and were concentrated only on studying. As such, the movies of the 1950s introduce communication as one of the highest values of the teenage life and teach to like other people, exchange ideas and experiences with them, and respect every single personality. 

Proper behavior at school and abidance by the discipline were also prime characteristics of an ideal teenager of the 1950s. Students, who disrespected social norms and argued with the teacher, usually misbehaved to be in the center of the public attention and become popular among the peers. However, their behavior was considered silly and arrogant. These students had problems with classmates and the personnel of the school. Thus, obedience, sensibility, and willingness to study appeared to be dominant features of an ideal teenager. 

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Another prominent feature of an ideal teenager in the 1950s was a close and respectful relationship with the family. Firstly, a teenager was expected to behave sensibly and politely, listen to the parents, and ask them for help if it was needed. Teenagers had to stick to their words so that parents could trust them and allow them being on their own. Parents could share with children their experience in relationships with friends and the opposite sex, as well as help to solve school problems. An ideal teenager cared about the family, did not argue with parents, and settled all the situations beforehand to prevent misunderstanding. In the movie “Are you popular?”, the main character Caroline arranges the time and all details of her date with her parents in advance to avoid arguments and awkward moments in the future. On the other hand, boys could learn from fathers how to be confident and act properly in all kinds of situations. Finally, parents were the closest and the wisest people who cared about their children and wanted all the best for them. A teenager, who faced many difficult choices and experienced completely new feelings, sometimes appeared to be at the crossroads and did not know how to act in the proper way. Parents were those people who could find the only right way for their children and explain them all possible obstacles on the path called “life.” They were the best advisers and tutors who taught a teenager how to act when feelings and pressure were fighting reasoning.

Another aspect that helps to create the image of ideal teenagers of the 1950s is the norm of behavior with the opposite sex. To begin with, the first date played an important role for both girls and boys as it helped to recognize personality, interests, and intentions of a teenager. Thus, to choose a proper person for a date appeared to be a crucial task.  Young people, who could be tolerant, funny, and smart at the same time, were popular among the opposite sex. A girl could not be superior to a boy, but had to make him relaxed and feel his strength and importance. The boy, in his turn, had to be confident and not too persistent. Otherwise, the girl could misinterpret his intentions and become angry with him. Punctuality was an important factor in successful relationships between young people. That is why an ideal teenager had to prepare everything beforehand and always be ready in time.

Furthermore, reasoning and sensibility were considered to be of the highest value in communication with the beloved person. The film “How Much Affection?” underlines the problems of early pregnancy and young parenting. Teenagers were expected to behave properly on dates, not allowing their feelings to overcome reasoning and norms of ethics. Ideal teenagers of the 1950s would not be moved in their doings not only by affection but also by sensibility and decency. Young people should not be attracted only by the physical appearance of the opposite sex; rather they should also enjoy communication and cultural and informational exchange with the beloved person.

In conclusion, the 1950s had their image of the ideal teenager. Respectful and friendly attitude to others became a prime characteristic of the young people of that time. Organization, punctuality, and neat outfit were the key factors in success among the peers and other people. An ideal teenager of the 1950s was an honest, helpful, open, sentimental, and sensitive person. All those features, which teenagers were expected to have sixty years ago, remain crucial for every individual who wants to find real friends and love and be successful in the community, at work, or at school.

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