Lecture - Feb 13 – suburban sprawl
Suburbanization and suburban life came with a lot of stereotypes:
Conformity: people are the same, houses looked the same, and streets were the same.
Demographic homogeneity (white middle class, protestant, baby boom generation)
- For example:
o Desperate housewives – satire on middle class suburban stereotypes
o Movie “Edward Scissor Hands” and “Pleasant Ville” (sucked into TV set forced to
live in sitcom situations set in the late 1900s)
- Stereotypical depictions – shallow, bland, superficial
- BUT many of those involved in creating these stereotypes (writers, producers) did not
actually live in the suburbs.
- Some of these stereotypes did have an element of truth. E.g. conformity was not
manufactured since suburbs were big on conformity.
- People were striving for status and social capital and competing with one another but this was
not unique to 1950-60s suburban communities; people have been doing that ever since the
beginning of time.
- The competition in suburbs was provoked to be magnified a bit by the nature of the economic
system and the workplace in America during this era
- One reason for conformity was the highly bureaucratized corporations imposed a high
degree of conformity, starting with the work uniforms (or dress codes, especially in
o Most men working in these corporations wore a suit and tie
o People working here would also visibly lead a highly conforming lifestyle which
included living in the suburbs. In some cases, the corporation dictated which suburb
you could live in! For example: some suburbs were reserved for the upper
management class. SO as you get a better job, you would move. This meant that
those living in the same suburb came from the same level in the corporation.
o The corporation also dictated workers’ political belief system. So here were
expectations you had to meet if you wanted to work in a certain place or get a
o Corporations also limited your physical mobility. They say that a good manager
shouldn’t be left in one place for too long (same job or same company). So, it was a
corporate policy to move you around and uprooted (longest time you could stay in
one place was 5 years).
- The phrase “The organization man” suggests that the first loyalty of middle class managers
was to the corporation. Their identity was rooted in their workplace.
- The suburban culture and environment magnified suburban stereotypes.
- Those suburbanites in the 1950s and 60s in 20s and 30s moved to the suburbs in the first
place because of their kids. But as time went on, 2 or 3 generation suburbanites left their
homes and moved into condos elsewhere or even into the cities. So, this might have just been
a phase of specifically to this baby boomer generation. Thus, the stereotypes are mainly of
THESE specific suburban people. - Suburban soccer mom driving to her kids’ activities in the SUV. Soon, advertisers and
politicians were aiming their causes to these soccer moms