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Free «American Culture: Past and Present» Essay Sample

The American culture has seen drastic changes over the past century in both the population makeup, as well as how Americans are living their lives. There have been several technological advancements that can wow one’s forefathers, the American society can be said to have faced an open diversity, for example, the increasing number of gay and lesbian marriages over the past few years was unthinkable of some years back, the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell” about the military and even the election of the African American as the president of the country. This paper will compare and contrast the present and past American cultures, while highlighting how the concepts of culture, as well as its consumption and production has changed over time.

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Michael Kammen (1999) highlights how popular culture, its production and consumption have changed over the past years. Although he notes that many people see mass culture beginning with the spread of  newspapers in the 18th century, he stresses that the invention of the TV changed the American culture altogether. After the World War II in the 1950s, almost all American homes had a TV set, which was not unheard of before its invention in 1927. Kammen also notes that the relationship between cultural authority and cultural power has considerably changed. He notes that earlier movie studios and ad agencies had considerable power, while museums had considerable authority, but today’s cultural authority rests upon the large corporations that produce and promote culture.

As a result, advertising has also changed due to many mind boggling technological inventions done over the years. Relatively the same type of advertisement about communication  in the 1930s now will have very different messages. For this paper, one will compare an advertisement of Bell Telephone in 1936 and another advisement of Apple iPhone in 2012. The first advert that is being compared is the 1936 Bell Telephone advert. The picture is of an old looking woman who is knitting. The caption is “Jim Called up Today” and with persuasion to call someone you missed who may be miles away. The second advert is of an Apple iPhone in 2012. It has a photo of the now famous iPhone with several applications on the screen (with a further explanation that there are over 25,000 apps) and an explanation of what each does with a headline caption “Helping you stretch your budget, one app at a time.”  Basically the first advert is about making a call and talking to the person who has been missed while the second advert is about more than just communication, but using a phone to carry out thousands of other applications just by the touch of a button.

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The middle of the 20th century saw the nature of American business market change in dramatic ways. American women were seen as the bedrock of families and were usually used in advertising on magazines, billboards and broadsides. The reality of this form of advertisement can be seen from the first advert of Bell Telephone in 1936. However, with changes in culture and increase in innovations, advertising techniques and strategies also changed. New adverts, by contract, focus on creating unique slogans that could capture their customer’s light. In the early 20th century to 1970s, men and women were looked at from different angles. Women were seen to be at home with children, cooking, cleaning, preparing the house for the husband and even knitting as from the picture, and so the first advert was aimed at calling mum at home. Due to a revolution, the second advert is aimed at all the people, people who can appreciate that a phone is just more than calling. The iPhone is shown to have several applications that can help the average person work on several things at a go. There is not even an elaborate explanation of the calling feature. This asserts that the American culture has changed a lot; from the stay away mums who could wait to be called to accepting that women have gone tremendous changes and can now use the phones to not only call, but also make several apps like their male counterparts.

 
 
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The American culture concerning gays and lesbians (same sex orientation) has changed over time. There is a greater visibility of gays and lesbianism in people’s contemporary society than in the past when the group was confined to a cultural closet few years ago, as recently as in the 1970s. There is more general social awareness of diversity including that of sexual orientation in the American society.  According to the University of Michigan website titled “lesbian history”, lesbians have been there in history, but the difference is that there were not openly accepted in society back in these days, unlike today. One has seen or heard of gays and lesbians getting married to each other openly, however, this was unheard of some few years ago (Lesbian History, n.d.). Recently the media has been awash with the “don’t ask, don’t tell” military stories. The “don’t ask, don’t tell” was an official US policy on homosexuals serving in the military that prohibited military against harassing or discriminating gay and lesbian persons serving in the military. However, at the same time, the act prohibited the homosexuals from openly disclosing their sexual orientation while serving the military. Due to changes in the American society and the acceptance of homosexuals, the “don’t ask, don’t tell” act was repealed and it is no longer a crime for the military to openly state their sexual orientation (Murphy, 2012).

Some notable changes have also been observed in acceptance of African Americans into the American society. The African Americans came into America as slaves, but they have worked to end discrimination, isolation and segregation to attain equality through the Civil Rights Movement. African Americans were first seen to be inferior mentally and were even unfit for war. With time, however, there were changes that saw them eventually serving in the military. Some black pilots formed the Tuskegee Airmen to prove that African Americans can compete even in the most coveted jobs. Although not completely out, the culture of discrimination and segregation against Blacks has slowly but steadily reduced over time. This even saw the election of the African American president to the oval office in the 2008 elections (Burger, 2011).

Conclusion

The American culture has seen some tremendous changes over the past 100 years. Roles of people have changed, as well, and there have been a plethora of stuff that has changed as well. The history of African Americans has also been changed from being slaves to the equal members of society, especially during their fight for recognition in the 1950s and 1960s through civil movements. Some things like an open diversity that the American society faces like an example of open gays and lesbians being able to marry, the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell” for the American military, or even the selection of the black president to be commander-in-chief. It is worth noting, however, that it takes advocates of people working together to be able to realize some of the changes highlighted above. 

   

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