We at the RRBlog identify strongly with the assumption that media has a reciprocal relationship with society. For instance, if a movie comes out that exhibits strong messages of equality, it is both spreading that message but also appealing to the social movement already in place. Similarly, if a new style is spreading, it is likely that a modern movie will incorporate it. With this in mind, the midcentury icon of a sparkling, smiling housewife was such the icon likely because of the media explosion that surrounded these women.
So let’s take a look at it through the lens of ‘Good Housekeeping’: The majority of stylistic elements of homemaking, aesthetics, and the overall notion of a woman leading the home with a matriarchal status all get a facelift in the 50s. With hubby out being a good little breadwinner, the wife had carte blanche to create the image of a modern home within the family’s means. Much like we mentioned in previous miniseries articles, things tended to become competitive. If Doreen had a showstopping new ensemble from the Danish postmodern collection, then it was likely that Charlotte living 3 doors down would be considering a redecoration of her own to showcase.
What I think also helped make these little dreams a reality were the installation of communities of ‘little boxes’ like those of Levittowns across the eastern portion of the USA. With financial incentives in place for recently-veteran’d men returning from the war, feasibility for homeownership was at an all-time high for this population (which was quite a percentage of the overall population). The iconic wives had a place to call home and raise children. In many ways, this accessibility alone provided for pop culture to latch onto the ‘American Dream’ being lived out by so many folks in similar circumstances.
So about this Good Housekeeping? Pop culture (especially the visual arts) depicted having a happy home as an accomplishment for these wives. I think, in many ways, that if means allow, many homeowners have the same bidirectional influence on good housekeeping and the media today. Thousands of remodels, keeping up with the Joneses, and publicity stunts that lower the costs associated with updated home features all contribute to finding the most pleasing look for homes across the world. With new trends like tiny house living, antique revivalism, and even the slow decline of gigantic houses, there is a broader variety of ‘trends’ and styles to fit the aesthetics of the home. Although the matriarchy no longer rules the roost in that stereotypical way, the pride associated with personalizing the home is more interconnected with media than ever with the implements of sites like Houzz, Overstock, and especially Pinterest.
So in many ways, the high aesthetics, low cost of living, and high emphasis on imagery of the midcentury is what happened to give the housewives of this era the ultimate say in how the home was structured.