One of the great pleasures of my pleasure-filled life is LIFE itself. I love to get those old magazines from the 40's and 50's and just delve into a day when things were so different.
You might think, oh, the world was a better place back then, but then you pick up a LIFE from, say 1943, when World War II was not going so well for the Allied Forces, and it makes you a little sad. There were millions of families torn asunder by war, and fear, and loss.
You can always judge a lot about a society by looking at the advertisements in these magazines. For example, most of American industry was changed over to producing vital supplies for the war. So, Ford was not making sedans in those days, but their plants were retooled to making machines for the Army. You name the industry - from airplanes to fountain pens - and the ads were all about how they were working like the dickens to make enough for the service, and looked forward to the brighter tomorrow after the war, when things would be available again for all.
But, even though the times were tough, the people were good and stalwart defenders of the nation. It's just that one needs to bear in mind the historical context of the times when seeing some of these old ads. By today's standards, some of the images are quite racist and sexist and a lot of other bad "-ists."
Talk about perpetuating stereotypes! I was flipping through a 1949 LIFE the other night while waiting for sleep to take me, and there in postwar America were advertising images showing women as totally dependent on men when it came to complicated he-men stuff like buying tires for the Studebaker or cooking beef the way His Majesty liked it. Men are depicted as lunkheads who would have trouble remembering to pick up a Whitman's Sampler and an anniversary card without a string tied to their index finger. All these images...
The one that almost made me fall out of bed, hurting my head, showed a television on sale for the low, low price of $239.95. And this is a day when 240 semolians was way beyond what GI Joe Home Again earned in a week...maybe a month. So having a tv around was a major investment. In order to show that this particular tv set was a thrifty buy, the manufacturer had a cartoon of a Scottish guy beaming his approval. You could tell he was a Scottish guy; he had a big bushy beard and a long thin pipe and one of those Tam O' Shanter hats and a set of bagpipes and a plaid kilt. Clearly, an expert on thrift! How stilted, how stereotypical. And I'm willing to bet that there are jillions of Scots who are not thrifty, googobs of Germans who are not industrious, a veritable phalanx of Mexicans who wouldn't dream of taking a siesta while wearing a sombrero...you see what I'm driving at. These old ethnic slurs are so dumb, and we are glad that they are thing of our past.
Not so fast. In case you haven't seen this, click here for a link to a look at crackpot Senator Tom Coburn (R, OK) - a man who is both a medical doctor and an opponent of controls over handguns and tobacco - as he does a disgusting, racist, stupid Ricky Ricardo impersonation at the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor, who, I am willing to bet, really wishes that the rest of the country would get past the 1940 stage in our LIFE.