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Illustrations of the 50’s


In today’s world there are many forms of advertising. There’s the use of television, radio, posters, and even social media. While the fifties had the use of things like television and radio; the most influential form of advertisement, was the use of “illustrations”. This form of advertisement was used to promote consumerism, to create the legacies of symbolic figures; like Elvis Presley, illustrations were even used to change the view people had about sexual freedom. (Skender 2009)

The strength of the economy was a lot better than what it was in the forties. According to Martina Skender, from Fuel Your Illustration, “During the 50’s the average salary in the USA went up by 50%, a middle class arouse, credit card was introduced…” The change in the economy started the spread of consumerism. Since men were now getting longer hours, the ability to buy a car improved; and companies took advantage of that. During the fifties there were a ton of new brands and products introduced. And the “Leave it to Beaver” family lifestyle is what families strived to become.

During the fifties, not only was their improvement in the economy, but there was a change of what got youth excited. According to Skender, “Young people wanted new and exciting symbols of rebellion and Hollywood responded. Anti-hero’s like Marlon Brando took on the role, and sexy non conformist anti-heroines like Marilyn Monroe added excitement.” While movies were used for the creation of these rebellious characters; the use of illustrations was a key source of advertisement for the movie and television industries. (Skender 2009)

Along with illustrations being used to create the rebellious symbols that young people craved, illustrations were also used to change people’s views on sexual freedom. During the fifties Pin Up girls grew popular. It was very common to see illustrations of Pin Up girls in businesses, restaurant, theatre, clubs, and locker rooms. Pin Up girls were considered to have changed the view of sexual freedom, because the illustrations consisted of “beautiful” women dressed in lingerie or some sort of sexual clothing. That fact that these illustrations were used so much in public changed the view of sexual freedom in the fifties. (Skender 2009)

If one was to approach illustrations through ministry. One would probably try to warn others of false advertisement, and how to deal with temptations it could bring.

The fifties saw a lot of change; it saw a change in economy, life style, and changed the way people thought about sex and strived for rebellion. While advertising styles have changed since the fifties, many of the things that were the focused on in the fifties are still focused on today. There are still advertisements the focus on consumerism, trend setters, and sexual freedom. It’s like Turner says, “the change of technology doesn’t just mean the same message is transmitted in a different format. It also shapes the message.” (Turner 2013)



Works Cited

Skender, Martina. Inspiration/History. September 21, 2009. (accessed April 21, 2014).

Turner, Steve. Popcultured. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2013.




6 responses to “Illustrations of the 50’s

  1. acobafamily1 ⋅

    Thank you for your post about the Illustrations in the 1950s. I found your post to be very fascinating and informative. You offered helpful and insightful information that can help us guide our youth today and help them deal with the same types of issues. How much would you say that illustrations are affecting our youth today? I imagine that they are affecting them much more significantly. It is interesting to see that this era was a major proponent to the sexual change in advertising. I imagine that it was a shocking change to the conservative members of society. I know that today we still try help inform and shape the way our young people see themselves and others in light of advertisement telling them otherwise. Rebellion also seems to be a common thread through the 1950’s. Would you say that we are seeing the same thread of rebellion still today and in what way? Or how has it changed since the 1950’s?

  2. jessicav10 ⋅

    Seeing the connection from the 50s to today, I believe the 50s changed the hidden sexuality of the U.S. This gave the ground for today’s hyped up sexuality in businesses. Sexuality is being displayed openly with women as advertisement which appealing to young men. Yet, other people are advocating against this. It is appalling to see the over sexualized images displayed in malls like Victoria secret and other stores. For me, I cringe whenever I walk past stores that over sexualize their products. This is displaying sexy images that bring lust to young men, and a false self-image to girls who buy products to “look like the models.” Pastors must stand up and bring awareness to youth for advertising women brings a market that creates human trafficking and this is wrong. No wonder so many men are into porn. The images stores sell creates a craving that leads to addiction to sexualized images.

  3. David

    I see a lot of similarities between the advertising then and now. It’s meant to be provocative and attention grabbing. When there is no moral standard, whatever makes people happy goes. These images are made to be pleasing to the public eye. Unfortunately most people think these advertising deserve attention, and that’s it’s a good thing to promote “beauty.” People working within Youth Ministries should help young people understand what these advertisements are meant to do, so that they won’t fall into the same trap of lowering their moral standards.

  4. Jesse

    Good post. I found it interesting that adds which obviously objectify women began as symbols of sexual freedom in the 1950’s. I know that this sort of advertising still persists today and is very prominent in youth culture. Boys are being raised up by culture to see women as sex-objects, and girls are raised to pay so much attention as to how they look when compared to these adds.

    I think that as ministers, our best approach is to teach adolescents how to find their identity in Christ, and not through advertisements. Culture today is really good at presenting students with unrealistic expectations of who they should be, and students are really good at buying into it because they haven’t been taught how to respond.

    Teaching adolescents that they are loved, valued, and treasured by God the way he created them will shift the way they view advertisements and how they let them shape their identity.

  5. jenniferlancheros13 ⋅

    It was really refreshing to see that you did a post on a different type of media than the other posts. Your post was very informative on how the 50’s changed culture completely. Do you think that if the 50s did not go through this culture change in the sexual aspect, that our culture would not be as sexualized now?
    I didn’t realize this was the first time that a sexual culture came about in a societal way.
    Do you think that the economy change had an impact on the different culture changes that happened at this same time? Did they all have an effect on one another or do you think it was a coincidence that this all happened at the same time?
    I agree with your ministry perspectives, but I would love to see how these would play out within the church. Temptations would be great, but how do you see false advertisement being brought into a sermon?
    Great post!

  6. This was a very well written, well thought out essay. The 50’s were a time in history that I particularly wish I had been around for. But because of the 50’s advertising spike, would you say that it was the era that kinda started the sexual free love revolution that we saw in years to come? I know people like James Dean and Marlon Brando were these “bad boy” icons, and women such as Marilyn Monroe were the “sex” icons of the day, but do you think that the dawn of consumerism might have played a key role in the forming of that revolution in years to come? All in all, I think that the 50’s were a very special time in American history, many amazing things came out of this era, but also because of this consumeristic mindset that was created, I think it was something that America never outgrew, but it just keep consuming until we got to the point of consumerism that we see today in 2014.

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