The Comedy of the American Dream Essays

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The Comedy of the American Dream

In the early 1950s, the American dream was the nation's common heartbeat. Citizens longed for the ?ideal? family; most hid their shortcomings. The nuclear family included a mother, father, two children and a pet, all residing in suburbia, USA. Fathers were the breadwinners, and mothers stayed home, cooked, and cared for the kids. Each family included a boy and a girl, the former who always parted his hair to the side and the latter who always wore pigtails. The nation was convinced that if one worked hard enough, he or she could earn enough money to support the family and have plenty of professional satisfaction. Everyone sat down to dinner together nightly, and discussed his/her day, and innocence
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The main comedy of the picture arises from the innocence of the characters clashing with the worldly realisms, and the color transformation of Pleasantville parallels the transition that American humor has taken over the past half-century. Despite the harsh realities of the Depression and World War II that led up to this age, an innocence was assumed during the 50s; today, no subject is too controversial for television. In fact, the main facet of American humor today is the shock between the ideology of the American dream as it supposedly existed earlier this century and the subsequent recognition of reality.

Historians and academics offer definitions which underlie today?s humor. In 1937, Walter Blair, whose 60-year study of humor focused on the nineteenth century development of the genre, stated that American humor was neither produced only in America nor contained characteristics privy only to Americans. He offered instead that American humor meant ?humor which is American in that it has an emphatic ?native quality??a quality imparted by its subject matter and its technique? (92). H. R. Haweis, half a century earlier in 1882, had defined the technique of American humor as the three shocks of contrast: business and piety, Aboriginal and Yankee, and the bigness of American nature versus the smallness of

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