It’s hard to say exactly how many degrees of separation exist between Senator Joe McCarthy and the teenage kid of a low-income single parent in 2015 who has just dropped out of high school and is on his, yes his much more than her, way to a life of petty crime and poverty or worse. Those degrees of proximity, to put it another way, have something to do with Hollywood’s decades long assault on the fifties and that assault’s relationship to the House Un-American Activities Committee that bullied Hollywood producers to compile and enforce their infamous blacklists of artists suspected, or falsely accused, of left-wing leanings. It’s hard to imagine that the blacklist did not have, and even still has, a profound effect on the movie and television industry. And so today, and for the last few decades, almost everything about the fifties has been portrayed as repressive and repressed.

America changed in the sixties and part of the enormous cultural (more than political) changes involved the disintegration of the family and the emergence of the single-parent family unit. And what may have seemed liberating according to radical academics, turned into a long-lasting problem, especially for the kids. In two separate studies reviewed by Michael Barone in the Washington Examiner, Robert Putnam and Charles Murray, each in separate books, analyze the disadvantages that a child of a single parent tends to face in America. They tend to do worse in school, are more likely to be involved in some sort of criminal activity, will earn less, and will be unhappier. Notwithstanding exceptions to this trend, it is none the less a real consequence for many single-parent kids. And what to do about it is a real issue.

Studies have shown that the divorce rates and single-parent statistics that accelerated in the 60’s and affected all classes stabilized and improved around the 80’s for middle and upper income families, but not for lower income families. That means that lower income kids face the additional hurdle of a lack of a stable nuclear family. And perhaps Hollywood has something to do with it. More with a possible solution, than as a cause. We celebrate and poke into the dark side of life in almost every corner of the media and entertainment worlds nowadays. Somehow authenticity is inevitably linked to violence, both emotional and physical, and conflict. We are all scarred apparently and anyone who presents optimistic outcomes in their storytelling is anachronistic and false. Perhaps that’s slowly changing. And perhaps more positive outcomes in Hollywood storytelling reflects a general fatigue with the stagnant and resentful emotional puddles we have been encouraged to wallow in for some time now. Its ok apparently to show happy endings in animated kid’s films, and perhaps we grown ups will allow ourselves the opportunity to share in stories that uplift us a little rather than drag us through endless nightmares. And maybe, just maybe, showing a stable nuclear family with it’s warts and all, as something good, rather than a repressive structure that has to be fled from by some teenaged hero or heroine, will start to be fashionable again. Hollywood should never forget McCarthyism. Hollywood, rather, should remember the nuclear family a little more. It might help us all, more than we realize.

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