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By referring to Sirk’s melodramas and to the other film genres this last essay reminds us, however, of the significance of genres other than science fiction and horror when it came to dealing with fears and anxieties of this decade, or of any other for that matter, which could have been given more space in the volume. More specifically, film noir and science fiction are identified in the introduction as “the two defining genres of 1950s cinema,” but the volume mainly focuses on science fiction and horror, neglecting other equally important film genres – film noir and melodrama, for instance – to convey anxieties and fears of the decade. The unequal attention given to popular culture genres and the eclecticism noted in the volume can be explained by the fact that the collection is the result of a conference on 1950s popular culture held in Trinity College Dublin in May 2008. This understandable shortcoming, however, allows for an in-depth treatment of key popular culture genres like sci-fi and horror. It Came from the 1950s! deserves a wide readership of an important cultural era and its cultural artifacts that may provide clues towards an understanding of the anxieties of our contemporary threats, articulated in the many vampires and monsters that inundate the screens and pop literature today.
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The essays of the second part of the book are concerned with other anxieties, some still more subtly connected to the overwhelming concern with nuclear destruction. Elizabeth McCarthy focuses on juvenile delinquency panics, specifically on the image of the female juvenile delinquent that pervaded pulp fiction and exploitation movies. Shocking large-breasted, “thrill-seeking” women saturating popular culture artifacts incarnated a rebellious and destabilizing sexual energy that threatened the 1950s domestic ideology founded on distinct role models for men and women. In her essay McCarthy provides an interesting historical trajectory of the term “female juvenile delinquent” to underline the new significance taken in the post-war years. Equally useful for any curious reader is the impressive amount of references across different popular culture media and artifacts mentioned and examined in the essay to demonstrate the pervading presence of this figure and its underlying fears. In relation to the importance of the sexual politics of this long decade, Kevin Corstorphine looks at the short fiction of Robert Block, the creator of Norman Bates, to discuss issues concerning 1950s masculinity and to invite us to reconsider received notions of sexual politics in pulp fiction.