I interviewed my mother (born ’52) about any memories she had of media while growing up and into college. She could not remember much about her early childhood, but one thing that stood out throughout her life before college was watching the evening news. “We always watched the nightly news on NBC.” My Grandpa worked for the Air Force, which resulted in moving numerous times for my mom’s childhood even overseas, but her family almost always managed to see the news. I asked her whether during news broadcasts or at other times in the evening was the scene like the typical American unit having TV dinners in the living room. She remembered certain times where they ate in front of the TV, but “most meals were at the dinner table” and afterwards we would watch the television set.
My mom couldn’t cite any specific TV shows, besides the news, that she would watch a lot, music was her more of her media choice. Continuing one of the conclusions found in the article for today’s reading (Hains, Thiel-Stern, and Mazzarella): women “mentioned…[music] as an integral part of their teen identity and gender articulation,” most of the interview with my mom surrounded music (Hains et al. 128). “I didn’t have a particular favorite genre or type of music, I just enjoyed listening to whatever was on…my sister and I would go to some of our friend’s house and listen to records,” recounted my mom. But once near entering and attending college my mom focused on listening to music having getting “dissuaded from TV…professors had taught me the mind numbing qualities of television…I would come back home and see my parent’s in front of the TV set, like zombies.”
“My music is what I remember the most…James Taylor was all my time favorite, his voice, that beautiful voice.” While a bit later in popularity and prominence than most of the reading, this was one thing my mom could clearly remember listening to and sharing with other friends. James Taylor was probably the closest fangirl experience my mom had, “I had his records of course and then some pictures of him too…I certainly wasn’t idolizing him, maybe I had a crush on him, but I just enjoyed his music so much.” I think my mom had a soft spot for soft, sultry voices because Leonard Cohen, Janice Ian and Joni Mitchell were some of her favorites in addition to Mr. Taylor. I asked whether she was drawn more towards male artists than female or if it seemed like men dominated the music she listened to and she said that she didn’t remember any imbalance. “But perhaps overall I did like more male artists than female…not necessarily because of me being a heterosexual female but because there were more of them to listen to.”
The other media source my mom specifically remembered was going to the movies. Sometimes she went with her whole family, but most times “it was me and a friend…we would go during the weekend, a lot during the summer.” The one movie she still remembers watching with one of her best friends was “Boys in the Band” and they watched it twice back to back. She couldn’t really put into words why she recalled this one movie, particularly one about a group of homosexuals and regardless of talking to her gay son she just said “we didn’t have anything else to do and it was a subject matter we hardly discussed.” Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to go into greater detail about her potential experience with what was deemed gay or did she know anyone out at the time, but interesting nevertheless.
While wrapping up the interview, my mom commented about the overall change in diversity and availability of today’s media sources compared to those in her childhood. My mom could have taken the place for Maggie in the article: “We didn’t have the choices you have now…It was very limited to what you could watch on TV…we just didn’t have the choices” (Hains et al. 119). My mom thought TV as so limited, “defined basically by white men,” but now there is channel for every interest: food, outdoor recreation, shows geared toward your ethnicity and even sexual orientation. Additionally my mom showed evidence that while music, movies and somewhat TV had impact on her life, I think she would agree with the other interviewees that in the end “it was not a big part of my childhood” (Hains et al. 119). Images of families in front of the TV, girls going crazy at the sight of their favorite singer and getting the latest lunchbox with your favorite show’s characters occurred for some kids, but these renditions are representations of today’s media. Nostalgia is a strong emotion and the memory we recall always has some sort of filter that can’t perfectly capture the feelings and reality of the past. However, one can easily see that the power and presence of images, lyrics and video in our lives has only grown.