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That’s how James Petersen’s book describes 1950s America and the false, repressed world from which Sandy must escape. There were three distinct cultures in America during the 1950s – mainstream middle-America, New York City (including the Beat writers), and teenagers – and they rarely intersected each other, so none of them spoke the others’ languages or shared their morality. Most of mainstream adult America lived a life of complete ignorance, happily watching safely artificial television sitcoms and carefully censored studio films, having little or no idea what was going on in teen America, in teen music, movies, magazines, social life, and most significantly, teen sexuality.

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And this isn't just one of those movies that picks up a bunch of golden statuettes and fades from the public imagination. American Beauty changed the landscape of American cinema, turned Sam Mendes and Alan Ball into Hollywood superstars, and forever altered the way moviegoers thought about rose petals and drifting plastic bags.


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Also like , is about , the watchword of that first rock and roll generation. Teen sexuality has been an issue in America since the invention of the rumble seat, always moving forward like a freight train, forever going faster and farther; and is a snapshot of America right before teen sexuality exploded, examining the early cracks in the armor of middle-class "respectability" and repression, the fantasy American Dream that never was but that came beaming into Americans’ homes over the television airwaves. Movie star Sandra Dee becomes ‘s overarching metaphor for the artificiality of adult American life, a symbol that needed piercing. Sandra Dee was a big star at this point, and just in the two years that spans, she released (1958), (1958), (1959), (1959), (1959), (1959), and (1959), jumping back and forth between empty-headed teen comedies and stark melodrama. Today, it may be hard to understand what Sandra Dee represented, but she was the poster girl for the big studios’ attempts to make teen movies, a genre which was up until that point the exclusive territory of small, low-budget producers like the ubiquitous Roger Corman (, and others). But the studios’ teen flicks were inevitably artificial in the extreme, creating a freakish – and clueless – adult imitation of the teen world, a kind of cultural Frankenstein, that teens could see right through. To savvy teenagers, Sandra Dee was a teen sellout, and in a world where authenticity was the goal, there was nothing worse. She was a fake – in her life, in her acting style, and in her onscreen emotions. Teen audiences didn’t want that; they wanted and . But adults loved Sandra Dee; she reassured them that teen was a "good girl."