“On the Road” or “Main Street” as an Affirmation of Shared Cultural Values and Symbols
It is clear to most that the advent of television in the Post World War II years played in important part in helping to define who we were an what we were about – purveyors and creators of popular culture.
But there were other sources as well
There are the places that are actual “All-American” landmarks – Washington, DC, New York, the Grand Canyon, National Parks, Mt. Rushmore, New Orleans, Route 66.
Then there are other “secondhand” ways Main Street has embedded itself in the continuing awareness of the American mind, meaning places that have elevate small town life to a nother plane of meaning.
Orville uses the term “materialization” of the small town through a range of entertainment venues (and by what they exhibit and how they do so). These places range from model train displays of small town life (ranging from “Plasticville” and Roadside America) to display and entertainment areas such as Greenfield Village, Colonial Williamsburg and Disneyworld.
These are places, says Orville, that marked 20th century culture and continue powerfully into our own time.
He quotes historian Max Page who observed, “Memory is built into physical landscape and individual encounters with building, natural sites and whole regions”.
Adds Orville, “Memories can also be built into fictitious spaces, where they produce a more comprehensive nostalgia for a generic small-town past that may have no personal connection to the individual. In effect, the mythologizing of the small town in these twentieth-century models has created a kind of vicarious memory. Such ‘memories’ are constructed both physically and socially and can have, as psychologists have argued, positive psychological functions, generating feelings of social connectedness”.
In essence, they “serve as an affirmation of shared cultural values and symbols in times of crisis, which means all the time”.
And that, we think, is a good thing – especially when these so little these days that we same to be able to agree about (or share).
This article was first published on http://www.journeysinto.com.