TA.TV: Propaganda – “Shy Guy” (1947)

Phil (played by Dick York) is the son of an apparently single father who seems recently to have undergone corporate relocation, and things are very different for Phil. He has a problem “fitting in.” Everything from the nature of the kids in the new town (“different”) to what they wear (“not jackets like me, but a regular sweater”) sets Phil apart. Armed only with confusing advice from his father, Phil has to reorganize his behavior and make a new home for himself.

Shy Guy marks a kind of turning point in postwar history. When Mr. Norton advises Phil to “look around him” and see what the other kids are wearing and how they behave, he’s conceding parental authority to the “gang” and, ultimately, helping to legitimize the formation of a distinct youth culture that rests on group identity and validation rather than the authority of elders. Such a youth culture probably has its roots in the wartime autonomy that teens experienced, but here the adults are okaying it. This change, of course, is one of the key social currents in postwar America.

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