Reappraising the 1950s

Chapter 2 of Jenkins, Ford, and Green’s Spreadable Media is entitled “Reappraising the Residual”.  By “residual”, the authors are talking about things, like media content, that were previously discarded for no longer being interesting or relevant to the current time period.  The popularity of the internet has made it possible for communities of people who have a special interest in certain residual artifacts to do what the book calls “reappraise” them.

An example the authors give us is how television networks back in the day would throw out film from unpopular shows such as Doctor Who.  Well seeing as Doctor Who has become quite a bit more popular today, the BBC had to find people who valued those old Doctor Who episodes more than they did to recreate soundtracks in order to re-release episodes to the enormous fan base the show has today.  The BBC had to reappraise the content using what they thought fans now value.

The internet has made this reappraisal of old things a widespread phenomenon, especially considering the success of eBay.  YouTube has also seen a great deal of this reappraisal by users who have taken an interest in archival footage that they wouldn’t ever have seen otherwise.

“Some upload videos to YouTube because it is a space for information gathering, either through the conversation and social connections it can support or through the opportunities it provides for users to track down news, archival footage, oddities, or DIY content” (p.93).

There are many videos like the above one that advise the average 1950s wife/husband/teen on how to “properly” do things in 50s fashion, like how to dress appropriately, how a wife should treat her husband, or how to date correctly.  Today, the popularity of these videos is due to the fact that modern life is so much different and these artifacts are really good for comparison, but more importantly they are just fun to watch and mock.

In the 60s, 70s, and 80s when people still remembered exactly how life in the 50s was like (and probably resented it), these PSAs weren’t highly appraised and most people would probably never want to watch one.  But now with the use of YouTube, people are beginning to appreciate these videos once again, albeit with more of a mocking purpose, showing that “reappraising the residual” is a growing trend that creates and/or maintains communities of internet users.


8 thoughts on “Reappraising the 1950s

  1. karina

    This post was very well written and got and main takeaway of the chapter spot on. You do an excellent job of explaining what “reappraising the residual” means and the many examples you provide help those readers who need more of an explanation. The video you include too is very interesting and I had no idea footage like that even existed so thank you for opening my eyes to that.


  2. brandonwoodweb

    Well written post and great analysis of the 2nd chapter. I find it very interesting how certain products and advertisement strategies are popular or used in today’s media versus in the past.



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