Fun With Dick and Jane: The Monocultural Garden of Verse
Monday/August/24 2009 Filed in: Philosophy / World View
See Jane. See Jane run. Run Jane, run!
From roughly the Great Depression to the 1970's Gas Crisis, the monochromatic world of Dick and Jane was presented as the ideal for young school children from New York to California.
Dick and Jane were the main characters of a series of basic elementary school readers, written originally by William S. Gray. But as iconic as the see-spot-run dialogue of these books was, it was the hauntingly sterile illustrations of 1950's commercial artist Robert Childress that painted a portrait of a long lost America.
Dick and Jane were drawn against the pale, pure, playful backdrop of Pleasant Street where children knew their place and treated grown-ups with respect.
Well, not all grown-ups.
Zeke was the neighborhood handyman and gardener. While every other male on Pleasant Street was fair of skin and straight of hair. Zeke was swarthy with an unruly hairdo. Sometimes he even sported a mustache.
Dick and Jane called him Zeke. Not Mister Zeke. Just plain old Zeke.
This was a world with the kind of structure and culture that Glenn Beck pines for.
Men worked, women cooked, boys played with toy soldiers, girls played with dolls, fair skinned, straight haired people lived on Pleasant Street and swarthy, curly haired men were lucky to have the chance to pick up a few odds jobs here and there.
Currently, African-Americans and Hispanics combined account for over one-fourth of the US population. By 2050, it's expected that half of the US will be people of color.
Source for maps/graphs -- http://pewresearch.org/
Things were very different in the heyday of Dick and Jane.
The world was more homogeneous then. It was a much more comfortable place for people who liked things a certain way.
The Times They Are a Changin'
Eventually the winds of change came to Pleasant Street. In 1965, an African-American family moved in and things were somehow never quite the same.
That token tinge of cultural diversity and a sporty pair of aviator sunglasses weren't enough to pull Dick and Jane into a 20th Century that, by then, was already three-fourths over.
And by the early 1970's, this piece of Americana came to a close. The fun was done and Dick never saw Jane run again.