Surfing the Other: Ideology on the Beach

Arden Henley
Friday 25 November 2022

Rutsky, R. L. Film Quarterly 52, no. 4 (Summer 1999): 12-23.

This article interprets the “beach party films” of the late 1950s and early 1960s as rebellions against societal expectations and unrest. R. L. Rutsky argues that surfing films were inherently about nonconformity and a sense of fun, and draws an interesting connection between the popularity of bikinis, which increased rapidly in the late 1950s, and global nuclear armament (the US tested one of their nuclear weapons on Bikini Island, from which the swimwear derives its name). Rutsky argues that at their core beach films were about reinventing the teenage identity in the wake of global war and current political and social anxiety and unrest.

This article is an interesting look at how real-world politics affect art, and how art affects politics. A new sense of teenage identity in an unstable and rapidly shifting world was created through the films aimed at young teenagers in the 1950s, and art has played a major role in shaping young identities ever since. By creating a culture of art which engages with politics, artists expose their audiences, who in this case are young and increasingly independent and mobile, to the world of politics and its myriad issues and turbulences. The crafting of identity in relation to this art serves to link identity with culture and politics. Knowing that all these connections will be made, art and its consumers can begin to gear themselves toward a sense of political and personal peace.

Link: https://www.jstor.org/stable/1213771.

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