Fading of the American Dream

By: Kayla Hunt, Columnist 

Paul Cantor asserted in his essay, “The Apocalyptic Strain in Popular Culture,” that:

“Film and television today are more likely to present images of the American nightmare: our entire civilization reduced to rubble and the few survivors forced to live a primitive existence in terror of monstrous forces unleashed throughout the land. Has the American nightmare paradoxically become the new American dream?”

So what has happened to the infamous “American dream”? The American dream that U.S. citizens strived to live, the American dream that people elsewhere admired. Is this same American dream still applicable today? I think most people would agree with Cantor and I when we vote, absolutely not.

In Cantor’s essay, he debriefs some of the values that founded the ideals of the American dream. He stressed the importance of familial security as one of the dominant forces behind the American dream. Film and media in the ‘60s and ‘70s  revolved around the close-knit family structure that was part of reality then. More prominent today is the image of “broken homes.” Single-parent households are much more prevalent today. Divorce is no longer looked down upon. This has poured over into film and media. There are no longer shows such as “Leave it to Beaver”  or “Good Times.” Those familial structures are a rarity in today’s society. One of the driving forces behind this, is the shift in focus of building a family to building a career. “Modern Family” has become our “Good Times.”

Another factor that played into the shattering of the outdated version of the American dream, is the forthcoming value of individuality. Individuality has now become the forefront of what it means to be an American citizen; be yourself, express yourself, be free, do not be ashamed to be who you were created to be — that is the prominent aspect of the American lifestyle seen today. Individuality and freedom have replaced the prior values of security and safety. There is no value in living life safely anymore, living life to the point of financial security and never striving to go beyond that. In today’s world, it is valued for individuals to go above beyond, to break barriers, to live outside the box. Life is no longer concrete, life is in every way abstract.

When you think about it this way, you can very much say that the American nightmare has become the new American dream. Because everything that was feared is valued today.

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