Growing Up Modern

Childhood, Youth and Popular Culture Since 1945

Childhood and youth have always been a focus for our most intense hopes and anxieties. Yet over the past seventy years, there has been a far-reaching transformation, both in children’s and young people’s lives and in our ideas about childhood. Growing Up Modern aims to explore these changes by looking at popular culture – film, television, popular music and books, and consumer products more broadly. It considers how children and young people have been represented, addressed and entertained, and what this tells us about the broader social and cultural developments of the time. The main focus is on developments in the UK and (secondarily) the USA.

This site contains a series of illustrated essays aimed at the general reader, not just an academic audience. From The Famous Five to Rebel Without A Cause, through emo kids and Schoolkids Oz, and on to Skins and Teletubbies, it explores the popular cultural worlds of childhood and youth in an era of radical change. New essays will appear here in a random sequence, approximately every couple of months or so, as the fancy takes me. You can find a more extended outline of the aims of the project here, and some more general essays about children, youth and media here. Starting in 2019, I’ll be adding some more US-focused material, based on my research for a Leverhulme Trust Emeritus Fellowship: details here.

Click on the titles to read the essays:

Childhood and the mediatization of marketing, 1955-1965

Bridging the gaps? Sesame Street, ‘race’ and educational disadvantage

Dreamboats, boybands and the perils of showbiz: pop in film, 1956-1968

Skins and the impossibility of youth television

Real girl power? Representing riot grrrl

Gender trouble: cinema and the mystery of adolescent girlhood

Young soul rebels? Soul scenes in seventies Britain

Reeling in the years: retrospect and nostalgia in youth movies

The spirit of 1968? Revisiting Lindsay Anderson’s If….

Before London started swinging: representing the British beatniks

Watching with and without Mother: education and entertainment in television for pre-school children, 1950-2000

This is England: growing up in Thatcher’s Britain

The Blyton enigma: changing critical perspectives on children’s popular culture

Hayley Mills and the Disneyfication of childhood

Glitter, glam and gender play: pop and teenybop in the early 1970s

Children of the revolution? The hippy counter-culture, the idea of childhood and the case of Schoolkids Oz

What can a poor boy do? Representations of child poverty in British cinema, 1969-2013

Emo and the paradox of contemporary youth culture

An awkward age: representing childhood in 1950s Britain

Troubling teenagers: how movies constructed the juvenile delinquent in the 1950s

Just William: ‘the most popular boy in fiction’


Coming next:  Selling to children in the 1950s…… Sesame Street, ‘race’ and educational disadvantage…… Style, brands and consumption: the case of the casuals…..