Of mice and bunnies : Walt Disney, Hugh Hefner, and the age of consensus Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/m900nx54d

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  • Post World War II victory culture and its fallout-the consensus ideology-led to the creation of a middle class willing to conform to a prescribed set of ideals, safely removed from all danger, and enjoying the material benefits of a growing middle-class income bracket. Walt Disney and Hugh Hefner, two seemingly ideologically opposed businessmen, recognized this economic, political, and cultural shift and sought to capitalize on it financially. A cultural-history study of both companies revels many similarities in each company's design, development, and impact on American culture. To begin with, Disneyland and Playboy appeared in the mid-1950s as Americans were settling into postwar affluence and consumerism. Disney and Hefner each recognized the changes occurring within society and intended to design areas of reprieve. As such, Disneyland and Playboy were designed as areas of refuge where one could escape the stifling conformity of middle-class America and simultaneously forget Cold War fears. Instead, Disneyland and Playboy embraced the consensus and became reflections of society and culture rather than operatives of counter-culture. To understand how each company could fail in its original intent but remain as an emblem of American culture, it is necessary to understand the era, the men behind the visions, and how each company absorbed and reacted to cultural attitudes and strains. Disney and Hefner manipulated their way into the American cultural consciousness through a series of ironies and inconsistencies. Each sought to provide a haven of diversity as an alternative to the consensus conformity rampant within 1950s society. Ultimately, Disneyland and Playboy came to represent the homogeneity Disney and Hefner sought to escape.
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