Author: Hilary Lowe

Rocky and the Global Common Man’s Resonance by Samantha Smyth

stamplRocky’s resonance through the ages is paralleled by few other films. The rough and tumble Philadelphia boy seems to be the pinnacle of icons for the down-and-out, the under-achieved, under-represented, the gritty real people, whose lives aren’t glossy like Good Housekeeping covers depict. Rocky plucked himself out of obscurity and, quite literally, fought his way to the top (only after a humbling loss in Rocky I). He is the every-man’s underdog. He’s a dim-witted, fourth-rate, club fighter with no particular distinction, but he manages to embody optimism and courage (Leab, 265).

The reason for Rocky’s resonance beyond a bicentennial United States icon is to do with his relatability. As such, his image has been lifted and utilized many times, in many countries, making the Italian Stallion more than just an American idol but also an international icon.

Stamp collectors had the opportunity to enjoy the mangled-up Stallone face on 5 sets of limited edition stamps released in 1996 bringing fact to Rocky’s own line: “Yo, is this a face you can trust? Someday, they’ll put this face on a stamp.”

The fact that Rocky’s face was lifted for the 5 countries (Ghana, The Gambia, Uganda, St. Vincent and Grenadines, and Grenada) was explained as: “Rocky Balboa stands for the average guy who wants to lead a decent life and be the best he or she can be. The Philadelphia club boxer symbolizes everyone who has at anytime in their life been faced with seemingly impossible obstacles and yet refused to just give up” (Daniel Keren, Total Rocky). Each country felt an affinity for the man who nearly won, and each country boasts “more Rocky fans than America,” according to the article published on Total Rocky.


In 2007, Serbian city Žitište erected a statue dedicated to the fighter. The subject of a documentary, Amerika Idol by Barry Avrich, the statue was revealed to be the hope of the city to counteract the misfortunes of the past 4000 years. The statue is thought to bring “inspiration,” and “tourism dollars,” as reviewer Robert Bell points out. Bell also states that the residents believe Rocky will be a good role model for the youth and also stands as the “universal representation of the underdog.” Rocky as the symbol of luck, a waypoint for wayward youth, and the ultimate underdog has been utilized by town.


“When they’re cheering for Rocky, they’re cheering for themselves,” seems to be the most apt description of Rocky uttered by the man himself Sylvester Stallone (Leab, 271). It’s Rocky’s ability to appeal to the every-man that makes him so relatable. He stands for the underdog and embodies the emotions of courage, bravery, and pluck (which we could all use a bit of sometimes). As such, Rocky’s image has become the symbol of fight, of determination, and of strength in the face of adversity.

So, why Rocky? Because he’s every man, every person, the common man… he’s one of us. His appeal crosses borders, but his message remains the same. Go get it, and don’t give up.


Daniel Leab, “Reaffirming Traditional Values,” Hollywood’s America.

Rocky: The Quintessential Philadelphian Story by Keira Wingert

C4SD4Ti2EsiqHj3x34QPUv8UAs a Philadelphian, one of my best kept secrets to date was that I had never seen the movie Rocky. This movie has become an icon not only to Philadelphia but also to the world, spurring hundreds of thousands of people to flock to the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps and run to the top or pose beside the hulking Rocky Balboa statue at the base of the steps. I always felt ashamed that I never watched the iconic film before, but I figured I didn’t have to; growing up here, I was told the Rocky story dozens of times without ever actually having to see the movie itself. I knew about Apollo Creed, Adrian, Mickey, and Paulie, and I had performed the film’s punchy, upbeat score in my elementary school orchestra. I was familiar with all the iconic lines (“Yo, Adrian!”), the major plot points, and the iconic still image of Rocky at the top of the PMA steps. But one thing I never understood is why the low-budget movie starring an unknown actor Rocky became such an important part of Philadelphia’s culture. After all, it’s certainly not the only film that takes place in Philadelphia (need I mention the film literally named Philadelphia?). So why did Rocky become thefilm set in Philly? Recently, I was forced to watch Rocky finally, after 22 years of somehow avoiding it, and I came to a better understanding of Philadelphia’s connection to the film. This film represents the city and its people in a way that is realistic, not dolled up to conform to typical, fabulous Hollywood representations of big cities. Philadelphia is known for its grit and hardworking attitude, and that is exactly how the city and its people are represented in Rocky.

Philadelphia has a reputation among other cities as being a bit…rough. This is the city whose sports fans have a penchant for throwing things at people they don’t like, including, but not limited to, the poor Santa Claus who was booed and pelted with snowballs at an Eagles game back in 1968—a story that despite having happened over 40 years ago has somehow remained a defining part of this city’s lore. It’s the city that (unsurprisingly) beheaded the adorable hitchhiking robot whose journey was supposed to represent human kindness and togetherness. Five years ago, Philly was named the 2nd Dirtiest City in the country, beating out Los Angeles, Memphis, and New York. (New York!! Have the people who made that decision ever even been to New York? It’s disgusting!! And they expect us to believe that we’re actually worse than that?!). We don’t have a great reputation—and yet, we’re completely unfazed by the way the world sees us. We’re pretty content just doing our own thing. That’s the Philadelphia represented inRocky.

The Rocky character himself represents Philadelphia perfectly. In this film, Rocky Balboa is a lovably ordinary character. He is a working class guy who lives in a tiny, unattractive apartment. He is apparently uneducated and boxes for a meager living—though he also works as a loan shark’s muscle to make ends meet. He has two turtles and a fish, all of whom he greets as friends when he comes home in the evening. He has a painfully awkward crush on an even more painfully awkward woman, Adrian. When we first meet him, Rocky doesn’t seem like the type of person to seek out greatness; rather, he seems largely content with the life he has. For Rocky, winning isn’t everything. He is completely ordinary—that is, until he is handed a great opportunity. That’s when we see Rocky begin to change from the modest working-class citizen to the great Philadelphia icon he is today.

The environments in which Rocky exists also represent his journey to greatness. In this film, director John Avildsen clearly made deliberate choices regarding the shooting locations in Rocky and what they represented in the character’s journey. Nearly every outdoor scene at the beginning of the film takes place in an industrial setting—ships float in the background, trains clatter by, water towers loom over the residents of the city. Trash is scattered on the ground. The color palette is bleak and hazy, and frankly, it could not be more representative of the more working-class or poor areas in the actual city of Philadelphia, as well as the meager beginnings of the Rocky character. As Rocky trains, we literally see him move from these more modest areas of Philadelphia—the dirty streets of South Philly and the bustling, working-class Italian Market—toward the more grandiose locations in the city, like the ornately designed City Hall and the beautiful Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The range of activities in which Rocky partakes—from feeding his turtles in his tiny apartment to climbing the daunting steps of the PMA—represents exactly the type of hardworking, ordinary people living in Philadelphia. He is content with his ordinary life, but he is capable of greatness, just like Philadelphia is. Rocky is a film that represents the both the everyday activities and the greatest triumphs of which a city like Philly is capable, and that is why it has become the essential cultural icon to represent us.


Chartoff, R., & Winkler, I. (Producers), & Avildsen, J. (Director). (1976). Rocky [Motion picture]. United States:  United Artists.

Leab, D. “Reaffirming Traditional Values – The Blue Collar Ethnic in Bicentennial America:  Rocky.” In Mintz, S. & Roberts, R. (Eds.), Hollywood’s America:  Twentieth-Century America Through Film (p. 264-71). Hoboken:  Wiley-Blackwell.

Leopold, T. 4 Aug. 2015. HitchBOT, the hitchhiking robot, gets beheaded in Philadelphia. CNN. Retrieved from

14 June 2011. Interaction:  Is Philadelphia 2nd Dirtiest City? 6ABC Action News. Retrieved from

4 May 2010. 9 Terrible Philly Fan Incidents…And Their Harmless Explanations. Sports Pickle. Retrieved from


Song & Voice by Casey Watson


I’m smack dab in the middle of my research into Woody Guthrie’s iconic “This Land is Your Land,” arguably one of the most recognizable songs in the American folk song catalog or the whole of American music for that matter. We all know it. It is as pervasive in our culture as it is catchy. And while I dig and sift through biographies of Guthrie and articles addressing the dissentious message of the song, I’m reminded of something Scott Nelson mentioned in his John Henry piece: “Historians tend to regard music as background rather than raw material. Appropriated for book titles by countless historians, music itself is seldom seen as a primary source.”[1] I believe he is right. But obviously the role of music in memory is more complex, permeating almost all of our lives.

A friend of mine, a pop-music critic, made this observation in her article reconsidering Kanye West’s Yeezus earlier this year: “…music…[is] always in the air, always ready to sneak up on you, sometimes when you least expect it. There’s no telling, especially not on first listen, how many times you’ll hear a given song or album over a lifetime, or which listen will be the one when it finally clicks with you, if it’s to click at all. Maybe it’ll be the first, or third. Maybe it’ll be the thousandth.”[2] She’s pointing to the fact that a piece of music, more so than any other piece of artwork, can be consumed and internalized over and over in huge numbers. I believe that this unique ability of a song is precisely the reason that it is so easily considered “background” by historians or other researchers. Because a song can be replayed seemingly ad infinitum, coupled with the tendency for the listener to develop a personal connection and interpretation of said song (it’s art, right? It’s can be whatever you need it to be), we as listeners are able to retrofit it with new significance and personal meaning. In doing so, the song is slowly removed from its origins and in some cases, such as “This Land is Your Land”, transformed into an icon; a useful, malleable cultural tool.

Now then. Why does this matter? While doing my research, it occurred to me that perhaps a song’s ability to take on so many meanings while burrowing deeper and deeper into our cultural subconscious with each replay is the reason that songs are so often marginalized by some historians. In my opinion, this is foolish particularly when the subject is a folk song. Folk songs are stories and stories are seldom created for leisure. They come from specific circumstances and are sometimes the only traces the voice of a particular group. “This Land is Your Land” has taken on a life of its own since Guthrie penned it (as icons are wont to do). But we must not forget that his voice was that of the disenfranchised during the Dust Bowl. His words are telling and must not be forgotten as the song is sung by children at camp or Presidential hopefuls.

[1] Scott Nelson, “Who was john henry? railroad construction, southern folklore, and the birth of rock and roll”, Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas 2 (2): 54-55.

[2] Lindsay Zoladz, “Reviewing Yeezus in 2016 to Better Understand Kanye West and The Life of Pablo.” Review of Yeezus. Vulture, February 14, 2016.


The Kennedy Assassination: The Experience of an Irish Catholic Immigrant by Tara Doherty

My grandmother was cleaning her porch windows that Friday in November of 1963. A neighbor bounded out of his house with the news, running along the string of Philadelphia row homes until he arrived at my grandmother’s front windows.Media

“Margaret! He’s been shot. President Kennedy was shot,” he exclaimed. To her disbelief, she turned on her TV only to face a matching uncertainty. Over fifty years later, she recalls the deep gravity of the situation, the momentary ambiguity of the state of the nation’s President. She watched with hands shaking until shortly after President John F. Kennedy was pronounced dead.

She didn’t vote for Kennedy, although her immediate memory suggested otherwise. “Of course I voted for him,” she answered. A moment lapsed until she remembered that she couldn’t have voted for the Irish Catholic Democrat from Boston as much as she might have to. 1963 marked her ninth year as an Irish American immigrant, and she had not yet gained citizenship. Still, she spoke of Kennedy with a certain tenderness; he wasn’t just America’s president. He was a president of her people: Irish Catholic immigrants.

Catholic“They got it terribly hard, and they were terribly good Catholics. I’m not saying the president and the wife, but the president’s mother Rose. She went to mass every morning,” she said. She remembered that his grandparents emigrated from County Limerick of Bruff in western Ireland; her family back in Donegal loved him as if he were their own leader. For her and other Irish Catholic immigrants, Kennedy represented the tie between Ireland and America and offered a hope of success in the land of opportunity.

My grandmother was 34 years old the day of the assassination. Her husband was at work, and she spent her days at home taking care of her two young children. Though she emigrated nine years prior, her home was decorated with memories of Ireland. Irish flags, pictures of relatives, a painting of the Irish countryside above her mantle – she placed Catholic paraphernalia on every open surface, every wall so as to keep God and her country close to her heart. Yet, somewhere amongst her collections of home, she kept pictures of President Kennedy, dozens of pictures of an American man that she couldn’t have even voted for. Of these pictures, she most recalls a picture of Kennedy that portrayed him with the divine.

“Oh yeah. It was taken with him. It was a holy picture. They put Jesus or God next to John in the picture. I had one of them, but I don’t know what happened to them,” she said. In her eyes, the Kennedy family was a nice family, a family struck by tragedy and forever martyrs to America. When asked about the assassination, she most engaged with Jackie’s experience.

Dress“The sad thing about it was his wife, Jackie, standing next to the vice president… and her skirt was covered with blood. She held the president’s head when he was in the car and she kept it on – she wanted the whole world to see what they went through, and she was right to do it. And to see her face – she was in another world; she was in shock. I’ll never forget. It was the worst weekend. Jackie was the same age as me, same month, same year,” she said. Like many Americans struck by the tragedy, she identified with the Kennedy family. She saw herself as Jackie, her young children as the Jackie’s children; the assassination didn’t only mean a loss of a nation’s leader, it was a personal loss of a family made personable to Americans.

My grandmother spoke of President Kennedy in her strong Irish brogue decades after his assassination with an almost palpable nostalgia. The young president was a symbol of hope and success in America for Irish Catholic immigrants, a figure that represented success for those seeking it in an unfamiliar country. The Kennedy legacy has lived on in the hearts of those of that time as an embodiment of family and tragedy in American history.

Camelot Wannabes by Olivia Baranowski

FireplaceThe story:

My grandparents were engaged November in 1963 and planned to be married the following summer in June of 1964.  My grandmother, Sarah, worked at the Curtis Publishing Company located in Old City and my grandfather, Robert, was a full time graduate student at Temple University.  They first saw the President when he was visiting Philadelphia during those early years in the 1960s.  They waited along Frankford Avenue with friends and cheered and waved American flags as he drove down the avenue in his motorcade.  He was campaigning for his election, the same as he was when he was assassinated.  My grandmother humorously compared the spectacle to the way Philadelphia was when the Pope recently visited back in September.

The day JFK was killed my grandmother was at work and my grandfather was at his parents’ home studying for an exam.  My grandmother and the rest of her coworkers stood around the small black-and-white television in the lobby of the building for what seemed like hours.  Everyone watched the news and no one spoke, she said, everyone was in shock.  My grandfather was listening to the radio while he was studying and the music was interrupted with the announcement, and he gathered his family around the radio to listen to what the radio hosts were reporting.  He recalled feeling confused because the radio hosts didn’t seem to have much information.  Later that evening, my grandmother went over to my grandfather’s house to help him study for his exam, but they couldn’t concentrate on the material.  It was hard for them to fathom what had happened that day.  They said everyone they knew and our family members were in shock.  Temple canceled their classes the next day.

Why They Loved Him:

My grandmother loved fashion.  She had all the big name magazines and was a frequent shopper at her local fabric store where she would buy fabric to make her own dresses and skirts.  She loved Jackie Kennedy.  My grandmother was someone that saw her as a fashion icon.  She loved seeing when new pictures of Jackie were released so she could remake what she was wearing or gain her own inspiration form the images.  My grandmother made a black skirt and black silk camisole when JFK was killed.

Because of the way the Kennedys were portrayed during his presidency, my grandparents thought of them as the perfect family.  They were engaged; they wanted a family to be exactly like the Kennedys.  They were beautiful and healthy and seemed to have had it all.  My grandfather jokingly mentioned how even he was taken back by JFK’s handsome appearance and how much better he looked standing next to Nixon.  This is something that my grandparents look back on fondly; they have said that they didn’t pay attention to scandal news when it came out.

My grandparents wanted to create their own Camelot in their West Philadelphia row home.  It is interesting to hear their story and compare it to the way the Kennedys are viewed today.  They look back with such nostalgia, they think nothing is wrong with the family or listen to the rumors and conspiracy theories.  They take real politics out of the mix and look at the family for what they were, a family.  My grandparents’ memory of the Kennedys today is so pure that I think many people should forget any negative judgement of the family and remember the tragic event that caused a wife to lose her husband and children to lose their father.  In the end, that is what made my grandmother so emotionally upset about the assassination.  My grandparents appreciate the legacy left behind and still honored by the Kennedy family.

Note on Photo: The cross over the fireplace was replaced with this picture of the President during the Camelot era.  Pictured here: my grandmother’s younger sister (my Great Aunt Mary-Anne, dress made by my grandmother) on her way to her high school’s prom, overlooked by JFK.

My Father and the Death of JFK by Oliver Shortridge


qCaptureMy father, Thomas J. Shortridge, was born on March 14, 1947 in Anderson, Indiana. Before he turned twenty, many significant events of this country’s history occurred; America’s first man in space, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the passing of the Civil Rights Act, and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

The assassination of John F. Kennedy was a major shock to the nation. Seventeen days after the assassination, Kennedy’s widow, Jacqueline Kennedy compared the presidency of her late husband to Camelot, a metaphor for the positivity his time in office seemed to generate.[1] My father was only sixteen at the time, a sophomore at Bedford High School in his hometown of Bedford, Indiana. On the afternoon of Friday November 22, 1963, my father was in his history class, when his school’s principal came over the loudspeaker to announce the death of President Kennedy.[2]

sAlmost immediately after announcing the death of the President, cheering could be heard from the more conservative students and faculty. This angered the principal, who returned to the loudspeaker, and admonished the entire school. My father doesn’t quite remember the exact wording the principal used, but they were along the lines of “How dare you! That man was President of the United States and you should be mourning his loss!”[3] Those cheering were quickly silenced by the realization of the seriousness of the situation.

Despite being too young to vote in 1963, at the time, my father identified as a Republican, much like the rest of his family. However, my father was not among those who cheered the death of President Kennedy, rather, he was simply in shock of what had transpired. Additionally, unlike other Republicans in his hometown, my father had a favorable view of Kennedy. In fact, during the 1960 election, my father played a prank on his older brother, in which he put a Kennedy bumper sticker on his brother’s car. His older brother has always been a fairly conservative person politically. Upon seeing the bumper sticker on the back of his car, in my father’s own words, “he was pissed,” and made my father not only remove the sticker, but the adhesive residue it left behind.[4]

As with the rest of the country, the assassination of John F. Kennedy left a lasting impact on my father. Kennedy was succeeded by Lyndon B. Johnson, who would end up being one of my father’s least favorite presidents. Like the vast majority of his friends and family, my father supported civil rights and approved of President Johnson’s push of the Civil Rights Act. On the other hand, my Johnson’s same determination when it came to the Vietnam War soured my father’s views on him, as many of his friends fought in the war and did not return (my father was exempted due to a heart defect). My father also disliked Johnson’s Vice President, Hubert Humphry, causing him to begrudgingly vote for Richard Nixon in 1968, as he disliked Nixon slightly less prior to Watergate.[5]

tCaptureToday, my father is no longer a Republican, by the end of the 1960s, my father was left with bad taste in his mouth from conservativism in general, that he became a Democrat by the time he left Indiana to attend MIT. In hindsight, my father was never a conservative person, and the assassination of John F. Kennedy was his first step in realizing that.

[1] Brigance, Linda C. “For One Brief Shining Moment: Choosing to Remember Camelot.” Studies in Popular Culture 25, no. 3 (April 2003): 1-12. Accessed March 31, 2016.

[2] Shortridge, Thomas J. “Interview of My Father.” Interview by author. March 31, 2016.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

Jackie Kennedy Onassis: The Queen of Camelot by Deidre Rowe

The Kennedys may be America’s royal family, but the woman who lies behind myth is Jacqueline Kennedy.JKO

Jackie was born to John Vernou Bouvier III and Janet Norton Lee in July of 1929. She grew in a quite wealthy family due to her father’s career as a stockbroker. She spent a good amount of her childhood in Manhattan and the Hamptons on Long Island at her family’s estate. She later attended Vassar College for two years and spent her junior year in France. Upon coming back to the states, she transferred to George Washington University where she got a Bachelor’s degree in the Arts in French literature. She met her future husband, John Fritzgard Kennedy in May of 1952 at a dinner party.

Jackie was what peanut butter is to jelly to John. These two were the young wealthy family that were starting their married lives in the eye of the political public. But is she the Queen of Camelot? I think that the idea of her queen-like demeanor comes from her poise and elegance. In for “One Brief Shining Moment: Choosing to Remember Camelot,” written by Linda Czuba Brigance, Brigance describes how a Chicago Sun Times article stated that Jackie Onassis was “the closest thing we have to American royalty” (Brigance 6). This speaks to how Americans view royalty. As a young person born way after the Kennedy era in the sixties, I am still shock in how we as people still find Jackie O. to be so amazing. However, as much as I want to be against it, I just can not.

For me she embodies everything that a first lady should be. She was smart, thoughtful, and has a caring glow that surrounded her. On top of that all, she dressed to the nines. The Chanel suit will forever be the “Jackie O” suit. I also think that is why our current first lady sticks out in my mind as well. Michelle Obama is a well educated lady who had the need to “do something” during her time severing as our first lady; just like Jackie O.


Britannica Academic, s. v. “Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis,” accessed March 31, 2016,

Brigance, Linda Czuba. 2003. “For One Brief Shining Moment: Choosing to Remember Camelot”. Studies in Popular Culture 25 (3). Popular Culture Association in the South: 1–12.

John F. Kennedy and the Modern Media Myth by John Fahey

John F. Kennedy was the man on the forefront of what we see now as the modern presidential campaign.

Admittedly, I don’t know a whole lot about John F. Kennedy. I know his family was a big family of politicians, his religion was questioned when he was campaigning to become president, and he was tragically murdered during his term as president. When I think of JFK, what comes to my mind in the most prevalent manner is his status as a media icon, not an “American” icon.

jfkdebateIt’s easy to mention the famous presidential debate between him and Richard Nixon in 1960, which accompanies that legendary story that everyone hearing the debate on the radio thought Nixon won, while everyone seeing it on television thought Kennedy won. What I think we don’t do is consider that debate within the context of the time and what that thinking truly means. Kennedy was a master of crafting his image. Because television began to become a major component of life in general at the time, he knew that his life would be watched more closely than others, and instead of “acting normal,” Kennedy chose to play to that audience. This is done so commonly now, but it was revolutionary in its time. He used modern media strategically to reach out to audiences and appear more desirable to people nationwide. This gave him an edge and appeal that Nixon just didn’t have.

As someone who not only has an incredible amount of exposure to media, but also someone who wants to work in some sort of media in the future, Kennedy’s image is fascinating to me. He was all over the place. He wasn’t a presidential candidate, he was a celebrity running for president. His face was on merchandise, there was a film made about his fight for the primary against Hubert H. Humphrey, and Frank Sinatra jfksinatraeven changed the lyrics of one of his songs to be about him. His media conglomerate was massive in the budding days of the media itself.

“TV is an image medium,” writes broadcast historian J. Fred MacDonald on his website. “It thrives on pictures, attractive personalities, action, and lightness. It was no coincidence that early television popularized the flamboyance of wrestlers like Gorgeous George and the compelling movement of roller derby.” What’s interesting to me is that this same sentiment is true right now. Kennedy’s media image was so incredibly ahead of its time. Ronald Reagan ran twenty years after Kennedy did, and his television image during his campaign is less lauded than Kennedy’s is even though Reagan was an actor. That’s preposterous.

When Jackie Kennedy compared the family to Camelot, she was further playing on media and the public’s perception.  “The popular media and the general public seized upon Camelot to represent the Kennedy era, even though the values associated with the myth are incompatible with the reality of Kennedy’s life.” (Brigance 2). Even though those values may not be representative of the true feelings of the time, this was not said accidentally. She likely said this knowing full well the public would make the connection, that they would embrace this crafted image, an image created in the same way that John F. Kennedy create his own image in the media. Except after his death, Jackie Kennedy was doing it for the whole family.

Nowadays, media is a major part of presidential campaigns. It’s how every common person takes in news and information. Many people only see modern candidates only through television and computers. New forms of media, such as social media, allow for easier construction of narrative and image. However, it’s fascinating to me that Kennedy was able to do this in an era where that was unheard of, and would continue to be unheard of for a long while.

 Works Cited:

Brigance, Linda Czuba. “For One Brief Shining Moment: Choosing to Remember Camelot”. Studies in Popular Culture 25.3 (2003): 1–12. Web.

Macdonald, J. Fred. “Television and the Red Menace: The Video Road to Viet Nam.” John F. Kennedy and Television. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2016.

JFK and Camelot by Bryant Harris

ST-C209-1-62                                      4 July 1962 Address at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, 11:42AM Please credit "Cecil Stoughton. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston"
ST-C209-1-62 4 July 1962; Address at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, 11:42AM
Photo credit “Cecil Stoughton. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston”

John F. Kennedy is one of the most profiled figures in American history. The democratic president was in control of the country during some of the most stress-inducing periods in the history of the United States. Amid domestic issues such as tensions of racial injustice to foreign conflicts like threats of nuclear warfare from the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy’s presidency was certainly one for the ages. The youngest elected president (at age 43) had captured the charm of Americans with his distinct voice, savvy speeches and presentation of the beautiful first family. However, nearly three years after being sworn into office, JFK was assassinated in Dallas, Texas as he sat alongside his wife, Jacqueline, in his motorcade as they drove past Dealey Plaza. November 22, 1963 will forever be remembered as the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. In other words, that day would also be remembered as the day that the American people lost their “Camelot.”


Now, you’re probably wondering how a former president of the United States can be compared to the story of King Arthur and his dreams of a “utopian kingdom.” First of all, the story of Camelot was of King Arthur’s vision of ruling his kingdom free of violence and despair and relying on the virtues of equality and perfection to ensure better living qualities for the people of Camelot (Brigance 3).  Linda Brigance wrote in her article, For One Brief Shining Moment: Choosing to Remember Camelot, about the myth of the icon JFK and how it is perpetuated by those who remember him as much as what he did while he was alive. Following his assassination, the nation was in shock over losing not only a powerful figure but also a man who they believed was their saving grace for the future. Brigance states, “The Camelot myth and its identification with Old World notions of royal lineage had just the script Americans needed,” (Brigance 5). Basically, by focusing on the great things that made the people have faith in Kennedy and honoring him as if he were royalty, Americans’ fear in the wake of the assassination could slowly fade away. Brigance also mentions how subsequent members of the Kennedy family like Robert Kennedy and Edward Kennedy were seen as the heirs to the “throne” of JFK and to also further the legacy of Camelot (Brigance 6).

However, it mostly seems as though the adoption of Camelot with his association with the Kennedy family was more of a product of Americans suppressing the negativity of Kennedy’s assassination while living in a new kind of world after November 22, 1963. The story of Camelot is a nice way to immortalize and iconize John Kennedy. Amid the chaos of the remainder of the 1960s, America had changed. The people’s perspective had changed. Their only saving grace after JFK was assassinated was the memory of what he did.

Source: Brigance, Linda Czuba. “For One Brief Shining Moment: Choosing to Remember Camelot”. Studies in Popular Culture 25.3 (2003): 1–12. Web.

Body Image Barbie: Doing More Harm than Good? by Keira C. Wingert

It seems like the only times I hear about Barbie anymore are in conversations about her body.

We’ve all heard the statistics that claim that Barbie, if she were a real person, would be six feet tall, weigh 100 pounds, and have the hips of a prepubescent boy (Olson, par. 1). Often, people will use these statistics against the Barbie brand as a way of blaming the doll for the prevalence of unhealthy body consciousness among girls and young women. In fact, competitors have been introduced to the market to address this issue, such as the Lammily doll, a Barbie rival proportionate to the body of an average 19-year-old woman. When the concept for the doll was introduced in 2014, it garnered the attention of many adult women, who loved the idea of an average-looking doll whose accessories include acne, scars, and cellulite (yes, really!).barbieombre

In January of this year, perhaps as a response to the Lammily doll’s release and the subsequent backlash against the Barbie brand, Mattel released a new line of Barbies that made headlines and sparked a huge conversation among the doll’s fans amd critics alike. This new line of Barbies features dolls with petite, curvy, and tall bodies—a revolutionary move for a brand that has featured only one (inhuman) body type since its conception in 1959 (Pearson & Mullins, 230).

One might think that the introduction of this line of dolls would be the be-all and end-all of conversations over Barbie’s body, but in reality, it may do more harm than good. The new curvy Barbie doll doesn’t fit into the clothes of the petite, tall, and classic Barbie dolls, which begs the question:  when two little girls are playing with their dolls together, what will bring more awareness to the doll’s body type than the realization that a curvy Barbie doll cannot wear the same clothes as a petite one?


Perhaps by giving Barbie three new looks, we could be diminishing children’s self-confidence rather than boosting it. In constantly turning the conversation to Barbie’s body rather than the wealth of careers, friends, and achievements her character seems to have, we are, in turn, sending the message to young girls that a woman’s body is more important than her personality or accomplishments. According to unofficial Barbie “biographer” M.G. Lord, Barbie is a toy “designed by women for women to teach women what—for better or worse—is expected of them by society” (Lord, 8). (Interestingly enough, artist Nickolay Lamm, a man, created the Lammily doll). Barbie can be a doctor, an artist, a surfer, a teacher, a babysitter, and more, and yet all anyone seems to care about is how she looks. In only focusing on her body, we are making it clear to little girls what is expected of them by society.

This is not to say that representing body diversity is unimportant or harmful, but why should we needlessly make children more frustratingly aware of the differences between women’s bodies when they themselves are hardly aware of their own bodies? Barbie isn’t the one telling girls to focus on their bodies from a young age; we are. If we want that to change, we have to stop turning the conversation toward Barbie’s measurements and instead focus on how Barbie can inspire girls to strive for something other than aesthetic beauty.


Lord, M.G. Forever Barbie:  The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll. New York:  Morrow, 1994. Print.

Olsen, Samantha. “Why Are Barbie’s Body Measurements So Unrealistic? Little Girls Aren’t Buying It.” Medical Daily. IBT Media Inc., 31 Dec. 2014. 23 Mar. 2016.

Pearson, Marlys, and Paul R. Mullins. “Domesticating Barbie:  An Archaeology of Barbie Material Culture and Domestic Ideology.” International Journal of Historical Archaeology 3.4 (1999): p. 225-259. Web. 23 Mar. 2016.

Shriver, Lionel. “Sorry Lammily, Your Dumpy Looks Won’t Fool Many Little Girls.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 21 Nov. 2014. Web. 23 Mar. 2016.