You can always take the pulse of a time by studying its second-rate arts—its western and crime movies, radio and TV shows, its true love magazines, its comic books. They are all close approximations of the fantasy life of the lowest common denominator . . . . To know the true temper of a nation’s people, turn not to its sociologists; turn to its junk. —Jules Feiffer, 1966
Gerald R. Fordzie
Merging disparate symbols into a single image, this 1976 poster linked the Depression-era 1932 campaign song of Franklin Roosevelt (1882–1945) and the 1950s-era Happy Days sitcom character “Fonzie”—a juvenile delinquent more endearing than threatening—to President Gerald Ford (1913–2006), then campaigning for a second term. The poster used camp to suggest that Ford brought “Happy Days” back to America after Watergate and Vietnam, during a time when nostalgia for more innocent times helped make the sitcom television’s top-rated show.
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Right before an Oval Office broadcast announcing that TWA hostages held in Lebanon for seventeen days had been released, President Ronald Reagan (1911–2004) joked with technicians, “Boy, after seeing Rambo last night, I know what to do next time this happens.” The comment, picked up by an open microphone, circulated widely in the press. Photomontage satirist Alfred Gescheidt (b. 1926), creator of a popular “Queen Nancy” postcard of Nancy Reagan (b. 1921) wearing a crown and ermine cape, produced this poster shortly after the president made his remark.
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“To Bring Home the Quality of Violence”
After Bonnie and Clyde opened in August 1967, controversy raged in the media over its visceral scenes of violence. Director Arthur Penn (1922–2010) later related the film’s explicit brutality to the Vietnam War. “In 1967, the quality of our long-distance violence was affecting everybody and especially the youth of the country,” he stated. “It seemed to me that it was responsible to bring home the quality of violence.” Superimposing President Johnson (1908–1973) and his wife onto a publicity still from the film, this poster satirically associated them with that violence and the film’s gangsterism.
President Lyndon Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson (1912–2007) superimposed onto publicity still from Bonnie and Clyde, with Michael J. Pollard (b. 1939), ca. 1968. Poster. Yanker Poster Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (155.02.00) [Digital ID # yan-1a38772]
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