So, when I started to read the assigned reading for this week, I was extremely confused. Didn’t I just read that somewhere else before?

To understand my confusion you should know that I also take a CMCL class on Cold War Cinema. And right before I read the first two chapters of Janice Irvine’s Disorders of Desire: Sexuality and Gender in Modern American Sexology I did my reading for that class, namely the chapters Explosive Issues: Sex, Women, and the Bomb and Baby Boom and the Birth Control: The Reproductive Consensus from Elaine Tyler May’s book Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era. As it turns out, the reading dealt with almost the same topics just with a slight different focus: the suburban American nuclear family, the most important American icon of the Cold War period in the 50s and early 60s.

 A very interesting, at the same time disturbing concept is the notion of “Momism”, which Irvine only touches on in chapter two Science, Medicine and a Market, but which is in my opinion a notion worth taking a closer look. “Momism” offers a good insight in America’s mindset at that time.

During WWII women entered the workforce. Their work was very much needed in order to keep the war industry and thus the War running. Regardless of this necessity, women’s primary task was still to be a well-functioning homemaker raising America’s future. Being a good mother meant being a good patriot. This, of course, was a lot of responsibility. In the eyes of many, this responsibility could not be met when working outside the home.

Philip Wylie addressed this concern in 1942 with his book Generation of Vipers. The book was re-released after the War and became a best-selling book, since it fed into hysteria and Red Scare controlling the US public opinion and worldview around that time anyways. “Momism” described Mothers who due to their frustration of any kind were over affectionate and over protective suffocating their children with their love. The result was, above all, weak and passive sons – something no American prospective trooper should embody under any circumstances. Wylie argued that then “Momism” would lead to a weak and vulnerable nation.

Blaming Mom did not stop there; they were also responsible for their sons’ sexual pervert behavior. The strong bond with their domineering Moms, which was forced on the innocent boys, would make them incapable to have relationships with other women. In the mindset of the 50s and early 60s, bachelorhood or homosexuality would make them more vulnerable to Communist ideas and subversion.

Looking at the greater picture – no nuclear family, no strong nation.

A very convincing realization of “Momism” in popular culture is to be seen in the movie The Manchurian Candidate (1962). Angela Lansbury portrays a picture book “Mom”. In the setting of the Korean War, Lansbury’s character, a Soviet subversive, uses her son, whom she had ordered to be brainwashed by Soviet scientists, to install her husband as the new US President in order to achieve ultimate Soviet power over the USA.  Throughout the movie, the audience realizes that she had always dominated her son to meet her goals. I will not give away any more details, though the movie does not only grasp the hysteria around “Momism” and Red Scare perfectly well but is also a very fascinating movie with a very intense plot.

So, if you find the time, go and watch it, and you will know what brings this country down – “Moms”.

– franziska krause