Cold War Fears in Popular Culture

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Following the end of World War II in 1945, the United States and the Soviet Union turned against each other in an ideological battle between capitalism and communism. This conflict between the two superpowers, which lasted from the late 1940s to 1991, was referred to as the Cold War. The threat of the spread of communism not only influenced U.S. military operations, but also day-to-day life in the United States. Fears that communist “sympathizers” and spies were infiltrating U.S. institutions and government gripped the public. In addition, anxiety grew among a public that was under the constant risk of a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union and faced heavy losses sustained in conflicts overseas like the Vietnam War. These fears and anxieties of the Cold War were explored in the popular culture of the period.

In this activity, students will examine cultural commentary and primary sources from film and comics to answer the central inquiry question, “What were some of the concerns Americans had during the early Cold War period, and how did these fears influence popular culture and daily life?

This activity is brought to you by ABC-CLIO’s Pop Culture Universe: Icons, Idols, Ideas database, your platform for teaching American history through the cultural lenses of literature, radio, television, film, fashion, sports, technology, and more! Click here to activate your free preview of this database and gain access to:

  • Curated resource libraries on each decade of American history from the 1900s to the present
  • More than 5,400 primary and secondary sources, including more than 2,800 photos and illustrations and more than 200 audio and video recordings
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  • Investigate activities including primary and secondary source materials to help students answer a central inquiry question

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