27.9.11

RECOGNIZING WHAT WAS LOST.

Some reviews of "Pan Am" notice that the Consciousness Revolution and what came after wasn't all for the better.

Start at After Ellen.
Pan Am is making a very different point about the mid-1960s: this show openly celebrates that era's sense of optimism and promise, and the supremacy of the United States of America. That sense of optimism permeates the show, from the smiles of the flight attendants and their spotless white gloves, to the show's bright lighting and bouncy music.

Obviously, not every American felt such optimism and promise in the 1960s, but it's hard to deny that the country as a whole didn't feel it. After all, this was a nation that was literally shooting for the moon. And this series definitely shows the sense that massive social changes are afoot in society, mostly for the better.

In other words, Pan Am revels in just how different the world of this show is from our current Age of Complete and Total Pessimism, when it feels like everything is getting worse or coming apart. The amount of legroom on the planes is the least of it. Indeed, what you see on Pan Am is far more shocking than anything you'll see on the supposedly more prurient The Playboy Club.
Your perception of that "mostly for the better" might vary. The New York Worlds Fair, just a few years later, just about when the rot began to set in, offered the promise of picture-phones. And the jets got bigger, and faster at first, but more fuel-efficient later. And yet, for all that plentitude, Complete and Total Pessimism sounds about right.

A Los Angeles Times reviewer concurs.
The glamour in "Pan Am" may indeed be manufactured — doubly manufactured, given the re-created places and planes — but it's not empty: The show says, yes, this is as good as it looks, and it looks very good — though anyone who has flown anywhere in the last, oh, 30 years, may find it difficult to believe, or to remember, that air travel ever was this gracious, customer-friendly or fun. (We are assured, by network communiques, and a little extra research, that it was.)
Sure, a cartelized industry (in which the transatlantic carriers once had to call an emergency meeting to define what constituted a sandwich served in coach, lest the Scandinavian carriers grab market share with Dagwood sandwiches) is going be one in which competition on the merits of the service rather than on price, thus precluding the operation of crowded flying tenements.  But the evolution of an air passenger personality more suited to the tenement than to the executive suite cannot be laid off entirely on price deregulation.

The real pessimism is in the New York Times.
“Pan Am” doesn’t say much of anything about the current state of the nation except that our best days are behind us.
Doesn't have to be.  But one has to recognize that something has gone wrong in order to work at correcting it.

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