Thesis

The Evolution of American Nuclear Pop Culture

Evolution of Nuclear Power in American Pop Culture

The purpose of this research is to bring an understanding of how nuclear tourism was and is perceived by the American population and has been incorporated into popular culture. This research chronicles how Americans feared nuclear, then embraced it, and then feared it again from the atomic age through today. Prior research about the atomic age tends to focus on the effects of the atom bomb and the devastation it could render. This project approaches atomic energy from a different angle and analyzes how Americans embraced it for entertainment through Hollywood films, the media, as well as toys and candy. Yet public opinion changed when Americans learned of the negative effects that gamma rays and radiation could have on the population, especially on the “downwinders,” people directly downwind of the testing sites, who were becoming increasingly ill from radiation type illnesses that could no longer be denied. The atomic age brought to light the possibility of total annihilation. This fatalistic realization occurred at the same time as government officials were touting the benefits of nuclear. In order to encourage nuclear as an energy source, the United States had to embrace the development and testing of the bomb to ensure Americans’ safety. Over time and after many rounds of testing, Americans were swayed by the government’s propaganda. Ultimately, Americans had to teach their children about the possibility of a nuclear war and how to protect themselves by doing such things as building bomb shelters. All of these efforts reinforced the public fear of nuclear energy. As Americans became more aware of the biased information their government had pushed on them, they became equally aware of the length the government would go in order to reach certain goals and agendas. During this period, nuclear energy became commonplace in American culture, values, and principles. Nuclear power became an accepted part of American life.

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