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Sunday, November 24, 2019

The Suburban Homeowner

The suburban homeowner is rarely looked upon kindly. They are normally portrayed as conservative, snooty, and narrow-minded. As a huge percentage of any population aspire to living in the suburbs, this stereotypical image seems unfair.

A Symbol of Aspiration

In the West in the last century, especially for the aspirational working classes, having a home in the suburbs was a status symbol as much as a home. Inner city ghettoes in the 20th Century either crushed people, or provoked many to try and get out of them.

The suburban homeowner in the United States is traditionally seen as someone who is happy with their lot. They are often portrayed in movies as reaching a certain level in life, and then feeling no motivation to push themselves further.

The role of the suburban homeowner is, though, a symbol of aspiration. Suburbia is portrayed as an idyllic place where the only thing to concern the suburban homeowner is to try and attain the perfect lawn. Not true, of course, as no one gets through life without bad things happening.

The Perfect Family

Cheesy TV commercials of the 1950s and 1960s would portray the bliss of the American Dream. The perfect family trying out the local kitchen appliance or electrical goods would nearly always be a suburban one. The family would always seem to be squeaky clean, and the viewer could be forgiven for thinking that they had never done anything wrong in their whole life.

Whether the suburban homeowner began to believe the TV commercials and consider themselves superior to city dwellers, town dwellers, or people from rural areas is open to question. The TV commercials didn't do the suburbanites any favors, as they soon became perceived as rather shallow members of society, who were obsessed with status symbols.

There is a good and bad aspect to the perceived role of families living in the suburbs. Because of how untroubled a suburbanite's life appears to be, living in the suburbs seems inviting. But, becoming like a suburbanite is not.

A Sense of Community

Despite their perceived faults, the suburban homeowner is recognized as being a good neighbour. Another positive effect of living in the suburbs is that there is a feeling of community, and a certain amount of healthy competition. If everyone in the street has an immaculate garden, then there is pressure on all the individuals in the street to keep their standards up. Thus, anyone moving into a suburban street will be instantly aware of one major way of being accepted.