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TV History: One Step Beyond

by Christine Becker

This clip was uploaded for an assignment in Prof. Christine Becker's FTT 30461: History of Television class at the University of Notre Dame in Spring 2017. Check the commentary dropdown menu for a student's analysis of the clip.

Social Issues Of "One Step Beyond"

by Micah Dew-Treadway

Televisions social relevance in the 1950’s
In the 1950’s television was growing quickly. Many of the people not only in the
suburbs, but also in the inner city felt that television was right for them. One by one new TV’s would be brought into house’s on each floor of city apartment buildings and in front of safe and sound suburban homes. Also in the 1950’s we saw a whole generation of African American s
discriminated against in so many different ways. On those same exact TV’s we saw the civil rights movement and many other radical social protest leading to change. In my clip of the 1st season and 22nd episode of “One Step beyond: The Riddle” the writers aim to question the social
state of America utilizing three key elements of social dominance, racial tensions, and social hierarchy which in effect allows them to tackle rarely touched on social topics of the 1950’s. As we look at the clip the first thing that stands out is the social dominance of the
American man on the train. The writers use him right away to portray what I believe to be a typical american in that time period. Nagging about the temperture, the American man dominates
the scene portraying himself as the most powerful character while shutting out the presence of his wife. This alludes to the understanding of the role of women in the 1950’s. It also establishes
the wife as a weaker character. Social dominance is continued throughout the entire clip. I believe that the power that the American man has over the Native directly correlates with Americans need to feel empowered and in control of all situations. Not only does this scene show us the arrogance and the impatience of Americans in the 1950’s it addresses key moral
issues in the country. The writers of “One Step Beyond” chose to confront the issue of how to deal with people of color and racial tensions in America. As the Native man steps into the car on the train the America goes into an anger frenzy and it is because this man of color who he is not familiar with has entered into his seemingly comfortable space. This speaks to the racial and prejudice views of many Americans in this time. With the pressures of civil rights and human rights looming in the country the writers of “One Step Beyond” had challenged the social norms, making people have to think about the role they play in making america a better place. It also is significant because dealing with such issues can often be controversial on television, so the writers took a huge chance, not only risking their careers, but also tackling a social issues as big as race. Their is a huge theme of social hierarchy in the clip as well. Starting off with the wife and husband, the clip shows us how the husband never takes his wife’s thoughts, ideas, or concerns into consideration. He seems to nag and ignore her throughout the entire clip. This shows the viewers exactly how gender roles in the 1950’s played out whether it be in the homes, or in the workplace women always came second. We are given a sense of white superiority when dealing with the American and the Native who stumbles into the cargo ship because the American tries to use his anger to “discipline” the native. One of the most important examples of social hierarchy in the clip is that of the white American male and the conductor. As the conductor apologizes for the wrong doing of the Confused native, he not only gives in the anger of the arrogant, and hostile American he also paints a picture of his fellow country men as ignorant. His apology for the native is one that is geared to show how stupid the native can act. In this very moment the writers create a problem because they attack the issue at head, but they also make a mistake by using the conductor to make the native seem ignorant. In conclusion “One Step Beyond: The Riddle” has proven to be a clip that not only allows us to understand how TV dealt with many social issues, but it shows us how those social issues were reflected into society. It teaches us that these many prejudices and preconceived notions have a negative effect on our environment and can cause a stain to be put on our society. So this analysis is not for my own health it is to show the direct correlation between the way we deal with issues on TV and in life.

"The Riddle," One Step Beyond

This clip is the first half of an episode of One Step Beyond entitled "The Riddle," which first aired on June 16, 1959, on ABC.

from One Step Beyond (1953)
Creator: John Newland
Posted by Christine Becker