The years 1973 and 1974 mark the conclusion of "The Wonder Years."
Kevin's young life in his hometown comes to a close in these final
episodes marking a radical change in his life. Several episodes in these
last two years reflect major changes in American culture as well as the
life of this youngster growing up in Suburbia.
One important episode that relates to a change in American
culture is episode 112, one of the last episodes in this series of 115.
In this episode "The Wonder Years" brings the women's movement to Kevin's hometown and family. Mrs. Arnold, his mother, gets a full time job as a financial supervisor of a software company making $225 dollars a week.
Kevin gets his SAT score to find that he received a 1240, much better than expected. However, his girlfriend, Winnie, received a score of 1482 (how that's possible, I don't know). Both Kevin and his father feel threatened by this female social mobility. Kevin's father feels that his wife
belongs in the home, and Kevin feels that he should have done better than
his girlfriend on the SAT. In the end, they challenge the women to a game
of bowling for all the marbles. The men win and male supremacy is
restored. In an historical context, this episode represents the changing
role of women in American culture at that time. It shows that women can
be intellectually superior to men and that women can play a part in the
work force. These are two of the founding principles of the women's
movement of that time.
Perhaps the most important episode of the series is the last one.
In this series finale, Kevin tells what happened to him and his friends
after they go to college and he reflects back on his youth. The final
narration is very touching and can relate to anyone who grew up in America at that time or in any other time. "Growing up happens in a heartbeat. One day you're in diapers; the next day you're gone. But the memories of childhood stay with you for the long haul. I remember a place . . . a town. . . a house like a lot of other houses. . . A yard like a lot of
other yards. . . On a street like a lot of other streets. And the thing
is. . . After all these years, I still look back. . . with WONDER" Episode
(115). This quote really struck me and shows how many in American culture feel when they reflect back on their youth.
In the end, Kevin graduates and goes to college, Winnie goes to
Paris, Paul goes to Harvard, Kevin's mom becomes a business woman (women's movement again), and Wayne takes over his dad's furniture business 2 years later when his dad dies. All these changes in Kevin's life can also be seen in American history and culture of that time. At this point in time, several things happen marking a change in our society. Cease-fire in Vietnam marks the end of a dark time in American history. The war in Vietnam hits home for Kevin in the first episode when Winnie's brother
dies in the war. Obviously, cease-fire makes everyone happy in Kevin's
hometown as well as throughout the country.
Another important historical event that effected America and marks a change in Kevin's life is the Watergate hearings. President Nixon's forced resignation shows something that no one ever thought was possible in American society and comes at the time when Kevin leaves for college. Leaving home marks something that Kevin never thought would ever happen but inevitably does. This radical change in Kevin's life is marked in history by the Watergate hearings and Nixon's resignation. It's also marked in musical history by the release of Pink Floyd's groundbreaking album, "The Dark Side of the Moon."
Kevin's young life represents the life of an "average" American
boy growing up in the suburbs. Kevin brings out several important ideas
about what it means to be an American youth. He presents the idea of an
American youngster as one who rebels against his family and can hold his
own in the last episode when he runs away from home (it's only one
episode, but it's the episode before he goes to college). Several times
he gives the idea of an American youth as one who sticks by his friends
and family in times of trouble. Most importantly, however, is something
that he shows in every episode of the series. He presents the idea of an
American as one who revels in his youth and looks back in "Wonder,"
wishing he could go back and live it all over again. This is one thing
that I, as well as many others in American culture, feel as I look back on
my youth in my hometown. "The Wonder Years" is a classic show that
represents the life and times of American youth in middle class society.
Some other interesting historical facts from 1973 and 1974:
'73 Elvis sues Priscilla for divorce
'73 The Exorcist, American Graffiti, and M*A*S*H grace the entertainment
'74 Ali KO's Foreman to regain his heavyweight boxing title
'74 Blazing Saddles, Godfather, Part II, and Murder on the Orient Express
make a killing at the box office
'74 Barbara Streisand's "The Way We Were" is the #1 song on Billboard