Containment Culture in “Meanwhile Back At Mama’s”

After the tragedy of September 11, 2001, Americans began to cope by reverting to Cold War rhetoric and ideals. These ideals were reintegrated into American culture, public policy, and popular media, and they are still visible today.

Tim McGraw’s “Meanwhile Back At Mama’s” is about seeking comfort and refuge from the world in a family home. In the song, McGraw describes a small town home with a nice lawn, a mother and a father, and dinner for everyone. Its message is that when the world around us seems out of control, a familiar, picturesque household with lots of space and a loving family is the perfect escape.

While this song wasn’t directly born out of the Cold War or 9/11 eras, I find that it speaks very accurately to the reemergence of family values during these times and captures the contented lifestyle that many Americans began to grasp for. People were not necessarily actively seeking to reinstitute traditional nuclear families and gender roles, but they were seeking something safe, stable, and familiar when everything they thought they knew was crumbling around them.

In my opinion, this song is quite beautiful and soothing; as I picture myself in this setting, I feel at peace. So, while the emphasis on family values did by default result in the exclusion of any deviance, it also provided the healing and comfortable space that Americans desperately needed in the face of threat (real or perceived) and disaster.

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One thought on “Containment Culture in “Meanwhile Back At Mama’s””

  1. Throughout the years, music has always been viewed as a political and revolutionary outlet. During the Cold War era, many artists utilized the power of song to criticize US actions. From The Beatles to Prince, artists expressed the fear of the masses, the unethical policies of the US, and many people’s disapproval of both the Cold War and its proxy wars.

    I found this analysis of Tim McCraw’s song to fall on the opposite side of the spectrum. McCraw reasserted many Cold War ideologies and used his song to indirectly support people taking refuge in their homes, an ideal present during unrest within our nation. As a musician, McCraw was provided with a platform in which he could expose negative aspects of our culture to a large mass. Instead, he chose to obey community values in order to prevent public criticism and to avoid a potential negative impact on his career. The fear of losing one’s artistic prestige as a result of being “too political” parallels people obeying to cultural ideals during the Cold War in order to prevent being ostracized and labeled as a deviant. Furthermore, this conformity allows the artist to feel safe and secure, similar to the role of the home in the Cold War and post-9/11.

    Overall, the similarities between the Cold War and music business reveal the large impact containment culture and conformity have had on American society as whole. While musicians such as The Beatles and Prince represent the use of music as a form of protest, Tim McCraw displays the ability for artists to further emphasize a nation’s ideology.

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