“The Americans,” America’s Obsession with Cold War Stories

Over the summer, I became fascinated with a show on FX called The Americans (2013-). The show is loosely based of various accounts of KGB spy programs in the 1980’s. The main characters of the show are a young Russian couple that has completely shed their Russian identity in order to blend in with American society. The couple, named Phillip and Elizabeth, has mastered the appearance of an “American” identity. They have two teenage kids who love going to the mall and watching TV, they live in a medium sized house in the suburbs, and they work a decently paying job at a travel agency. Their ability to balance the appearance of a classic American lifestyle with their real jobs as spies for the Soviet government amplifies how so many aspects of American identity during the Cold War were superficial and surface level.

The show offers an interesting perspective on American culture during the Cold War because it is observed through the eyes of two characters that believe the Soviet way of life is superior. Throughout the show, Phillip and Elizabeth are able to maintain their Soviet beliefs, despite the fact that they are frequently tempted by the freedoms Americans have. Additionally, the show demonstrates how many Americans were also influenced by communist ideals of destroying classes and equality. While the rhetoric surrounding the idea of containing and preserving American culture was often teeming with propaganda and fear mongering, The Americans does a wonderful job in emphasizing how many of those fears had merit.

The Americans premiered alongside many other television shows that all focused on some aspect of Cold War society and containment ideology. Post 9/11 America has a fascination with the culture of the Cold War and continues to relive and revive the fear-driven mindset through popular media. Part of the reason I believe that modern American is so fascinated with all aspects of Cold War America is because we can see the same ideologies of “us vs. them” persisting in our society today.

Image: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/78/The_Americans_logo.png


One thought on ““The Americans,” America’s Obsession with Cold War Stories”

  1. Hi Allie! I love what you said here! I like how you described the specific ways in which the couple takes on an “American” identity, symbolized by the home, a place of security and safety, but also discussed that this identity is mostly an outward, surface-level one. I also appreciate the different approach that you took when you discussed how the show demonstrates that many of the fears relating to containment actually had merit. Great work!!


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