The year 1947 has figured prominently in my media consumption lately. In the same week in late October:
- For research on a story, I picked up a book called Fort Chipewyan and the Shaping is Canadian History: We Like to Be Free in this Country, by 1947-born professor Patricia A. McCormack.
- A mail bomb was addressed to Hillary Clinton (neé Rodham, 1947).
- The New York Times published a feature entitled, “Bruno Latour, the Post-Truth Philosopher, Mounts a Defense of Science“. Latour was born in 1947.
I was reminded of this coincidence today by a tweet about LIFE magazine publishing the first professional photos of the Lascaux caves in an issue that came out in 1947.
- The transistor is invented.
- The International Monetary Fund opened shop.
- A UFO crashed in Roswell, New Mexico.
- The U.S. Marshall plan took effect.
Wikipedia has a more comprehensive and international list of 1947 events. A lot of these are connected to the end of the Second World War, including the publication of the cave paintings photos, since they resulted from the re-opening of LIFE’s Paris bureau. Indeed, McCormack, Clinton, and Latour were born during the Baby Boom, the surge of births attributed to reunited families after World War II.
But the war and its after-effects weren’t the only things happening in 1947. Such “highlight” lists are compiled years later, so events that are significant to us are more likely to be included than events that were significant at the time. I’m sure year-end reviews of things that happened locally in 1947 would include things that we wouldn’t recognize at all.
It would be like looking at those cave paintings. We recognize the animals in the drawings because we’ve seen their descendants, and we’ve read scientific accounts of how humans might have related to them, or why they drew them. But quotidian events are lost to us.
Of more modern events, we remember what affects people’s lives directly (like transistors) or indirectly (like the IMF), or that are included in history textbooks (like the Marshall Plan), or those popularized by pop culture (like the Roswell incident).
This is one of the reasons pop culture content is important. We might not all become inventors, or have sole responsibility for school curricula. However, we can make, consume, and/or promote works of pop culture.
For example, tonight’s episode of Doctor Who is about the Partition of India, which occurred in—you guessed it—1947. Vinay Patel, who wrote the episode, told Entertainment Weekly, “My greatest hope is that people see this episode and then break out their phone and start learning more about Partition, since we can’t tell the whole thing within a 50-minute episode of Doctor Who.”
I heard about the episode just as I was about to post this entry, which was intended to be a quick note to marvel at the weird recurrence of the year 1947 in my pop culture consumption. Little did I know that this post would be about pop culture, and on a night that will, I believe, be significant in Doctor Who‘s corner of the pop culture world, and perhaps, as Patel hopes, the wider world.
(Today is also Remembrance Day, which this year includes the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, which marked the end of the Great War, aka World War I. To commemorate the occasion, I’m publishing this post at 11 pm.)
ETA: The day after I posted this, it was announced that Stan Lee had died. The Marvel Comics writer and editor was famous for so many things, including his devotion to his wife, Joan. Stan and Joan married in 1947.