Get Out of My Room! takes a serious look at an otherwise largely overlooked phenomena, one we now essentially take for granted.
The concept of the American teenager as being a separate, recognizable demographic from a social, cultural and economic standpoint is generally perceived as a mid-20th century construct, rising out of the post-WWII baby boom years. Given the post-war economic prosperity experienced within the several decades immediately following V-E and V-J Days, it’s not surprising that this quickly inflating segment of the population became something of a major focal point in our culture, as well as an all new consumer demographic thanks to an increase in disposable incomes. By the 1960s, the generation soon to be known as the “Baby Boomers” would make up a vast segment of the population and, as such, more and more thought and research went into the adolescent mind, its development and proper forms of childrearing.
But as Jason Reid illustrates in Get Out of My Room!: A History of Teen Bedrooms in America, the modern idea of the teenager was a long time in developing. Tracing the phenomenon back some 200-plus years, Reid explores the 19th century rise in social wellbeing that led to separate bedrooms, a previously unheard of idea. This concept allowed those entering their formative teenage years a sense of ownership, individuality and a certain level of personal freedom, all seen as essential in the maturation process by experts in the growing field of child development. Using diary fragments and other firsthand accounts from the period, Reid begins his narrative here and moves forward through the years, showing how the more things change, the more they essentially remain the same.
Because of this approach, however, Get Out of My Room! tends to get a bit lost in the minutiae of historical accounts tangentially linked the book’s central thesis. While generally working to support the basic idea, Reid’s research often finds itself getting a bit lost in the weeds, spending more time on the early psychological ideas of how best to raise children in the face of the looming specter of so-called “self-love” and other assorted tangents. While it helps better contextualize the reasoning behind the wariness of individual bedrooms and the gradual societal shift that brought the idea to normalcy, it tends to bog down the pacing. To be sure, Get Out of My Room! is designed for an academic audience, one in which such minutiae is essential to the overall understanding.
As he moves forward in time, however, Reid manages a more compelling narrative as he begins investigating the host of new concerns that arose with that of the teenage bedroom. From mental illness to premarital sex to suicide to drug use to analyses of loners like those behind the Columbine massacre, the teenage bedroom was, is and will continue to be a subject of great debate in terms of just how much freedom should be afforded teenagers in need of their own space. Approaching it from a sociological as well as economic standpoint, Reid explores the intersection of the two and how marketing to this new demographic helped further cement the cultural norm of the teenage bedroom. From iconic posters to stereo systems to the music, movies and pop culture consumed therein, little is left untouched with regard to the evolution of the idea of the teenager’s bedroom. Thoroughly and exhaustively researched and reasoned, Get Out of My Room! takes a serious look at an otherwise largely overlooked phenomena, one we now essentially take for granted.