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Prelude to Fallout, Part 2 – TNP003

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Last episode we talked about the political situation in Post-WW2 China, the USSR, and the United States. However, much of the pop-culture from that era also shaped the Fallout universe. After the detonation of the Trinity bomb in 1945 ushered the world into the Atomic Age. Depending on who you ask, we’re still in the Atomic Age today, but others say that it ended in 1991 with the fall of the USSR. In any case, US culture went pretty much all in on the Atom, where it permeated toys, movies, TV, and comics, among other things.

Toys

Given that there’s a board game in Fallout 4 called Blast Radius, I thought it only fitting that we talk about toys from the early Atomic age, and since Blast Radius breaks down into nuclear material and wood, it can be safely assumed that there are radioactive parts to the game. In that spirit, there were some actual, real world kids’ toys that featured actual radioactive components.

The Library of Science put out a sort of do it yourself Geiger counter kit that literally contained both low grade and high-grade uranium ore. The kit even boasts “precision experiments” that would teach kids about ionization, cosmic rays, x-rays, radioisotopes, and how to detect, you guessed it, uranium…but don’t worry folks…the box also says that the kit is simple, safe, and requires no soldering!

You could also get radioactive toys in your cereal. In 1947, Kix introduced the Lone Ranger “Atomic Bomb Ring”. It was basically a small spinthariscope, which is a device that allows the user to see nuclear disintegrations. It did contain a small amount of Polonium-210. Polonium-210 is about 250, 000 times more toxic than hydrogen cyanide. But, you know, since the half-life of Polonium-210 is 138 days, you’re probably safe to buy one of these babies on eBay.

In 1950, inventor of the erector set, Alfred Gilbert, came out with what can only be called one of the most dangerous toys ever produced. It was called the Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Laboratory. It came with a Geiger counter, an electroscope, which is a device used to measure the ionization of air by radioactivity, a spinthariscope, and a Wilson Cloud chamber particle detector, as well as 4 jars that contained some form of uranium.

Another product made by Gilbert was his own brand of Geiger counter. While it also contained some form of radioactive material, what makes this product funny was one of the labels on the box. Basically, it said that the US Government would pay any one…really any kid, who happened to find a “substantial deposit of Uranium ore” would be given $10k.

Movies/TV

Invented in 1927 by Philo Farnsworth, for which the Professor on Futurama is named, TV was more a slow burn. However, at the end of WWII it exploded in popularity going from 3 million sets sold in 1950 to 55 million in 1960 and 530 stations nationwide. This new medium was a new frontier for expression as before then the only visual media was read, as in books, or looked at, as in art. While on the political field it made waves the ones we will be focusing on is the pop culture tsunami the TV unleashed. Very quickly three genres emerged to dominate the medium.

There was the sitcom (I Love Lucy, Leave it to Beaver, The Honeymooners) which established the Nuclear Family. This was the Dad and Mom with three kids solving the problem of the week and having everything come back to normal at the end. This sitcom frame would not be broken for almost 30 years, until the Simpsons premiered in the 1980’s. This Nuclear Family concept is most clearly shown in the Tranquility Lane simulation in Vault 112 and shown in Andale, both in Fallout 3.

There also was the Western (Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Have Gun – Will Travel) that defined the ‘Man’s Man’ for a generation. It was shows like those that made Chuck Norris and John Wayne household names.

Then, there was the Late Night Show (The Texaco Star Theater, the Ed Sullivan Show, The Jack Benny Show) that defined how entertainment was broadcast, as those shows really pushed boundaries. We also got the ubiquitous ads from this time. First broadcast on July 1st, 1941 on a baseball game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies it was a short ad for Bulova Watch Co. However for the longest time TV’s were a luxury and not worth the cost to advertise. However, that all changed in the 50’s.

Comics

Comics during WWII were super patriotic and had super patriotic superheros, a la Captain America punching Hitler in the face. This is shown in the Unstoppables from Fallout 4. However after the War comics took a more…muted tone somewhat. Superheros fell out of fashion and detective comics rose to fill the void. This is demonstrated in the Silver Shroud Comics in Fallout 4 and Nick Valentine, also from Fallout 4, who is the living archetype for 50’s comic detectives.

Many superhero comics were either canceled outright, like The Flash, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman or switched to more detective focused stories, like Plastic Man. Westerns also came into fashion with some titles, like All Star Comics which most notably features The Justice Society of America, was changed to All Star Western. Horror also came into fashion weirdly with Marvel Mystery Comics. There were also a few educational comics like Dagwood Splits the Atom where the character of Dagwood, from the newspaper comic strip Blondie learns about atom bombs and radiation and such. There were also a few humor comics, the most successful of which was EC Comic’s MAD series which is still going on.

However comics also took a hit during this time when in 1953 Congress took aim at comics as a cause for juvenile delinquency. Building off accusations made in Fredric Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent in 1954, EC Comics’s CEO was put on trial in Congress to answer charges of assisting in juvenile delinquency among others. In the end the Comics industry, looking to appease the government and public, put down the Comics Code Authority, an attempt at self censorship by the industry. EC Comics itself dropped everything but MAD, which was its main cash cow for much of the publishers history. There also was a spate of comic burnings in cities across the country, much like the book burnings of 1930’s Germany, but with less anti-Semitic undertones…maybe.

Bobby’s Survival Tip of the Week

How to Spot a Communist: If you see an individual reading a Communist newspaper, such as the Daily Worker, People’s World, or People’s Daily, they might be a Communist.

Links We Talked About

Listener Mail

  • “Hey guys just listening to your first show, so far really enjoying it 🙂 I’ve been waiting for a fallout specific podcast for ages so I’m super pleased you guys are doing one 🙂 I run a fallout-inspired comedy radio show that you can download as a mod into fallout 4. Feel free to check it out. Really enjoying the show, you have a new subscriber!”