1968 brought the beginning of the television show "The Wonder Years". It began it's story in 1968, when Kevin Arnold and his best friend Paul Pfeiffer are entering Robert F. Kennedy Junior High School. Many U.S. historic events occur in 1968 which dramatically shaped Kevin's young life. At this same time in 1968, Kevin was going through a huge stage in growing up. He was entering his adolescent years...and going through puberty. The songs mentioned are those played throughout each episode, those that were popular, meaningful, and also influential at the time. The things that Kevin experiences in this first year are something we all go through, he provides us with a template of a typical boy, a typical American boy in the late sixties.
1. Kevin enters Jr. High and meets Winnie. Winnie provides the role of Kevin's first love, and consequently, his first kiss. Who can not relate to such a momentous event? At this very time, the Vietnam War is in full swing. The Viet Cong launch the Tet Offensive and begin to attack South Vietnamese cities and American troop numbers are dramatically increased as there are major calls for reserves to duty. The effect hits close to home as Kevin learns that Winnie's older brother, Brian, is killed in action. United States history has made its first real mark on Kevin's life.
Song: "Turn, Turn, Turn" by The Byrds.
2. Kevin's typical pubescent misadventures unfold in episode 2. Sex education is begun in school. Yearning for more, Paul and Kevin steal the book "Everything you always wanted to know about sex but were afraid to ask". Winnie's brother's death is still an important issue, as Kevin is faced with the task of handling feelings of both love for Winnie and sorrow for the death of her brother. Two dramatic issues are brought upon him.
Song: "For What It's Worth" by Buffalo Springfield
3. In this episode, Kevin realizes that he knows little of what his father does at work. All he hears is his father complaining about it each night at the dinner table. In light of this, Kevin follows his dad around work for a day. He sees the boss and the secretary. He begins to notice the authority that his dad has at home because he is male and the bread winner of the family. The issue of manliness and sexuality in American society are touched upon.
Song: "Blackbird" by The Beatles
4. In episode 4, Kevin's sister, Karen, has turned into a hippie. She brings over a new boyfriend, Louis, to dinner. Louis speaks of politics and reveals that he is a vegetarian. Before long, he is speaking of his stance on the Vietnam War and arguing with Jack, Kevin's father. Louis disrespects Jack by speaking lowly of the Korean War, which Jack served in. It is significant to note that at this time, students and hippies across the nation are protesting the war and even taking over buildings at universities such as Columbia. Kevin observes the generation gap between his sister and his parents created by the war. Their ideas and values differ greatly upon what and who America is and what and who an American should be.
Song: "Blowing in the Wind" by Joan Baez
5. As Apollo 8 is launched in late December, 1968. Kevin watches the launch in class, again showing the influence history has on him. He simultaneously struggles with the pressure to call a flirtatious girl in class. It is interesting to note how Kevin as a young boy finds the courage to call the girl more stressful than the courage to venture into space! Ah, the demands placed upon a young American boy by girls!
Song: "I'm a Believer" by The Monkees
6. In this episode Kevin is faced with the pressures of choosing between girls to with to the school dance. All of us go through these traumas. In the end, he ends up dancing with his true love, Winnie.
Song: "Magic Carpet Ride" by Steppenwolf
7. Kevin desperately wants to fit in with his classmates in this episode. In order to get into the "in crowd", he begins to hang around with a trouble-maker to look cool. Winnie does the same thing and it causes them nothing but havoc. Wanting to be popular is something all adolescents face.
Song: "Riders on the Storm" by The Doors
8. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot on April 4, 1968. In episode 8, Kevin is inspired with emotion by reading his "I Have A Dream" speech and decides to go out for the school play. Kevin performs as Robert Kennedy and Paul plays J. Edgar Hoover. Many important people are touched upon in this episode and it is also shown that they have touched Kevin's life.
Song: "Just my Imagination" by The Temptations
9. In episode 9, the concepts of capitalism and more importantly consumerism in America are touched upon. Kevin's whole family wants a color television set for Christmas, but Jack says that they just don't have the money to buy it. Kevin's middle class background reflects upon a large majority of the nation.
Song: "White Christmas" by Bing Crosby
These are the episodes that detailed 1968 in Kevin's life. Many more historical events shaped his "life" than were mentioned in the show, however. For those who did grow up during that time, (which Kevin symbolizes), important events included the Gun Control Act, black uprisings ensuing the MLK Jr. assassination, the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty was signed, Nixon was elected President of the United States, and also the previous mentioned events of the Vietnam War, the space program, and the protests on college campuses. These events bring out social, political, and economic issues and values (such as racial tensions, capitalism, consumerism, and gender inequalities and tensions at the time) that depict what the typical American was at that time. Indeed, The Wonder Years serves as this template.