A year of change
In 1972 Vietnam was still going on and things at home were also erupting. President Nixon approved a 6 year $5.5 billion program to develop the space shuttle. Alabama Governor George Wallace was shot at and wounded during a presidential primary campaign appearance. Nixon made the first American Presidential visit to the Soviet Union. Police apprehended five men in attempted bugging of Democratic National Campaign offices in Watergate building. Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment, but only thirty-five of the needed thirty-eight states approved it. All of these events affected Kevin, his family and his friends. The Wonder Years tries to show how these events intertwined with the events of the life of a sixteen-year-old.
In episode 79, Kevin must deal with the realization that different people have different income levels. His best friend Paul's family comes in to a large sum of money. They then join the country club, send Paul to a prep school and buy new things. The entire Arnold family has a hard time dealing with their friends' good fortune. The Pfeiffers end up losing their money and the families reconcile. Kevin and Paul resume their friendship. Kevin learns about class divisions and what happens when people take money too far.
In episode 80, Kevin starts Driver's Education. He is a good driver, except for the fact that he cannot parallel park. Kevin then lies to everyone about getting his license, when he did not. His father gives him the keys to the family car and later that night; Kevin takes the car out of the driveway and runs over the lawn mower. Kevin's Dad teaches him how to parallel park and he eventually gets his license, and grounded for a month. Kevin, in this episode, goes through the experiences of learning how to drive and dealing with the responsibilities of being a driver.
Episode 83 tells that that most of the people suppress any idea about war. It shows pictures from Vietnam. Kevin's brother Wayne needs to re-take his SATs to get in to college. Kevin also faces the future when his guidance counselor asks him about his college plans. He thinks only about "cars, girls, sports and girls". Wayne drops out of school and tries to join the army, but fails the fitness test. His best friend, Wart does join the army and leaves fir Vietnam. Kevin, in this episode, has to start thinking about his future and sees his brother making the choices he will have to make in the next few years.
In episode 84, Kevin finds a new girlfriend, but his "prehistoric friends" get jealous when Kevin and his girlfriend spend too much time together. Kevin eats dinner at his girlfriend Julie's house and meets her wonderful, super-dominated father. He does not want to end up like this man, tied down by a woman and breaks up with Julie. Kevin learns about friends and relationships in this episode. He realizes that he should hang out with his friends while he has time and not be tied down, like he sees his girlfriend's father.
In episode 86, Kevin becomes a friend to the high school basketball star, Bobby Riddell. Kevin's dad is very stressed out at work and to relax him, Kevin invites him to the big game. Kevin's dad predicts that Bobby will not keep up during the second half and afterwards Bobby is unfriendly to Kevin. Kevin discovers that real heroes are hard to find. He realizes that his hard working father is much more of a hero than a high school jock.
The lunchroom, in episode 87, is the official social capital of Kevin's high school world. You can figure out who is popular and who is not. Some of the "bad kids" ask Kevin to skip class and see a movie, "The Devil and Mrs. Jones". The kids got caught and had to serve detention. The cafeteria is an important part of high school social life. Kevin makes decisions in this episode regarding school and social life. Making the decision to do something bad comes with punishment. It is an important lesson for Kevin to learn.
In episode 88, Kevin takes part in a ritual that all kids go through. He and his friends want to go see a "sex move", "Carnal Knowledge". Paul reminds them that they are not old enough to see this movie, but the boys decide to sneak in any way. Kevin's mother asks her husband to go to "a movie" with the boys and Kevin talks him in to watching a John Wayne movie on television. Paul stays home with his new girlfriend and the boys go to the movie and get thrown out. Paul tries to talk to Kevin about his new relationship and Kevin decides that Paul does not need him anymore and is a traitor. The new girlfriend leaves town and Kevin and Paul make up, deciding that the girl was too mature for Paul anyway. Seeing a "dirty" movie is yet another rite of passage for teenagers. Also, Kevin gets in to an argument with his best friend because of a girl. These two events are things that kids always go through and learn from.
Episode 89 tells us the familiar story of parents leaving town for the weekend and things getting out of hand. Kevin's four friends come over for a card game and the boys invite everyone that they know to Kevin's house. Kevin ends up throwing a huge party and suprisingly Wayne takes the blame for the next day's damage. Kevin washes Wayne's car in return. Kevin's relationship with his brother is a typical one: his older brother beats him up but also saves him. Kevin in return does a favor for him. He also learns about responsibility when his parents leave him alone.
Episode 92 has everyone working. Wayne works at his father's plant, Winnie waitresses and Kevin gets a job delivering for a Chinese restaurant where Paul works. All of the kids learn to be responsible and learn from their jobs.
Episode 99 has older Kevin realizing that when he was 16, in 1972 he had found true love. The boys at school boast about their sexual experiences, but Winnie holds back with Kevin because she does not want to lose control. Kevin invites Winnie over to study for the SATs while his parents are gone. He has ulterior motives, of course. They fall asleep watching a movie and the next day at school Kevin tells all of the guys that Winnie stayed the night, and that they should know what that means. Winnie finds out and breaks up with him. His dad tells him to go apologize, but she won't hear it. Breaking up is a reality in teenage life. Kevin, by lying to his friends, trying to brag, loses Winnie.
Episode 102 is when all of the kids take their SATs. Everyone is nervous. Winnie is very concerned with Kevin's future. Kevin dreams about the SATs like a game show. He can pick door 1, 2, or 3. He gets twenty years at Norcom, where his father works, life as a donkey or life with the girl of his dreams and riches. Kevin, in this episode needs to face the future. This is something that all teenagers must face. Taking tests for college entrance, seeing the options he has for the future, and learning that things will not always go the way he plans.
In episode 82, Kevin has a new English teacher that is right out of college. She is young, anti-authoritarian, African-American and enjoys her job. She allows her students to grade themselves and introduces them to books that are not certified by the school board. The administration hates her and she is removed from her position. Kevin is upset, but does not know whether to blame the system or Miss Shaw because she has not fought the battle. Kevin experiences "the system" directly for the first time in his life. This is one of the few times that he has been affected by the actions of other with such severity. It is a turning point for him, because he becomes vulnerable to the real world.
In episode 91, Kevin's hippie sister Karen prepares for her wedding to fellow hippie Michael. Her mother wants a traditional wedding, but Karen eventually gets what she wants; an outdoor Hindu wedding. This shows how in the early '70s parents and children had disagreements about the way things should be. The fact that Karen went on her own, but her parents still enjoyed the wedding shows how people deal with the different attitudes and lifestyles that their children have.
In episode 94, Kevin fells that he has run out of time. It is fall and although he has a car and a girlfriend, something should be happening soon. Kevin is still delivering Chinese food, and his car embarrasses Winnie, with Chong's Chinese painted on the side. He pressures her to go further sexually, and she refuses. Wayne's friend Wart comes home from Vietnam and although he is admired by Wayne and his father, Wart has gone crazy.
In episode 98, Kevin and Winnie join the McGovern campaign. Winnie joins because of Mike Detweiller. Kevin believes that there is another race going on, the race for Winnie's heart. McGovern loses and mike tells Winnie that it is just politics and not to worry because McGovern never had a chance anyway. Winnie's enthusiasm for politics cools downs and she finds comfort with Kevin. This episode has many events that pertain to the narrative The Wonder Years is trying to tell. Winnie and Kevin having problems deciding how far is far enough for them sexually. The kids get involved with politics and find out that it is not what they thought it would be. Specific to 1972 is Kevin's experience with Wart returning from Vietnam. Wart has changed, and although the men are very proud of him, he does not see the world in the same way.
1972 was a year of change. Kevin relived these changes in front of a television audiance. Why would people from all generations watch this? Obviously, some people want to relive their childhood. But why would millions of teenagers, children and young adults choose to watch The Wonder Years? Because Kevin is the universal teenager.
this page written and designed by Katy Pearce