Alabama – Birmingham; Cities and towns in mass media; Nevada – Las Vegas; Public opinion; Stigma (Social psychology)


American Studies | Cultural History | History | Social History | United States History


Early in 1994 Time magazine proclaimed Las Vegas, Nevada “The New All American City,” a “city so freakishly democratic” that Americans just could not resist. Twenty-three years earlier, Look magazine had conferred the same title upon Birmingham, Alabama, stressing its progress in race relations. Such media castings of normality must have surprised the American public in both instances. By the time of each city’s designation as “All-American,” the public had long been subjected to stories of their seemingly abnormal internal actions and qualities. Both cities suffered from stigmatized identities in the wider American perception that were fully formed by the mid-1960s. Las Vegas symbolized the abnormalities of legalized gambling, sexual promiscuity, and organized crime. Mention of Birmingham evoked associations with the deviance of racial intolerance and violent resistance to progressive change. A survey of the two cities’ national media representation provides insight into key aspects of these images’ development and endurance from 1945 to 2000.