I live in a first-ring suburb of Minneapolis in a house that was built in 1949. In postwar America, my neighborhood was the pinnacle of American normalcy, where people retreated from the madness of the war years into adorable 900-square foot boxes. Women were pressured to abandon their wartime jobs, crank out babies, and make lovely concoctions out of lemon Jell-O and Veg-All. (All of this, of course, was dependent on whiteness.) And no, not everybody subscribed to this notion that conformity was synonymous with patriotism, but many did.
These days, we tend to look at the little houses and shake our heads at the conformity. But have things really changed? You might think so—until you warm up your television and flip the channel (so to speak) to HGTV and House Hunters.
If you’ve never seen House Hunters, the premise is simple. There’s a couple, or a single person, or a family. They want to buy a house. A realtor comes by and shows them three houses in their budget. The pros and cons of the house are weighed, and a decision is made. They buy their house. They are thrilled with their house. Buyer’s remorse does not happen on House Hunters, ever. They are always thrilled with their house.
Occasionally, House Hunters features people who are looking for something a little different, although the “different” people kind of fall into tropes, like the prototypical artsy couple who wants to fix up a 1920s Craftsman. What’s stunning to me, though, is how rare this is. By far, the majority of house hunters essentially want the same house.