This week’s trippy installment of Hitting the Books with CBS’s Ghosts has us revisit the 1960s with Flower.
[What is Hitting the Books with CBS’s Ghosts? To find out, click here and check out our previous installment on Alberta.]
Played by Sheila Carrasco, Flower (whose real name is Susan Montero) is a 1960s hippie who died after she tried to hug a bear…drugs were involved.
Given that the character died in 1969, Flower really embodies the complexities of the decade. Visually presented as a flower child, she admitted to having been part of cults and communes. She also didn’t shave her body hair and the character is seen to still have armpit hair. This might seem like a frivolous detail, hair and body hair have been hotly debated elements of various feminist movements. Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow wrote about this topic in 2019 in a piece about contemporary feminists no longer removing armpit hair.
As Tuhus-Dubrow wrote, “this phenomenon harks back to the second wave movement of the 1960s and 1970s, when feminists began to challenge restrictive beauty standards. At a famous march outside the 1968 Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, protesters ceremoniously discarded their bras and stiletto heels; many feminists of that era also ditched their razors and tweezers.”
A season two episode, “Alberta’s Podcast,” featured a subplot in which Flower helps Hetty explore her sexuality. This fits with Flower’s character because she was alive as the Sexual Revolution began to deeply change American culture. A significant reason for this is that in 1960 the FDA approved of a combined oral contraceptive pill; this medication would soon become known as “the pill” because it gave women the power to control their reproduction. A variety of texts explore the impact of the pill, but one of the best books on this topic is Elaine Tyler May’s America and The Pill: A History of Promise, Peril, and Liberation.
Alongside her sex positive attitude, Flower is clearly shaped by the popularity of drugs in the 1960s. And if you want to understand the politics and cultural attitudes of drugs in this decades, the best place to start is to understand the life of Timothy Leary, the man known for the phrase “turn on, tune in, drop out.” One of my favorite books about Leary is The Most Dangerous Man in America: Timothy Leary, Richard Nixon and the Hunt for the Fugitive King of LSD.
For a broader sense of the culture that shaped Flower, I’d recommend the following two books; Robert C. Cottrell’s Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Rise of America’s 1960s Counterculture and Dr. Christopher Strain’s The Long Sixties: America, 1955 – 1973. Both books do an excellent job of exploring the complicated threads that formed the tapestry of the 1960s.
For more information about Ghosts, check out its homepage and follow it on Twitter @GhostsCBS.
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 Various episodes have helped viewers understand just how layered of a character Flower is. One episode that I particularly enjoyed was “Ghostwriter,” which used her love of basketball to realize an ongoing aspect of sexism that frames women as not real fans of athletics.