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American Popular Culture in the Period of the Great Depression

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The Great Depression was an era of deep social changes in the United States. The continuous factors that affected everyone were reminded daily in the streets and fields of America. With a high unemployment, pay cuts, no savings, no new investments that lasted ten years. This social situation created a need of escape from the realities of life. A psychological effect of pure escapism, led Americans to look for ways to forget.

Popular culture provided that escape to Americans. The arts concentrated in providing values to Americans about community, unity, and welfare. Hollywood movies provided a great deal of pure escapism, giving Americans hope of better times coming ahead. The unity of family values and community was placed in movies, a famous one was “The Grapes of Wrath” a movie made by John Ford, based in the book written by Steinbeck. It is a history about the adventures of an Oklahoman family moving to California in search for better times.

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Other movies concentrated in the fight against greed. A greed that was most represented by banks and corporations, the ones responsible for the Great Depression. A famous director that was able to capture the sentiment of the suffering Americans was Frank Capra. He created movies that reflected heroes that fought against corruption and corporate greed. Frank Capra most famous movies were “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, an elected politician goes to Washington to fight corruption, and “It’s a Wonderful Life”, a movie that shows the value of community strength by presenting the history of a man that loses everything, only to be helped by his community.

In the music industry, Americans enjoyed songs that provided a remembrance of the good times of America’s economy, famous songs such as “We’re in the Money”, and “Happy Days are Here Again” written by Al Dubin and Henry Warren, popular songs of the Great Depression, that provided an escape to Americans. The responsibilities of having a kid during the Great Depression let to the decrease in births and marriages. Americans began to show interest into protected sex which led to the increasing of contraceptive use. This shift was also presented in Hollywood, famous actress Mae West provided relief to Americans, and showed a new era of sexual independence. Also, Radio became a great tool for popular culture and escapism, by providing entertainment to the masses. Sports became more and more popular providing a sense of pride and belonging to the American society.

Popular culture provided that sense of escapism to depressed Americans. Americans were turned to entertainment to forget about the realities of the Great Depression.

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