The Great Depression was a brutal financial recession that took place in the 1930’s throughout the world. The United States of America was greatly affected by this recession. The Stock Market crashed. Unemployment rose to 25-30%, especially in urban areas. There was little construction, international trade plummeted, and the farming industry was badly affected by falling prices. Throughout this period, many Americans sought diversion from their troubles. The troubled Americans’ new interests were reflected in popular culture, especially in film, literature, and other methods entertainment.
The film and radio industries were affected by the Great Depression. In film, comedies became the most popular because people sought relief from their problems. The Marx Brothers became very popular film stars. They regularly starred in productions involving get-rich-quick schemes and farces. During the Great Recession, radio shows also became very popular. In fact, this period is now commonly known as the Golden Age of Radio. Radio was free and provided diversion from the suffering of the general public. Because people had no money and sought refuge from their difficulties, they turned to film and radio in the 1930’s.
Literature during the Great Depression also demonstrated citizens’ change of focus due to their problems. There was “a desire to return to an earlier age of purity and simplicity. John Steinbeck’s 1939 novel, The Grapes of Wrath, glorified a simple, rural way of life. Jack Conroy’s The Disinherited, a 1933 chronicle of an average industrial worker’s life in the Depression Era, conveyed disillusionment and cynicism.” (Sparknotes) The themes and topics written about conveyed the ideals of the people of that time: simplicity and disillusionment.
Other methods of entertainment in popular culture were also affected by the Great Depression. People during this period now focused on thrift and simplicity. So, there was a huge demand for board games such as Monopoly, puzzles, and card games. In addition, baseball, the great American pastime, was affected. Rosters and salaries were cut, many minor leagues were terminated, and night games were introduced to try to increase sales of tickets. (Britannica) Because individuals had very little money, but had time on their hands, entertainment avenues were shifted during the Great Depression.
Radio, film, literature, and entertainment were affected by the Great Depression. The themes of the works reflected the desire for simplicity and ways to avoid problems. Comedies were popular in film. Free radio was focused upon. Literature themes focused on simplicity and desires for easier lives. Home entertainment such as board games was focused upon and the industry of baseball had to change their ways. Popular culture was greatly affected by the Great Depression.
- “Popular Culture and Literature During Depression.” SparkNotes. SparkNotes, n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2016.
- Romer, Christina D. “Great Depression – Popular Culture.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2016.