HUMA 1780 Lecture Notes - Lightning

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Published on 9 Aug 2012
School
York University
Department
Humanities
Course
HUMA 1780
Lecture201
SchoolofArtsandLetters
AtkinsonFacultyofLiberalandProfessionalStudies
Summer2009
AK/HUMA17806.0AStoriesinDiverseMedia
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TheWizardofOz:TheFilm
TheSocioCulturalClimate,192040
ThefilmTheWizardofOzcameoutin1939,justastheSecondWorldWarwas
beginningandtheGreatDepression,whichreallyhitAmericahard,wasnearingitsend.
Thiswasatimewhenthingsseemedprettybleak,notonlyinAmericabutalso
throughoutmostoftheworld.Tenyearsearlier,in1929,theAmericanstockmarket
hadcrashedandplungedtheUnitedStates,andthosemanycountriesthatwere
dependentonthem,intoawidespreadeconomicdepression.Thedecadeleadingupto
thiscrash—theroaring1920sastheywerecalled—werecharacterizedbyoptimism,
progress,andprosperity,initiallystimulatedbythetechnologicalandeconomic
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Lecture202
developmentsthataroseoutoftheFirstWorldWareffort.SeeLectureSummary,Slide
2.
Buttherewerereasonsfortheimpendingstockmarketcrashattheendofthe
1920s.AfterWWImanycountriesturnedtotheUnitedStatesforloansandsupport,but
theAmericaneconomysustainedmanyofthesecountriesinanartificialmanner.Asthe
decadecontinued,theeconomywasaffectedbyapostwardepressionasdemobilized
soldierscamebacktotheirjobsandintojobmarketsthatwereshrinkingbecauseofthe
endofwartimedemand.Aspricesbegantodeclinebecauseofoverproduction,
economiesinEurope,LatinAmerica,Africa,andAsiaalsobegantosuffer.Theendresult
waswidespreadinflation,whicheventuallyproducedthestockmarketcrashin1929
andthedecadeknownasthe“dirtythirties.”In1929therewere1.5millionAmericans
whowerejobless;butjust4yearslaterin193313millionwerejobless.Ironically,it
wouldtakeanotherworldwartojumpstarttheeconomyagain.
Yet,atthesametime,technologicaladvancesthatwedependontoday,suchas
thetractorandthetelephone,werealsoinventedorintegratedintothefabricofdaily
lifeduringtheinterwarperiod.Consumerluxuriessuchaswristwatches,automobiles,
andwashingmachinesbecamemoreandmorecommon.Sufficeittosay,rapidand
extremechangecharacterizethetimebetweenthetwoWorldWars.
Moreover,inMidwesternAmericabetween1929and1932Americanfarmers
(likeAuntieEmandUncleHenry)foughtfortheirsurvivalagainstbotheconomicand
naturaldisasters.Plummetingpricesfortheirgoodsandaseverelackofrainmeantthat
wheatpricessankby50%andrawcottonfellbytwothirds.Hundredsoffamilieslost
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Lecture203
theirfarmsbecausetheydidn’thavethemoneytopaytheirmortgages,repayother
loans,orpaytheirtaxes.Alsodevastatingwastheseriesofduststormsthathitthe
GreatPlainsfrom1932throughto1940.Cloudsofdirthigherthan8000feetwouldroll
inandwereaccompaniedbythunder,lightning,andextremelypowerfulwinds,very
similarindeedtothecyclonethathitsthefarminTheWizardofOz.
OneofthewaysoutofthisDepression,manybelieved,wasthroughwhatwas
consideredanewfrontier,theworldoftechnologyandinnovation.Epitomizedbythe
“WorldofTomorrow”exhibitattheNewYorkWorld’sFairin193940,Americawas
poisedbytheendofthe30storecreateitself.Over25millionpeoplevisitedtheWorld
Fair’sexhibits.Oneofthemostfamousdisplayswasatimecapsulethatwasnottobe
openeduntiltheyear6939.ItincludedsuchiconicAmericanproductsasakewpiedoll,
Lifemagazine,andCamelcigarettes.Theveryfirsttelevisionanditsaccompanying
commercialswereplacedondisplayatthisFair;littledidtheyknowhowwidespread
theuseofthesedeviceswouldbecome.
Ineffect,theFairintroducedafuturethatwasprosperousandhappyprecisely
becauseofnewtechnological(and,byimplication,commercial)advances.Interestingly,
thedesignoftheWorld’sFairisreminiscentofthefuturisticEmeraldCityinthefilm
versionofTheWizardofOz.(SeetheCocaColaadvertisement,LectureSummary,Slide
3).Thefuturisticcitydepictedinthefilm,andutilizedintheadvertisements,issymbolic
oftheera’stechnologicalutopianism.Asonecriticputsit,America’sfaithintechnology
wasmeanttoliftthenationfromthedirerealitiesoftheDepressionintoimagined
realmsofwonderandplenty.Thus,themagazineDailyVarietypraisedFleming’sfilmfor
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