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Has Great Depression Chic Jumped the Shark?

Recent economic hardships have made the Great Depression something of a cultural hot topic. Is that making the economy worse?

It’s hard to believe that in a world where the average person can watch a movie on their handheld phone, so many people would be referencing the Great Depression, but that dismal time is seeing something of a pop culture renaissance.

Perhaps the most enduring portrayal of the period, John Steinbeck’s the Grapes of Wrath, has seen constant reinventions over the years. And now, in the most ambitious retelling of the classic dustbowl tale, the University of Houston’s Moores Opera Center recently premiered an opera based on the Steinbeck classic, complete with original score. Meanwhile, Our Town, the 1938 Thornton Wilder’s classic play that reminded Americans of their pre-Depression resilience, has suddenly become a hot theatrical property. February saw off-Broadway productions of the play in New York and Chicago and the end of April will see a production in California starring David Schwimmer.

High school curriculums, which have always included the Great Depression, have amped up their study with students suddenly growing increasingly curious about the era. Following that lead, Nova Southeastern University in Florida is hosting Soul of the People, a series of Depression-themed exhibits, performances, and lectures running through the month and part of May.

Perhaps most important is the sudden appreciation for the people that actually lived through the Great Depression. While every senior citizen who lived through the period has auspiciously been approached by every news outlet within earshot, the New York Times has launched an impressive compilation of these Americans’ stories. Entitled the New Hard Times, the site features the stories of countless seniors while also including reader submissions. One scan of these stories and most Americans should realize that they’ve come back from worse.


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