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Popular Culture, Propaganda, & WWII

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HST 3103 American in Crisis: 1929-1945

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Popular Culture, Propaganda, & WWII

  1. 1. Popular Culture & WWII HST 3103 America in Crisis: 1929-1945 Kara Heitz
  2. 2. WWII Overview • Global war • 1939-1945 (US from Dec. 1941) • Most widespread & deadliest conflict in human history • 60 million killed • 420,000 Americans killed • The “Good War”
  3. 3. Total War • All of a nation’s resources mobilized for war effort • Importance of the Homefront • Mobilizing labor, production, and populations • Propaganda • Propaganda & mass culture “Wartime propaganda attempts to make people adjust to abnormal conditions, and adapt their priorities and moral standards to accommodate the needs of war. To achieve this, propagandists have often represented warfare using conventional visual codes already established in mass culture. Thus, recruitment posters have often been designed to look like advertisements or movie posters. Propaganda films have used the formulae of westerns and crime dramas, Film starts, singers, sports personalities, and cartoon characters have been enlisted to propagate the official message of the war effort.” - Toby Clark, Art and Propaganda (1997)
  4. 4. Propaganda & Democracy? “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society.” - Edward Bernays, "Propaganda" (1928)
  5. 5. U.S. Government WWII Posters
  6. 6. U.S. WWII Propaganda & Popular Culture • WWII as visual and cinematic war • FDR, popular culture, & the war effort • Office of War Information (OWI) • Bureau of Motion Pictures "The easiest way to inject a propaganda idea into most people’s minds is to let it go through the medium of an entertainment picture when they do not realize that they are being propagandized.“ - OWI director Elmer Davis
  7. 7. Disney Studios & WWII
  8. 8. Comics during the 1930s
  9. 9. Propaganda in WWII American Comics
  10. 10. “Three Americans” Life Magazine, Sept. 20 1943 • Three American GIs lie dead on Buna Beach (New Guinea) • Photographer George Strock • Image taken Dec. 31, 1941 • First photograph to depict dead American soldiers on the battlefield published during WWII

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