The reach of radio was enormous. Mass communication and entertainment could reach Americans within their own homes, and capitalized on by business advertisers, artists, and politicians. In the “O Brother” radio serves as a major plot driver. One politician character references its importance as a tool for “mass communicating.”
The Depression fueled bank robbery and criminals like Bonnie and Clyde, whose stories excited the public. Bank robber Lester Gillis, famously known as George “Baby Face” Nelson committed crimes back in the early 1930s. He was gunned down on November 28, 1934. He was known to be hot tempered over the “Baby Face” nickname.
Huey Long is the greatest example in American history, rising through radio and the desperation of people in the Great Depression. W. Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel also gained fame as a radio personality with his bluegrass band the Hillbilly Boys.
The KKK rally in the film is meant to be both sinister and absurd. The racist sentiments expressed by the red- robed wizard, who is actually the political gubernatorial candidate, are true to KKK doctrine. The sacredness of the Confederate flag and the lynching of an innocent black man (here Johnson) are also accurate to say of a KKK rally or meeting in 1937 Mississippi.
Overall, “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” is a flawed source to use for the past, however, the film goes far beyond what the filmmakers claim. The Coens’ film does a commendable job at creating an accurate setting and image of the diverse Great Depression society in the American South.
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