The Roaring Twenties
"Dudes in hats, machine guns, bullets, booze, and the kind of hot chicks you could still unironically refer to as broads..."
The time of bootleg, flappers, and jazz. And where coffee costs a dime.
The setting of many an Agatha Christie mystery, this is one era that absolutely lives up to the stereotypes and then some. The Great War was over, (most of) the Western world had never been so prosperous - time to par-tay!
Style is almost exclusively Art Deco moderne, all minimalist lines and coolly fluid shapes. (Side point- Art Deco's fascination with streamlining household objects whose actual wind resistance is irrelevant proved popular because levelling incomes led for the first time to a group of people who could afford good design but not household servants. It seems that a streamlined Art Deco lamp is easier to dust than a frilly Victorian one...)
Dresses are short and so is ladies' hair. (Bobbed hair had actually emerged earlier and was popularized during the earlier 20's, while hemlines gradually rose to knee-length by 1925. And despite those costumes you buy these days, above-the-knee hemlines were nonexistent at any time. And contrary to the costumes you buy, not all dresses were tasseled and figure-hugging. Dresses had a boxy and boyish silhouettes, had dropped waists and were minimally or highly decorated depending on the occasion.)
Characters include gangsters and G-men, flappers and their sheiks (sort of proto-Metrosexual young males), languid white movie idols and jolly black jazz singers and dancers, and lots of cheery collegiate types who wear huge fur coats and play ukuleles while shouting "23 skidoo!" The basic idea was to shock, amaze and amuse at all costs; there were apparently some women of the era who would greet their guests in the bath.
The fun and excitement is only heightened by the fact that much of it is totally illegal, at least in the USA. There Prohibition is in full swing, so gin is made in bathtubs, smuggled by the likes of Al Capone and served only in 'speakeasies', hole-in-the-wall bars highly prone to raids by stolid, humourless cops. Unless you're Eliot Ness or one of his Untouchables, be extra cautious to never insult a tough-looking Italian in a sharp suit, or you'll find yourself looking down the barrel of a Tommy Gun.
As for entertainment, silent films starring the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton gained enormous popularity, though the fact that they didn't have sound meant that movies still hadn't killed off Vaudeville or Minstrel Shows just yet. The advent of sound later in the decade finished the job, however. Radio progressed quickly through the last of its experimental phases and was firmly established as a mass-market medium by the end of the decade, while ultra-low-def mechanical television had brief success with early adopters (essentially beta-testing it) before The Great Depression and the advent of (relatively) high-definition all-electronic TV killed it off by the mid-30s.
During all this, of course, the relics of The Gay Nineties, now doughty dowagers and grumpy old Colonels, look on disapprovingly, from short skirts and hair, to make-up and swimming wear.
One should also note that while things were just swell in America, Britain and much of Western Europe (where it was dubbed The Golden Twenties across The Pond), if you were in an area hard hit by World War I (say, Germany, Italy, Russia, Turkey or the entire Caucasus Mountains region before the Soviets annexed it) this was not a fun time. However, it doesn't mean that they didn't try, once they were able to pull themselves together again. However, in Germany, there are rightwing paramilitary groups who have some very grand ambitions and there will be a few people who get a chilling feeling that one loudmouth Austrian with a toothbrush mustache is going to be very big trouble.
For example, Soviet Russia (called USSR since 1922), after a devastating civil war, experienced a short period of economic growth thanks to the NEP (new economic policy), a series of reforms that allowed free enterprise and private property. A new Soviet bourgeoisie was born, with a penchant for over-the-top parties and a slavish fascination with American fashion, music and dance. The Soviet Nouveau Riche (typically called a nepman) was a stock character in 20's Russian satire.
For the 1939 movie of the same name, click here.
This ain't baloney, this is Serious Beeswax, as most words and phrases originated from this decade, so here are some examples:
- "And How!" - I agree!
- "Attaboy!/Attagirl!" - well done, son/lad/lass/boy/girl/kid.
- "Baby" - sweetheart, also a respectable word.
- "Bearcat" - Tsundere
- "Beat it" or "23 skidoo" - get lost or GTFO!
- "Bee's knees" or "Cat's meow" - an extraordinarily splendid person, idea or thing.
- "Big cheese" - an important person.
- "Big six" - The Big Guy
- "Blind date" - dating a stranger
- "Bootleg", "hooch" or "giggle water" - alcoholic beverage
- "Bump off" - to kill
- "Crush" - infatuation
- "Dick" - no, not that dick, a private investigator
- "Doll" - sexy lady
- "Double cross" - backstabbing
- "Earful" - enough
- "Egg" - Big cheese living the big life.
- "A flapper" and her "Dapper" - 20s girl and her dad.
- "Fly boy" - aviator
- "For crying out loud!" - the period's Big OMG
- "Gold Digger" - woman who marries a man for his wealth.
- "Goofy" - in love.
- "Hard boiled" or "bimbo" - tough guy. Overlaps with big six.
- "It" - sex appeal
- "Kisser" - mouth
- "Middle aisle" - to marry
- "Pipe down" - shut up
- "Sap" - a fool
- "See a man about a dog" - an old excuse to where he's leaving without any apparent reason
- "Sheik" and "Sheba" - man and woman with sex appeal, respectively
- "Swell" - wonderful
- "Torpedo" - a hired gun.
- "What's eating you?" - What's wrong?
- "Whoopee!" - having a gay old time
- "You slay me" - that's funny.
Had an earful, sap? I have to see a man about a dog, so pipe down or I'll bump ya off.
- Art Deco in her full blossomed glory.
- Blackface: It was the 20's...
- Bob Haircut
- Cosmic Horror, if you're Lovecraft
- Dance Sensation / Happy Dance: In prosperous times like these, dances like The Shimmy and The Charleston would set the dance floor ablaze with sensational flappers cutting the rug. The former was banned as bootleg, yet praised as a good aerobic dance; the latter became the rage during the rest of the decade.
- Dangerously-Short Skirt: Despite being knee length due to a flourishing economy, they were scandalous, at the time, according to their Victorian parents.
- Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!
- Dieselpunk, just starting out with Fritz Lang's Metropolis
- The Flapper
- Genteel Interbellum Setting
- Jive Turkey
- The Little Black Dress: Which Chanel first designed during this period.
- Nice Hat: Fedoras, newsboy caps, straw hats and top hats for men; tight-fitting swanky cloche hats for women.
- Petite Pride: The "washboard" look of the flappers.
- Pimped-Out Dress: Perhaps the most prominent decade of the 20th century for this trope.
- Pretty in Mink: Dyeing furs different colors became popular.
- The end of the Silent Age of film and animation.
- She's Got Legs: For the first time since antiquity. Whether she had knee socks or none.
- The New Rock and Roll: Jazz is really the Trope Maker.
- Those Masculine Women and Feminine Men!
- Baccano! (technically 1930, but essentially the same.)
- Chrono Crusade
- Fushigi Yuugi Genbu Kaiden - The prequel to Fushigi Yuugi, featuring Takiko aka Genbu No Miko, who lived in this decade's Imperial Japan before being Trapped in Another World.
- Golden Days
- Sakura Gari
- Sakura Taisen
- Steel Angel Kurumi
- Taishou Yakyuu Musume
Comic Books[edit | hide]
- Dick Tracy
- The Untouchables
- Chicago (based on a 1926 play)
- Some Like It Hot
- Singin in The Rain
- Millers Crossing
- The Roaring Twenties
- The Public Enemy
- The St. Valentine's Day Massacre
- Robin and the 7 Hoods
- Metropolis was released in 1927 and features a futuristic dystopia version of the era.
- Charlie Chaplin movies such as The Kid
- Our Dancing Daughters
- Lucky Lady
- Thoroughly Modern Millie
- Don Bluth's Anastasia
- The Jazz Singer
- Splendor in the Grass
- Some of Midnight in Paris
- The Great Waldo Pepper
- Johnny Dangerously
- The Mummy
- Bullets Over Broadway
- Silent Movie
- The Artist
- The Cats Meow
Literature[edit | hide]
- Most of H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937)'s work not set in a Dream World.
- Several Jeeves and Wooster stories (1917-1966) by PG Wodehouse, and a decent number of his many other ones, too.
- The Sheik. First published in 1919, becoming a great hit in this period.
- Agatha Christie. The first published works by Christie appeared in this decade.
- Hercule Poirot. The novel series started in 1920.
- Bulldog Drummond. The novel series started in 1920.
- Tommy and Tuppence. The series started in 1922.
- Lord Peter Wimsey. The novel series started in 1923.
- The Most Dangerous Game. First published in January, 1924.
- Charlie Chan. This series of novels started in 1925.
- Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (the novel first published in 1925 and the musical later based on it, but not, however, the movie musical)
- The Great Gatsby (1925) is probably the best-known novel set in the 1920s. It features a number of classic elements of the era, including the Depression-era dust bowl, Jazz Age parties, and wealthy bootleggers. For that matter, much of F. Scott Fitzgerald oeuvre was produced in the 1920s and set there.
- The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926)
- Sannikov Land (1926)
- Some of Ernest Hemingway's work,
- Winnie the Pooh. Series started in 1926.
- Hardy Boys. Series started in June,1927.
- Miss Marple. First appeared in December, 1927. Starred in a number of short stories.
- Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928)
- The Twelve Chairs (1928) is a famous depictions of the Soviet 20's culture.
- Albert Campion. This series of novels started in 1929.
- Bony. This series of novels started in 1929.
- The Little Golden Calf (1931) is also set in this era.
- Tender Is the Night (1934) is set in France, but mostly portrays Americans of the era.
- Practically the entire published output of Edward Gorey (1925-2000).
- The Phryne Fisher mysteries (1989-) are set in 1928 and 1929, in Melbourne, Australia.
- The Full Matilda (2004) has events starting in this period. Matilda's main storyline starts here, and she continues to live this lifestyle until the day she dies.
- The Princess 99 (c. 2009) takes place in 1924, in New Orleans...but with wizards!
- Doctor Who, episodes "Black Orchid" and "The Unicorn and the Wasp".
- Poirot, the TV series; the books actually span a much longer period. (The Miss Marple series, meanwhile, is set in a different version of this trope - what might be called the suburban one. Middle-aged housewives sit around musing how hard it is to get good help since The War gave the rabble ideas.)
- Upstairs, Downstairs (seasons 3-5)
- Boardwalk Empire
- In the Charmed episode "Pardon My Past" Prue, Piper and Phoebe time-travel back to the Twenties.
Video Games[edit | hide]
- Rollercoaster Tycoon 2, in the 'Time Twisters' expansion pack provides a lot of iconic Roaring Twenties art deco architecture and memorabillia to create a park themed around it. (Literally an Expansion Pack Past?)
- Raidou Kuzunoha vs. the Soulless Army, set in year 20 of the Taisho era (think Taishou Yakyuu Musume).
- Ditto with the sequel, Raidou Kuzunoha VS King Abaddon.
- Shadow Hearts: From The New World is set in the mid-twenties, and one plot thread involves the Chicago mob war.
- Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble!.
- The Penny Arcade Adventures series
Web Comics[edit | hide]
- Lackadaisy Cats, whose only inaccuracy is that the world is populated by anthropomorphic felines. ** And the presence of a cathedral radio, and a few anachronistic cars (by one year). And, maybe, checkbooks.
- Chess Piece takes place at the near end of this decade. Of course, it being an alternate universe, some things are very, very different. Like ghosts inhabiting Antarctica, demons ruling Australia (no, really), and America being ruled by a kindly demonic-looking king.
- Problem Sleuth, save for the occasional Anachronism Stew.
- The Silent Age of Animation was still ongoing, until Steamboat Willie debuted.
- The Fleischer Studios produced its first hit series
- Debuting in 1919, Felix the Cat was arguably the first famous cartoon character.
- Felix in Hollywood(1923)
- The Krazy Kat comic strip received several animated adaptations (1920-1921, 1925-1929, 1929-1939).
- Walt Disney got his start in this decade with his company Disney. His first notable works were:
- Walter Lantz got his start in this decade.
- Dinky Doodle (1924-1926).
- Bosko the Talk Ink Kid by Harman and Ising and his film were both created in 1929. Though the character only got his public debut in 1930.
- The Princess and the Frog by Disney is set in 1926, with an prologue set in November, 1912.
- The Legend of Korra is set in the universe's version of this time period, and the soundtrack shows the influence, with Word of God describing it as "If Jazz was invented in China during the 20s."
- Colas Breugnon, 1919
- Zorro. First appeared in 1919. The original one-shot novel turned into a novel series in this era.
- Scaramouche. First appeared in 1921. The setting is The French Revolution.
- Solomon Kane. First appeared in August, 1928. The character was active in the late 16th century, and his story ends c. 1610.
- Kull. First appeared in August, 1929.