So, it finally happened: we have reached the year 2020! We are officially in a new decade. The 20’s! Am I the only one who finds it odd that we are in an era called the 20’s? It does not seem right to call this new decade such a name. I had spent most of 2019 informing people about the fact we were all re-entering the 20’s. However, for most people they didn’t seem to think there was any significance to these words. Nevertheless, I spent the end of 2019 in an erratic state worried about the oncoming era.
When I hear the term the 20’s, I instantly think of an era of flapper girls and speakeasy bars. I absolutely love this era. However, this was the same period of time in which we had prohibition, global depression and the second world war. With such a colorful history it’s no wonder, there are some wonderful works of fiction set in this time. One that springs to many people’s minds is The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, which encompasses the era so well. Of course, there are many fabulous books set in this fantastic time in history. One of my favourite books from this time is, Twenty Thousand Streets Under The Sky by Patrick Hamilton, though admittedly, this is because it is all set in London.
I have a strange affinity to the roaring 1920’s. I love reading books set in this era and watching old black and white movies from that time. There is a romanticized image in my mind of the time in which youth rebelled. Everyone went crazy. In fact, the French call the era “les années folles” (crazy years). One can only imagine the absurdity of hearing the Charleston and dancing into the morning. The era encompasses a spirit of youthful fun that so many of us take for granted today.
I once attended a fabulous immersive theatre performance of The Great Gatsby in London, where you could drink cocktails and dance away as the story unveiled before your eyes. I would highly recommend attending a performance, especially ones that take place in New York City.
It was also a monumental era in which women were granted the equal right to vote. Equally it was a time in which woman began to re-invent themselves. As a result new styles of clothing came about and dresses became shorter, whilst short bobbed haircuts were officially in. As Mille says in Thoroughly Modern Millie:
Men say it’s criminal what women’ll do, What they’re forgetting is, this is 1922… Goodbye, good, goody girl, I’m changing and how, So beat the drums, ’cause here comes, Thoroughly modern Millie now!
Aside from the genius lyrics and stunning performance of Julie Andrews this song manages to capture the essence of the era.
It was not only a time of social change, for there were many technological advances, which can indicate how quickly everything evolves in a mere decade. The 20’s welcomed in talking movies, radio shows which became popular in households, there was the discovery of penicillin and the tallest building of its time, the Chrysler Building. If I look at the insane progress of technology since my birth, it makes my head hurt. I cannot even fathom where the 2020’s will lead us.
However, the thing that stands out for me is the wonderful imagination that came from this era. Creativity seemed to prosper during the 20’s; the musicians introduced jazz into the world, Walt Disney introduced the first ever animated movie with sound in Steamboat Willie, and musicals dazzled the silver screen.
My enthusiasm for this era led me to actually complete my first novel. It was my first ever completed project; a science fiction story set during the 1920’s. Despite the fact the novel has remained locked away, due to its many literary mistakes, the book was a milestone in my creative work. I learned so much from the process that enabled me to improve my craft. I have also learned that setting a book in the past is a real headache and requires constant research. Perhaps it is the remnants of research, that remains in my mind, that lead me to write this blog post.
However, as I foremotioned the 1920’s holds a dark side to history, echoing in the great depression and the Second World War. I also doubt being a gay man was acceptable in any major city in the western world. Sometimes there are current affairs that seem far to reflective of the pre-war build up of the 1920’s. In these dark moments of time I try to count the blessings of the past 90 years. Humans have evolved so much farther then anyone can predict. Creation of substitute meat to make ‘the impossible burger ‘ show an interest to reduce meat consumption. More equal rights for men and women regardless of race and religion. A wider access to knowledge and opinion. A thirst to make things better for the planet can always be found from some corner of the earth.
Now that we have entered the 2020’s I wonder what advances lay ahead for the future. In my lifetime alone I have witnessed the rapid progression of the internet and mobile phones. Yet, I sadly feel a decrease in the creativity from the past decade. This is particularly applicable to Hollywood movies who have relied on a bombardment of remakes, revivals and sequel after sequel. I am hoping to see a surge of a new ideas in the new 20’s that can give a the 1920’s a run for its money. If history is anything to go by these new bouts of creative genius lie with new undiscovered talent.
I hope the youthful spirit of the roaring 1920’s remains in all of us moving into the 2020’s, and that we do not forget all the wonderful things this decade brought us. Nevertheless, I will tread with intrepidation. (Side note what was the past decade called the 10’s?)