Mark Thornton on Gatsby’s Greatness and Prohibition

Email Print

There is at least one topic on which Hollywood is reliably libertarian: The Drug War. Thus, films about the Prohibition Era being made today usually involve plenty of subtext about the evils wrought by prohibition, both in the past, and today, in the form of the Drug War. Hollywood’s verdict: Prohibition is bad.

Mark Thornton, Prohibition Expert Extraordinaire, writes on the new Gatsby movie:

The whole plot is intimately tied to the prohibition of alcohol accomplished by the18th Amendment to the Constitution. In particular, many aspects of the plot are driven by the black market that developed in the 1920s.

If this is indeed the case, then new The Great Gatsby, which I have not seen, carries on the nice evolution of Prohibition Era films toward portrayals of alcohol prohibition as little more than a pox on American society.

Last year’s Lawless, a Prohibition film directed by John Hillcoat, made law enforcement officers look like either boobs or snarling, effete murderers.

We’ve come along way since films likeThe FBI Story which were basically pro-government propaganda films. Paul Cantor, by the way, covers the topic of the FBI Film as cultural phenomena in his book Gilligan Unbound. And don’t miss Cantor’s new book, The Invisible Hand in Popular Culture, either.

8:50 am on May 15, 2013