1930s Depression-Era: Dance Marathons Essay

2455 Words Aug 9th, 2013 10 Pages
Depression-Era Entertainment: The Dance Marathon
Kamarie Fernandes With the recent development of reality television providing the viewer-ship of contests across the globe, people are able to watch others suffer intense physical and mental games in order to be considered the best, the smartest, the strongest, the most talented, and so forth, in order to win a large cash prize along with short-lived international fame. Today’s “me-era” entertainment is known as reality television. In contrast with today’s entertainment, in the 1930s it was known as depression-era entertainment. Depression-era entertainment was known as the dance marathon; however, dance marathons began years before the depression. By the early 1930s, dance marathons
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Promoters of the marathons had changed the name so the marathons would last for longer periods of time. The longer the marathon, the more time spectators had to come and go and come again. Walkathons were all the rage during the Great Depression. When the unemployment rate escalated from 3.1 percent to 25.3 percent, about 14 million Americans were at home wondering what to do with their time (Young 356). At this point, spectators scraped and scrounged for a one-time entrance fee of 25 to 50 cents to watch the 24-hour walkathons. People wasted their days away by cheering for their favorite “walker”. On the other hand, contestants were desperately trying to stay awake while dancing in hopes of winning the cash prize to take home to their starving families. The upside of being a contestant of the walkathons during the great depression was that there was shelter and small portions of food to be eaten. Although the promoters for dance marathons were many times the owner of a dance hall or ballroom, dance marathon promoters became known as the equivalent to a modern-day stereotype for a used car salesman: sleek, sly and slippery. On multiple occasions, promoters would hold a marathon for about six weeks, take the earnings and run, leaving the contestants high and dry with no where to go (Farrell 134). Some promoters would “fix” the marathons, meaning they would hire different couples to enter the contest so they

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