Prohibition: The Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick

Prohibition, the PBS three-part, five-and-one-half hour documentary, tells the fascinating story of the rise, attempted rule, and fall of National Prohibition in the United States (1920-1933).

The documentary's website succinctly summarizes the naive social experiment and its consequences:

The culmination of nearly a century of activism, Prohibition was intended to improve, even to ennoble, the lives of all Americans, to protect individuals, families, and society at large from the devastating effects of alcohol abuse.

But the enshrining of a faith-driven moral code in the Constitution paradoxically caused millions of Americans to rethink their definition of morality. Thugs became celebrities, responsible authority was rendered impotent. Social mores in place for a century were obliterated. Especially among the young, and most especially among young women, liquor consumption rocketed, propelling the rest of the culture with it: skirts shortened. Music heated up. America's Sweetheart morphed into The Vamp.

Prohibition turned law-abiding citizens into criminals, made a mockery of the justice system, caused illicit drinking to seem glamorous and fun, encouraged neighborhood gangs to become national crime syndicates, permitted government officials to bend and sometimes even break the law, and fostered cynicism and hypocrisy that corroded the social contract all across the country.

The website (pbs.org/kenburns/prohibition/about/) is an excellent resource and both a DVD and a book of the documentary are available as are other interesing Prohibition-related products.

 

filed under: Prohibition

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