Pop Culture Series: History of Protests/Marches in America

by Abbey Johnson and Lauren Fralinger, Learning & Research Services

The Women’s March on Washington was held on January 21, 2017 in the nation’s capital. Image credit: Liz Lemon, Flickr.

History was made on January 21, 2017, when the Women’s March on Washington became the largest protest in history as nearly three million Americans marched nationwide. Echoed and strengthened by sister marches around the world, the gatherers demonstrated on behalf of diverse and intersectional topics, encompassing women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, racial equality, immigration, and the environment.

For those of us born in the 1980s and 1990s, mass protests like these may seem unfamiliar, however they are not a new phenomenon. The Women’s March joins other current and ongoing protests, such as the Black Lives Matter movement and the protests at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access Pipeline, as an effort to give a voice to dissenters and make changes to laws and legislation that protesters view as harmful or dangerous. These movements continue a tradition of organized political protests threaded throughout the history of America.

Dr. Anna Shaw and Carrie Chapman Catt, founders of the League of Women Voters, lead an estimated 20,000 supporters in a women’s suffrage march on New York’s Fifth Avenue in 1915. Image credit: Associated Press.

Historically, organized (and sometimes not-so-organized) protests have been a successful method for American citizens to express their discontent with the state of our government and overall political situation. The history of the United States as an independent country is rooted in protest. Even before the American Revolution began, the importance of protest was recognized by early American colonists. In protest over “taxation without representation,” colonial Americans disguised themselves and dumped crates of tea into Boston Harbor in an effort to make their displeasure known to the British Parliament. Today we know this event as the Boston Tea Party. The Boston Tea Party and similar protests eventually led to the Revolutionary War and ultimately the independence of the United States, further demonstrating the power of protest to inspire significant change.

Another early example of using protest to influence the government is the woman suffrage movement that began in the mid-1800s. After decades of organizing marches and protests, women were finally able to win the right to vote. Not only does the woman suffrage movement act as another example of the capacity of protests to make a difference in legislation with the passing of the Nineteenth Amendment, it also demonstrates that the roots of the Women’s March go back over a century. Although the movement has come a long way since the 1800s, some groups are still striving to achieve equality.

More recent examples would include the many protest movements of the 1960s and 1970s, such as the Civil Rights Movement, women’s liberation movement, and anti-war protests related to the United States’ involvement in Vietnam. Not only did the actions taken by those involved in these protests allow people to let the government know they were dissatisfied, it also led to legislative changes reflecting the interests of the protesting groups, such as the passing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.

Women marching during a Women’s Liberation demonstration in Washington, D.C. in 1970. Image credit: Warren K. Leffler, Library of Congress.

In our current political climate, Americans are facing what is for some an unprecedented level of dissatisfaction with the choices made by our government. Many have decided to come together and express that discontent in hopes of addressing what they feel needs to be changed. This could be seen as a resurgence of the protests of the 1960s, or a continuation of the unfinished work of those past movements. Either way, Americans are coming together to protest now just as they have in the past.

To learn more about recent protest movements as well as the historical roots of political protests in the United States, please check out the following library resources.

 

Books

They Can’t Kill Us All

Towards the “Other America”

Selma’s Bloody Sunday

Riot, Unrest, and Protest on the Global Stage

Breach of Peace: Portraits of the 1961 Mississippi Freedom Riders

 

DVDs

Six Generations of Suffragettes: The Women’s Rights Movement

King: A Filmed Record

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

A Time for Justice

The Black Power Mixtape

Selma



Pop Culture Series: Nintendo Switch

By James Wargacki, Learning & Research Services

Nintendo entered the current video game console generation with a bang when it released the Switch on March 3. This new home/portable console “hybrid” is the culmination of over 100 years of experience in the entertainment industry for Nintendo.

Founded in 1889, the Marufuku Company made a name for itself in its native Japan as a manufacturer of cards for the game Hanafuda. The Marufuku Company was able to survive the economic turmoil in Japan after World War I and World War II due to the relatively low cost of manufacturing and distributing card games. In 1951 the Marufuku Company changed its name to the Nintendo Card Company and began its path to gaming innovation. A shortage of paper in 1953 led Nintendo to develop plastic playing cards, and in 1959 the company released various sets of cards with licensed characters from the Walt Disney Company.

Over the years, Nintendo continued to expand further into the entertainment industry with board games in the 1960s, the electronic Beam Gun series in the 1970s, and arcade games such as Donkey Kong in the early 1980s. Also in the 1980s, Nintendo developed its first handheld console under the Game and Watch product line.

In 1983 Nintendo released its first home console, the Famicom, in Japan. Two years later the Famicom was released in the United States as the Nintendo Entertainment System which began the company’s legacy as a home entertainment powerhouse around the world. In 1989 Nintendo expanded their reach to the handheld console market with the release of the Game Boy. As the years passed, numerous competitors such as Sega and Sony came to market with their own entertainment consoles such as the Sega Genesis, Sega Game Gear, and Sony PlayStation to challenge Nintendo’s dominance. Although Nintendo has not always been the market leader in the home entertainment industry, their well-received hardware like the Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64, and Game Boy Color paired with strong first-party software titles from the Super Mario, Legend of Zelda, and Metroid series have contributed to their continued success throughout the years.

The peak of the company’s popularity began in 2004 with the release of the Nintendo DS. The DS included many innovative features such as an integrated touch screen, Wi-Fi connectivity, and backwards compatibility with older Game Boy titles. Two years later Nintendo released the Wii to great critical and commercial acclaim. While the Wii had less processing power than its competitors, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, the innovative motion controls and strength of first-party titles such as Wii Sports and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess appealed to casual gamers and longtime Nintendo fans alike. The Wii and DS would go on to sell 101 million and 154 million units respectively.

Nintendo’s follow up consoles, the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS, ended up at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of financial success and critical reception. The Wii U’s major selling point was its proprietary gamepad. With various buttons, triggers, and control sticks surrounding an integrated touch screen, the Wii U Gamepad opened up new gameplay possibilities in the form of asymmetric multiplayer experiences and the ability to play some games directly on the gamepad. Poor battery life and a lack of compelling software caused the Wii U to greatly underperform compared to its predecessor. The 3DS continued Nintendo’s history of innovation with the inclusion of a glasses-free stereoscopic 3D screen. The new technology was impressive and critically well-received but resulted in a high initial cost for the console, low battery life, and sometimes led to eye-strain and dizziness for its users. While hardware updates and price drops contributed to the 3DS selling over 65 million units, the Wii U was discontinued in early 2017 after selling only 13.5 million units.

The Switch builds on Nintendo’s history of innovation in hopes of replicating the success of their most iconic home and handheld consoles. The central feature of the Nintendo Switch is the hybrid design which allows gamers to connect the console to their television using a docking station and also allows them to undock a seven inch tablet for gaming on the go. The included pair of Joy-Con controllers can be used individually or in tandem to allow gamers plenty of flexibility in how, when, and where they would like to play. Multiple Switch consoles can connect using local Wi-Fi or Nintendo’s online services for multiplayer gaming, and the Nintendo Switch also works with the company’s popular Amiibo line of interactive figures. Gamers are able to experience new entries in established franchises such as Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Bomberman R, and Just Dance 2017, along with new titles like 1-2-Switch.

Celebrate the release of the Nintendo Switch by checking out some of these games, books, and other items from and about Nintendo and the video game industry.

 

Games

Smash Bros. Melee

Smash Bros. Brawl

Super Mario Galaxy

 

Books

Portable Play in Everyday Life: The Nintendo DS

Playing to Wiin: Nintendo and the Video Game Industry’s Greatest Comeback

Replay: The History of Video Games

The Golden Age of Video Games: The Birth of a Multi-Billion Dollar Industry

Philosophy Through Video Games

God in the Machine: Video Games as a Spiritual Pursuit

Trigger Happy: Video Games and the Entertainment Revolution

Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter

 

CDs

Super Mario Galaxy Official Soundtrack

Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask Official Soundtrack

 

Scores

Super Mario Series for Piano

Legend of Zelda Series for Piano



Pop Culture Series: Mardi Gras and Carnival

By Jay Sylvestre, Special Collections Librarian

Floats, parades, dancing, masks and elaborate costumes, beads, alcohol, and Dixieland jazz: these sights and sounds are all synonymous with Mardi Gras, which is French for “Fat Tuesday.” Celebrated just recently on February 28 of this year, Fat Tuesday is traditionally known for its colorful blend of religious and pagan festivals.

Mardi Gras has been observed for thousands of years in various forms throughout Europe. Recognition in North America began in 1699 with the Le Moyne brothers, Pierre and Jean-Baptiste, while on an expedition to reinforce French claims to the Louisiane territory. The first organized Mardi Gras was held in Mobile, Alabama in 1703, but it took until the 1830s for the city of New Orleans to officially endorse the festival. In the early 1740s, then Governor of Louisiana Marquis de Vaudreuilthen introduced the elegant society balls that became the model for contemporary celebrations. By the late 1830s, New Orleans’ Mardi Gras festival included the flambeaux, a gaslight torch bearer who lead all of the parade krewes. Since its earliest days, Mardi Gras has evolved and grown into the grand cultural event that we’ve come to expect each year.

When used as a backdrop for movies and television, Mardi Gras is often interpreted and portrayed in socially relevant ways. The “All on a Mardi Gras Day” episode of the HBO show Treme (2010) captures the intense and conflicting emotions during the first celebration following Hurricane Katrina. Movies like The Princess and the Frog (2009) and Interview with the Vampire (1994) use the festival and city of New Orleans as a lush, supernatural setting. In the counterculture road film Easy Rider (1969), Mardi Gras is the target destination for the two outlaw protagonists. Even famous “Who’s On First” comedians Abbott and Costello dropped in on Mardi Gras for their 1953 film Abbott and Costello Go to Mars. However, instead of landing on the red planet, the duo accidentally end up at the lively street party in New Orleans.

Carnival, which is sometimes confused with Mardi Gras, is actually the name for the season that runs between Epiphany (Three Kings Day) and Lent in the Christian calendar. The Mardi Gras festival marks the end of the Carnival season. Not to be outdone by New Orleans, many Caribbean and South American nations have their own Carnival celebrations. Trinidad and Tobago, Puerto Rico, and Cuba have notable Carnivals. The most famous Carnival festival takes place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Rio celebration attracts millions of people every year and accounts for approximately 70 percent of the country’s tourist visits. Even the birds of the 2011 computer-animated movie Rio end up at Carnival in Brazil.

Although Carnival season just passed, you can revisit the revelry of Mardi Gras anytime by grabbing yourself a slice of king cake and digging into these book, DVD, and music selections.

 

Books:

Masking and Madness: Mardi Gras in New Orleans

Mardi Gras Indians

Mardi Gras, Gumbo, and Zydeco: Readings in Louisiana Culture

Blues for New Orleans – Mardi Gras and America’s Creole Soul

Trinidad and Tobago, our ’83 Carnival and Calypsoes

En Mas’: Carnival and Performance Art of the Caribbean

 

DVDs:

Skyros Carnival: 2004

The Princess and the Frog

Cuba on Fire: Mythologies and Origins of Carnival

Tchindas

 

Music:

Mardi Gras [sound recording]

New Orleans Jazz and Second Line Drumming

Carnival! [sound recording]



Pop Culture Series: 75 Years of Wonder Woman

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By Lauren Fralinger, Lauren and Research Services

They’re often called the “trinity” in comic book circles: Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Over the past 75 years, we have seen Superman and Batman on screen in many incarnations, each portrayal adding a bit more history to the character. 2016 has brought us only our second live portrayal of Wonder Woman, and though audiences haven’t seen her as frequently, that is about to change. Celebrating her 75th anniversary in 2016, Wonder Woman is a feminist pop culture icon whose legacy has endured nearly a century.

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Wonder Woman appears on the first issue of Sensation Comics (1942). Art by H. G. Peter.

Debuting in 1941 in All Star Comics #8, Wonder Woman was one of the earliest female superheroes to make it into print. Developed by William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman was created to be a different kind of superhero. Still in their early days, superhero comics were dominated by powerful, almost exclusively male heroes who used physical strength or technology to win their battles. In contrast, Marston wanted to create a superhero who won not through the strength of their fists, but also through love. It was Marston’s wife Elizabeth who suggested that this new superhero be a woman.

Wonder Woman’s origins are steeped in Greek mythology. Born as Diana, Princess of the Amazons, she was sculpted from clay by her mother, Queen Hippolyta and imbued with powers from several Olympian goddesses. Withdrawn from the world and protected by the gods, the Amazons lived in isolation on a hidden island until it was accidentally discovered by an American intelligence officer whose plane crashed there during World War II. Selected to bring the man back to “Man’s World” and to join the fight against the Nazis, Diana was gifted a pair of magical, bulletproof bracelets and a lasso of truth, which forces honesty from anyone it captures. Wonder Woman quickly joined the war alongside other early superheroes and served on the Justice Society of America, one of the first superhero teams.

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Lynda Carter (left) first portrayed Wonder Woman on screen in the 1970s. Gal Godot (right) will take on the role in the 2017 series.

Over the course of 75 years, Wonder Woman has gone through dozens of incarnations in the comics as writers and stories have come and gone. Acknowledged early on as one of the most powerful heroes in the DC Comics stable, Wonder Woman went through a strange period in the late sixties and early seventies where her powers were taken from her entirely. Dismayed that one of the most recognizable and powerful women in pop culture was no longer able to compete on the same field as her super powered male counterparts, Gloria Steinem placed Wonder Woman on the cover of the inaugural issue of her new magazine, Ms., and criticized the decision to strip away everything that made Diana so empowered. A year later, Wonder Woman had her bracelets, lasso and superpowers returned, and was back in full fighting form.

Diana’s first on-screen portrayal was made by Lynda Carter in the 1970s Wonder Woman television series. Airing from 1975 to 1979 during the peak of the second-wave feminist movement, Wonder Woman presented a powerful, intelligent, and deeply human woman capable of extraordinary abilities to American audiences. Decades after the end of the 1970s series, Wonder Woman made appearances in various animated series such as Justice League and Justice League Unlimited in the early 2000s, but was not portrayed live again until 2016’s Batman vs. Superman. Though Batman and Superman both made the jump to the movies decades earlier, Gal Gadot’s portrayal of the Amazon princess was the first time Wonder Woman had made it into theaters. Batman vs. Superman may have been her first silver screen appearance, but it won’t be her last; Gadot will reprise her role as Diana for 2017’s Wonder Woman.

Interested in more Wonder Woman? The Richter Library has you covered. Check out more books and comics about the adventures of the Amazon Princess here:

Books:

Wonder Woman: A Celebration of 75 Years (2016)

Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine (2014)

Wonder Woman (2012)

Wonder Woman ‘77 (2016)

Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman (2015)

Wonder Woman: The Greatest Stories Ever Told (2006)

Wonder Woman: Earth One (2016)

 

DVDs:

Wonder Woman: The Complete First Season (2004)

Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines (2012)