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When F.Scott Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby, it was the beginning of what he called the “Jazz Age” – the boozey, twinkling fun-times somewhere in between the first world war and the Wall Street crash. It was an age of wild parties and sexy music that, during these endlessly depressing times, seem like a distant fantasy. Perhaps that’s why Baz Luhrmann’s new film adaption, released this week, has been so highly anticipated, and by anticipated, I mean piggy-backed, and by piggy-backed, I mean marketing teams across the country have ridden that piggy until it has nothing left but bleeding stumps.
Last week saw the opening of The Great Gatsby Pop-Up in the Harrods Tasting Room promising, because one film reference simply isn’t enough, cocktails and “all that jazz”. While I can confirm they weren’t lying on that front, there were definitely cocktails (so many cocktails) and also jazz, it takes a little more imagination to see exactly what all the pomp has to do with The Great Gatsby.
It’s the latest in a wave of themed events that have engulfed the capital over the past few weeks including everything from prohibition parties, swing dances and even a Great Gastby ballet. Now don’t get me wrong, I jump at the chance to dust of my flapper dress, I can Charleston with the best of them (in my head, at least), but when it’s reached the point that Harrods can whack up some laminated book-print wallpaper, throw in an MDF gramophone, some feathers and a few old French novels – seriously, what’s that all about? – and call it a Gatsby bar, it’s all gone a bit too far. Although, I would highly recommend the Elit by Stolichnaya Martini (vodka, vermouth, elderflower liquor and orange bitters), it’s so perfumed and zesty.
While Fitzgerald’s intended message may have been a cautionary one, a tale of change and what happens to those who resist it, it’s the glitz and glamour that really get people going. Thanks to those chaps in marketing, the story, in a sort of Gatsbian irony, seems to have become about little else. The excesses of the rich, the American Dream and all the truly timely and important Gatsby themes have paled into insignificance, no match, it would seem, for glass beads and champagne parties.
Let’s face it though, when times are bad we do love to play dress-ups. Gatsby mania, no matter how tenuous the connection, is here to stay, for a while at least. But hey, if the 2020s are even half as cocktail-fuelled as the pretend 1920s, we’re set for some good times ahead.
Read our review of The Great Gatsby at Wilton’s Music Hall.
Liz is a thoroughly London-centric writer and a recent addition to the Litro Online team. She is passionate about creative non-fiction and waffles on a lot about London and the River Wandle - a total river bore. She holds a BA in Creative Writing and is studying for an MA in Travel and Nature Writing from Bath Spa University.