The roaring 20’s gets characterized as glitz, opulence and speakeasies, which isn’t a huge stretch. It’s easy to take the era immediately leading up to the great depression as one of opulence – and the characters that are in play during the 1920’s are typically shown to be people like Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald. And apparently during her time, she never had some great PR – from her leaving her hometown of Montgomery, Alabama and being scourged with leaving with a (God Forbid!) Yankee to her supposed affair in France, to her and Scott being considered bad company to the ugly divorce.
Now, until recently, most people didn’t think much about Zelda Fitzgerald’s brand – she’s been dead for years, and not much fuss was made when she died at the fairly young age of 47. However, with the Amazon series “Z: The Beginning of Everything,” the PR of a failed person has made her more admired by the general populace.
In her time, Zelda was known as either a plucky southern socialite, or as someone who was dramatic beyond her means. Her only novel, written about her and her husbands failed marriage, was considered to be a bust, written in a way that was too much for the audiences of the time. She wasn’t a figure that was looked up upon, and the impression that people had around them was that she was a flawed figure. She wasn’t held in the highest regard in the past; especially considering her mental health problems later in her life. In Michelle Dean’s article The Myth of Zelda Fitzgerald, “Over the years people have seen a lot of different things in Zelda: a starlet, dead weight, a feminist heroine, an artist, and a tragedy,”
In the reiteration that people are currently taking in – something primarily sourced from ‘Z’, the book ‘Z: The Beginning of Everything” was sourced off of, she’s portrayed as well-meaning and glamorous – and in this, her posthumous PR is fantastic. After being a figure that wasn’t held in the highest esteem during her lifetime, the crises that she had were not dealt with effectively.
Her hospitalization due to mental illness, for example, would be a major crisis in modern day perspective – weblogs would have had a field day if JK Rowling’s significant other was mentally unhealthy – however, due to the lack of PR principals used at that time, it just left a tarnishing on her brand.
However, generations later, there’s something of a crisis averted – her legacy is now left with the idea of glamour and admiration by those who wish they lived in the 1920’s. Death looks better on some people, it seems, especially when it comes to crises.