The Perils of Little Orphan Annie

Smithsonian Magazine discusses the dangers to children parents saw in Little Orphan Annie. “These days, when Annie is known mainly as the little girl who sang brightly about ‘Tomorrow,’ it may be hard to picture her radio series as the Grand Theft Auto of its day. But the radio show had a much closer relationship to its source material—a ‘frequently downbeat, even grim comic’ created in 1924 by Harold Gray—than the relentlessly optimistic (and very loosely adapted) Broadway musical. The comic-strip Annie’s most defining and admired trait—her self-reliance—came from the fact that she existed in ‘a comfortless world, vaguely sinister,’ surrounded by violence, where few could be trusted and no one could be counted on. ‘Annie is tougher than hell, with a heart of gold and a fast left, who can take care of herself because she has to,’ Gray once explained. ‘She’s controversial, there’s no question about that. But I keep her on the side of motherhood, honesty, and decency.’”

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