Where Hyperbole and Propaganda Clash: Texas, the Big State
by John Slate — city archivist
October 20, 2010 – 00:00
It’s said that “Everything’s big in Texas”. Hyperbole and exaggeration is a common means of promotion, especially in business. Miraculous claims of efficacy and boasts of being “the best” are part and parcel of the advertising world in the marketing of goods and services. But when does it cross the line into self-parody? When it rams full-speed, like a locomotive, into an existing state of exaggeration.
The image of Texas has been the subject of exaggeration since European exploration and colonization and the concept of Texas and Texas-related things as big or otherwise superlative has been immortalized throughout popular culture. Most of the time it’s both created and received as gentle humor. If hyperbole is overlayered with even more hyperbole, its effect is neutralized and degrades into laughable hubris. To the viewer this becomes either unintentional humor or annoying bombast.
Take your pick in the first minute of “Texas: The Big State”, a 1952 24-minute film commissioned by the Santa Fe Railway Company and produced by Dudley Pictures Corporation. This film provides a sweeping overview of the state of Texas and its “superior” industries, centers of higher learning, and urban and rural environments, while visually illustrating the many ways in which the Santa Fe railway serves the businesses and citizens of Texas.
What’s dumbfounding is that the film’s climax is at its opening. In a film that touts a laundry list of elements that combine to make Texas “The Big State”, the first fifty-one seconds sum it up much too early: “Texas has come to be accepted practically as the universal gauge of the ultimate of everything.” Now, where do you go from here?
Studied as a marketing tool, this film is wonderful textbook example of how over-hype becomes Camp. Narration is by veteran voiceover artist Art Gilmore (who died just a few weeks ago) and writing and production by Carl Dudley, a director noted for his travelogues.