Whenever my elementary and junior-high school teachers were hungover from a previous night of binge-drinking/coke-whoring and really didn’t feel like teaching us little latchkey bastards, they’d put on either filmstrips or some really lame-ass short film.
THE EDUCATING POWER OF MOVING IMAGES!
I didn’t learn shit from them. I used the idle time to either doodle on my desk, kick the girl sitting in front of me, or just take a nap. Sometimes the teacher would quiz us on what we just watched, but the films were so laughably direct and to the point, that it was easy enough to bullshit and generalize my way through the discussion.
Educational films are OK when you can actually come away learning hard facts and whatnot, but for a four-decade stretch of time, they were mostly about social engineering. The flicks about interpersonal relationships and puberty usually just preached about how premarital sex would automatically result in bitter, unwanted pregnancy as well social and physical leprosy. Some of them were actually pretty damned cool, especially the puke-bag driver’s-ed scare films where prom kids would get horribly gored and dismembered by drunk drivers and their own shitty driving habits.
With the Internet’s advent, educational films have gone the way of the dodo, thanks to the inclusion of computers in the classroom and lightning-fast access to information. The task of social engineering has fallen upon thousands of self-righteous, sanctimonious ivory-tower blogs shoving their ideas of tolerance and social justice into your brain. No one needs to produce a short film meant to educate or shape opinion anymore, unless you’re the guy bankrolling all those Left Behind movies with Kirk Cameron in them.
That being said, let’s look at a few of yesteryear’s hints made celluloid. Watch them with someone you love and regret your life’s choices to the point of serious introspection and self-loathing (as if you didn’t have that already, you fucking freak).
DISCLAIMER: If you learn anything from these videos or turn into a gay-bashing celibate who drives like a ninety-year old on Klonopin, it’s not mine or SC’s fault, you easily influenced asshole.
Sid Davis was the champion of good, wholesome living in the 1950s, and did his best to warn people of the dangers of everything that couldn’t be well represented in a Frank Capra movie. In Boys Beware!, he makes a case about well-dressed gay men being mentally sick and obsessed with high-school boy ass to boot. I can only kind of relate, since the only grown men showing me pornographic pictures were the ones I paid with saved up lunch money to buy me issues of Hustler. I had a cool dad.
This was probably shown in Home Economics classes in the era before Betty Friedan gave up on trying to cook healthy meals and give satisfying blowjobs. From the horrifyingly basic tone of the film, I’d say it appealed to pre-teen girls who had servants prepare their every meal or girls who thought they got pregnant from sitting on the wrong toilet seat. The narrator enthusiastically and sadistically encourages a newlywed housewife to fuck up a cake for her husband, then steps her through the method of actually comprehending information in a cookbook. In theory, this is a good primer for anyone who’s never cooked a day in their lives, but it also assumes the entire class has barely enough collective brain matter for an independent thought to die of loneliness. I mean, come on: BOILING WATER has to be explained? Do you need a step-by-step tutorial on how to evacuate your bladder as well? Don’t answer that.
HOW MUCH AFFECTION?
So the film starts out with Mary bounding from Jeff’s car as he approaches their house, with him in hot pursuit frantically trying to calm her down. This leads me to believe that Mary had previously been giving him a shot of head and poor Jeff couldn’t hold his glucose. She sobs to her mother about “strong emotions” and she motherly suggests that the whole night went to shit because Mary was just as much a hormone-driven beast as Jeff was. There’s a lot of discussion, then we see a glimpse into the miserable life of one of Mary and Jeff’s classmates who got knocked up and married before finishing school. I’m not sure how much good this movie did toward curtailing teenage sex, since the next decade was all about “free love” with the constantly stoned and hirsute.
This shit isn’t funny at all. The Department of Highways and Safety have a policy of SCARING THE LIVING FUCK OUT OF YOU USING ANY MEANS NECESSARY into becoming a safe driver. Crash victims, viscera, dead bodies, and a collection of slackjawed bystanders and survivors hammer the point home that there is no reason to drive over the speed limit. Interestingly enough, I didn’t see this in my driver’s-ed class or state-sponsored driver’s school. That honor was reserved for Red Asphalt, the Faces of Death of modern educational scare films.
I could only find this one narrated by the Rifftrax guys. This educational short is about a little boy who wants a doll for his birthday, much to the chagrin of his “manly” father who comes equipped with medallions, chest hair and preconceived notions of toys. This film is 18 minutes of pure emasculating propaganda, brought to you peripherally by the Women’s Lib movement of the 70s. Before our very eyes, we see little William creepily turn into the kind of kid Chris Hansen would feature as an adult on To Catch A Predator. To make matters worse, the dad is a leering idiot, and the grandfather is creepy as hell, too. This short doesn’t really make the case that boys playing with dolls is OK as much as it proves that creepiness is genetic.
That’s not the name of this flick which doesn’t seem to have a title, but Robin Bougie of Cinema Sewer took it upon himself to give it one. This sphere of educational film hell turns female biology into a hilarious, badly acted passion play more memorable for TOO MUCH INFORMATION and the exploitation of handicapped children with dubbed voices. Jill is a happy little Down’s kid who, at 23 seconds in, sits down next to her mom and asks her about periods for no apparent reason. This leads to a frank discussion amongst the family about being on the rag, complete with a knowledgeable and enthusiastic dad, and a period-having big sister giving a full step-by-step demonstration of how to replace a “sanitary pad.” It’s beyond belief and can only be witnessed and never forgotten.
HONORABLE MENTION: THE PMRC’s “RISING TO THE CHALLENGE!” (Unfortunately, I can’t find any video of this online, so you’ll have to settle for Jello Biafra punking out Tipper Gore on Oprah instead.)
This is billed as an educational film, but it’s a slice of 80s propaganda that the Gore family would probably like to forget. The Parents Music Resource Center was a censorship group headed by Tipper Gore, also known as Al’s frumpy ex-wife. Before Big Al won an Oscar for global-warming propaganda, his wife helped put out this little video outlining the evils of Frank Zappa, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Metallica, The Beastie Boys and Van Halen with Sammy Hagar. When I was 15, I was thrown into a loony-bin teenage behavioral health center because of violent tendencies. My appointed shrink, himself a PMRC member, blamed all of my problems on being influenced by Satanic metal and hip-hop, which was funny because I don’t remember James Hetfield or KRS-ONE subliminally telling me to have brutally violent hatred toward a bunch of asshole kids that wouldn’t leave me alone, but whatever. This movie taught me that my doctor was full of shit, my mom was gullible for swallowing his rhetoric, and the only hope in hell I had of getting out of that place was to outwit and bullshit my way out. I still want a copy of that fucking movie, though. Propaganda that moronic should be enshrined for all generations to see.
You can find even more educational ephemera at the Prelinger Archives. Educate yourself. Or kill yourself. The possibilities are endless.