Thursday, September 25, 2008

What to Do on a Date



What to Do on a Date - 1950

The National Council on Family Relations

“What to Do on a Date” is a 1950s educational short film. It chronicles a boy who is trying to figure out how to plan an appropriate date for the girl he likes, Kay. The script is a mix of voiceover and action/dialogue, teaching the basics of asking a girl out and how to perform on a date.

What is most interesting about this short is the fact that it is educational. Educational shorts were frequently used in schools, especially to discuss topics deemed important but not easily broached by the teacher (I definitely had my fair share of short film viewing experiences in elementary school about “inappropriate touching” and “female development.”

If you take away the narration, this short can be analyzed like any other narrative. Boy asks girl out but is unsure if she will like where he is taking her. Boy and girl both have fun at scavenger sale. Girl agrees to go out with boy again; simple short narrative structure.

There are interesting sex roles that come out of the short that speak a lot to the times. In the first sequence, Kay is carrying groceries into the house. Then when she is at the rummage sale she makes the lunch. When her date asks her "You make the sandwiches?" she replies, "Gladly!" Personally, I've never heard someone so excited about making sandwiches before. As for the men, they are seen first playing catch and then doing manly tasks at the scavenger sale, such as installing fixtures and doing heavy lifting.

The reason that these are important is because this short is meant as in instruction manual for young people. It was made by The National Council on Family Relations, in conjunction with RCA. This illustrates an interesting change from the conservatism of the studios in the 50s, compared with studios’ need today to push society’s limits.

It is interesting that the educational aim of this is expressed in narrative, short film form. One of the reasons why I chose to analyze this piece was because it challenges our notions of what defines a short film. You could argue that because it is somewhat instructional that it falls outside the category of a film and into some amorphous sector of video without narrative structure. However, because the film uses the idea of the classic narrative to illustrate the “proper” way to date, it then comes back to fitting exactly into the traditional short film category. Again this argument is circular and exactly why I chose this short.


Christine Barndt

11 comments:

Paul Brown said...

There is something so kitschy about these movies that makes them so wonderful.

Anonymous said...

I love this short film. To me, this film defines what a classic film is like- black and white, proper way of speech and defined women and men's roles. I wonder if people took this seriously and did everything that they told you to do... and the outcome?

Anonymous said...

It must be very interesting to a young person that we defined roles this way 60 years ago. I have no doubt you would not be "glad" to make the sandwiches for the men doing "heavy lifting".

Anonymous said...

What i think is interesting is the timelessness of this film in the sense that even today boys have no idea what girls like and girl are still seen as a mystery. This film was really swell.

Anonymous said...

I loved watching this. For a college student today, this movie is almost like a film because it seems so foreign to us! It's hard to believe that this was made as a non-fiction film and, as such, it serves as as a form of entertainment.

Anonymous said...

This is something a Sunday school teacher would show for the "sex" class.

Anonymous said...

i remember seeing these ed shots in school only I was just glad to get out of class for an hour, never mind getting the point of the "brainwashing" schools were trying to do to us

Anonymous said...

It's very strange watching a video like this without the silhouette of theater seats at the bottom of the screen with three heads making witty and sarcastic remarks.

The same Film, but watched via "Mystery science Theater 3000."

http://jp.youtube.com/watch?v=GVytXppIFw0

Its interesting how outdated media can get "recycled" and recieve new life as a different means of entertainment.

Anonymous said...

Ahh, sandwiches born from many, many years of sexual repression. Mmmmmm.

Christine Barndt said...

I really wish the person who gave me the link to the mystery science theater version would identify themselves. This is amazing! But besides that, it does throw out another interesting idea of disposability. With the media culture we live in, anything made can then be twisted, remade, and used in a variety of fashions. I feel like going into a rant on responsible media creation, but I hold my tongue....and possible finish watching the mystery science theater version :)

Anonymous said...

haha maybe i should have watched this before a started to date. Weiner roast anyone??