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.