Between 1946 and 1991, the world stood in fear of a new world war that would have been fought with nuclear weapons. In the best-case scenario, such a war would have cost millions, if not tens of millions of lives, and would have rendered large areas of land uninhabitable and ill-suited for agriculture for years or decades. In the worst-case scenario, it could have led to global ecological calamity, and would have meant the destruction of human civilization as we know it. The 1950s were a time of particular terror, as your book notes, because of the occasional conflicts between the United States and its allies versus the communist world. Unlike any of America’s previous wars since the War of 1812, such a war would have targeted American civilian centers.
The following films were for the most part, made during the 1950s, and were designed to provide information to the public. On the other hand, in some instances, the information was targeted to certain audiences. Thus your assignment will be to watch several of these films, take notes, and address the following questions in essay form. You will only need to identify each video once by its full title, as I would like for you to address each one in particular. Some of the questions are more broad than others – bear in mind that one of the goals of this exercise is to have you examine these pieces of period documentary evidence. I hope that you get a sense of the past as you watch them.
Please begin with an introductory section – possibly after you have watched all of the assigned material (this means that you can watch the videos one by one, take notes and even write about the films, and add the intro last). Then proceed film by film. Please put the film titles in italics (Duck and Cover), and add the year in parentheses. For instance: Operation Cue (1955). If you are comparing films to each other, just use the film names in italics after you have already referred to the movie with the year.
Consider the following questions as you write your papers. You do not have to address each question for each video, but they should help you form your essay.
– Who is the presumed audience ?
– Who is included or excluded?
– What is the point, or the setting of the video?
– What is the thesis, or overall message of the video?
– Do any of these seem more or less realistic than others?
– What is the general sense, or emotional nature, that the filmmakers intend for their audience?
– What stands out to you most in each of the videos?