Most people in this country have no knowledge of history and worse yet, think they don’t need historical knowledge. Well, you know what Santayana said about that. And I say, “you must know where we have been in order to understand where we are now and how we got here.” That is why I have accumulated in my film archive a rather large and useful body of knowledge I hope to share with others. By eventually offering a course on the college level. Because film holds up a mirror to our culture and reflects whatever thoughts, ideas, opinions and assumptions were in the public mind at the time the show was made.
This is what I mean by using film for time travel to visit past climates of opinion. Film reels are original documents of their period and should be of interest to anyone who cares about history, philosophy or the communications arts. Features, TV shows, and shorts like educational films used in schools contain all the ideas that were in the air at the time they were made.
So I have concentrated a large effort in film archiving to accumulate specimens of “ideological kitsch,” that is, social, political and cultural attitudes that time forgot. Attitudes which were communicated on some level to you even if they took place before you were born, because they were carried over by your parents, teachers, etc. to influence their opinions, and therefore, what they told you.
Yes, this means racism, sexism, WWII attitudes, anticommunist hysteria of the fifties, drug hysteria of the sixties. Using features like I Was A Communist For The FBI, Wild In The Streets, The People Next Door, Fail Safe, The Purple Heart, The Moon Is Blue, Deep Throat. I have more than an hour of race cartoons, a minstrel show, a clip reel from feature films I call Musical Insults to Women, and some interesting material on The Yellow Peril. Would you like a Politically Incorrect Film Festival? I can provide two installments of that.
When I show China Seas, for example, I have a pretty good specimen of “Hollywood Looks At Asian Cultures” and have to explain the subtext assumed by the audience in 1934, that exposure to the sexual liberties of the non-judeochristian orient would soil a man and make him an unfit mate for the pure girls back home, now he’s fit only for the company of the locals and “bad girls.” So he winds up with Harlowe, we know she is a bad girl because she has a Brooklyn accent, and he has to take sloppy seconds behind Wallace Beery.
Further, I have to explain the presumption of virginity that was universal right up until the 60s, which was still in effect when I was in high school and did not begin to dissolve until I was in college. A hard lesson for today’s young audience to digest, it is really new information to them. Preminger busted the Film Code by making The Moon Is Blue, which discusses sex by hovering over the issue of virginity. Today that is certainly Ideological kitsch.