The room is dark. The only light there is, is the one being emitted from the TV screen. The killer is chasing his victim through the dark alleyway, adrenaline pumping through his body, waiting for his moment to strike. You have to look away from the screen when he catches up to his prey and hacks her to bits right in front of your eyes. You can’t believe they would actually show that on a movie, there is so much blood.
In the early twentieth century, this just would not fly. Parents were concerned with the content their children were seeing in films. Many people feared that movies were negatively influencing the youth and wanted some form of censorship.
In the 1920s and early 1930s, the Payne Studies were used to determine the effects of movies on the behavior of children and concluded that movies did indeed have a detrimental effect on the health of children. They claimed that movies disturbed children’s sleeping patterns, heightened their emotional feelings, influenced social attitudes, caused day dreaming, taught lovemaking, among other things.
From these studies, it was recommended that movie appreciation courses be implemented in public schools. Edgar Dale wrote a series for this study called How to Appreciate Motion Pictures: A Manual of Motion-Picture Criticism Prepared for High School Students, which was published and used for the teaching of movie appreciation in high schools.
These courses were intended to give youth the tools and knowledge to appreciate movies and get educational value from them, rather than watching inappropriate, gory films with seemingly no purpose. In this way, it taught children to choose better films. Not only were the children supposedly choosing better films, but were reading more books used in writing screenplays.
The National Council of Teachers of English established a reviewing committee for films which produced study guides for films like Little Women and Alice in Wonderland. Although we didn’t use a movie study guide, or even watch the movie, it’s cool to think that kids in school many years ago were potentially having insightful conversations like ours.