The Harmful Rays of the Moral Vacuum

The Harmful Rays of the Moral Vacuum
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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Need to know how to act on a date? Look no further than Coronet Instructional Films

Want to learn the secret to popularity?  At a loss for ideas for your next date?  Does basic hygiene elude your grasp?  Ever wonder why capitalism is superior to other economic systems?  Need info on how to conform to the mind numbing social norms of the middle of the last century?  And most importantly, do you have a stomach strong enough for a huge dose of post-war kitsch?  Then Coronet Instructional Films has something that you've just got to watch.

Coronet was founded in the mid-40s by Esquire magazine publisher David Smart.  They produced dozens and dozens of short instructional films intended for consumption by the teenagers of the 1950s.  They covered topics such as civic values, respect for parents and family, how to make and keep friends, and the ways in which "good" boys and girls should behave.  Hint: no heavy petting or "parking in cars with boys."  For those who remember the Nada Surf song "Popular," Cornet's films are a literal teenage guide to popularity.  Incidentally, that entire song, other than the chorus, is a recitation from the 1964 etiquite book Penny's Guide to Teen-age Charm and Popularity, a book which dispenses advice for girls that is similar to the Coronet oeuvre.

Of course, by today's standards, the Coronet films are good for a laugh.  While in some sense they promote the noble virtues of a bygone era, they also promote extreme conformity.  Their conception of "emotional maturity" does not necessarily match with ours.  Given the extreme kitsch factor, these shorts were ripe for parody by Mystery Science Theater: Three Thousand.  Of course, Mike and the Bots excel in ripping these films to shred.  A few of my favorites are below, but if you'd like to see some raw, uncut Coronet goodness, there are links throughout this piece.  I doubt most of you have the stomach for it, though.

In which we learn that the most important aspect of marriage is the "Boooooooing" factor:

Timmy gets the Coronet smackdown for not being respectful enough of his mother:

Whatever the hell the scavenger sale at the community center is, it makes for a fun first date:

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