Special Topics in Film and Digital Media: Made to Persuade: 20th-Century Advertising, Educational, Industrial and Government Film

Course Details
Rick Prelinger
Academic Year: 

Course description:

Most films weren't made to entertain. "Useful cinema" — the majority of filmmaking in the 20th century — was designed to sell, to train, to convince, to educate (or mis-educate), to create dutiful citizens, good consumers, hard workers, safe drivers, attentive parents and cisgender, well-behaved children.

Educational, industrial and government films are vivid, surprising and often hilarious records of persuasion. This course — one of the first of its kind ever to be offered at a U.S. university — looks at some 60 films in many subject areas, including: education, work, domesticity, food and cooking, childhood and youth, race, indigeneity, gender, the automobile, the road, patriotism, citizenship, health and hygiene, safety, and sexuality. Our two primary objectives: (1) to use the films to expose the social and cultural history of 20th-century America, emphasizing less-told histories; and (2) to examine their rhetorical and representational strategies, focusing on power, persuasion and historical evidence.