Social guidance film

From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Our Feature Presentation
Icon film.svg

A social guidance film is a film intended to teach proper behavior, often to teenagers, or warn against a specific danger. Social guidance films are often associated with moral panics. Many of them were produced to be shown in schools, to members of the Armed Forces, drivers education classes, etc., although some of them like Reefer Madness were popular in movie theaters.


Some social guidance films later become cult classics, especially those which come to be seen as over the top or associated with a since-discredited moral panic.

Examples include:

  • Anti-drug films, both the popular ones shown in theaters like Reefer Madness[1] and the more recent ones created to show middle school students in "drugs are bad, m'kay" classes.
  • Films to instruct high school students on proper dating and courting. These generally preceded the era of sex education and include, for example, Boys Beware,[2] the 1961 film warning teenage boys against the joys of homosexuality. Boys Beware was the work of Sid Davis,Wikipedia whose long filmography includes many other social guidance films on a variety of subjects, including the ones described here.[note 1]
  • During wartime in the United States, a series of "Mickey Mouse pictures" such as USS VD: Ship of Shame sought to warn servicemen of the dangers of venereal disease, and encourage the use of condoms.[3]
  • Other films made for the Armed Forces warning against the dangers of venereal disease.
  • Civil defense films during the Cold War, of which the most notorious are Duck and Cover[4] starring Bert the Turtle, and Protect and Survive[5] a playing of which is sure to bring life to any party. Even better, the Dubliners did a song of the same name satirizing it, and a playing of its music video[1] would bring substantially more life to most parties.
  • Gory films intended for showing in drivers' education classes, showing the aftermath of car accidents. Some of these films are every bit as bloody as slasher flicks, but cheaply made and moralistic, often with an anti-drunk driving message. A deliberately humorous over the top spoof of this which crosses over into the workplace safety genre below is the German video about "forklift driver Klaus",[6] which is essentially what a forklift safety film would look like if directed by a German version of a Bad Taste-/Braindead-era Peter Jackson.
  • Religious, often Christian, films teaching kids not to lie, steal, or take the name of the LORD in vain, like the cartoon series Jot, or the 1950s series from HardingWikipedia University which contains an interesting mix of the United States as a Christian nation, capitalism-cheering, red baiting, and Americentric jingoism starring "Professor Clifton L. Ganus, noted young historian".[7]
  • Completely random youth education films about topics such as "don't talk to strangers", and "always tell your mummy before you go out somewhere"[8] (but only if you're Egyptian?) which subsequently provided excellent sampling material for a particular UK dance act.[9]
  • Confusing videos featuring the Green Cross Code man (AKA Darth Vader),[10] as one minute children were watching a social guidance film telling them to not talk to strangers, and the next minute they were watching another guidance film in which two children were talking to a tall, muscular man in green tights offering to help them home from school.
  • Safety training films for employees. The racial stereotyping in some of these could be quite bad.[11]

Suggested reading[edit]

  • Gregory, Danny. Change Your Underwear Twice a Week: Lessons From the Golden Age of Classroom Filmstrips, Artisan/Workman Publishing, Inc., New York, © 2004, ISBN 1-57965-263-8.

See also[edit]


  1. For instance, the hilariously hysterical anti-cannabis film, The Terrible Truth (1951), which managed to hit every trope of the 1950s: from a naive female protagonist being led astray by "bad boys", to the slippery slope gateway drug theory on steroids (our poor gal goes from a completely unrealistic Mary Jane high to injecting herself with hard drugs and prostituting herself to older men in a matter of moments), and finally, after our fallen heroine has been rescued by her parents, we are of course treated to a bout of red-baiting, suggesting that The Reds might be behind the distribution of drugs. In a bit of historical hilarity in hindsight, the specific phrase used for casting suspicion on the wascally weds is the Fox News favorite "Some people say..."


  1. Reefer Madness (1938) is just one example of the Internet Archive's huge collection of social guidance films from its Prelinger Archives.
  2. Boys Beware (1961) from The Prelinger Archives
  3. SGM Herb Friedman (Ret.), Venereal Disease Propaganda,
  4. Duck and Cover
  5. The 1980 Protect and Survive series of clips was made by the UK Home Office to accompany its similarly entitled booklet.
  6. "Forklift driver Klaus" ("Stapler Fahrer Klaus") on YouTube (English subtitles)
  7. The Internet Archive's Prelinger Archives has a collection of Ganus' exploits.
  8. Charly Says
  9. Prodigy
  10. The Green Cross Code man
  11. Exhibit A: Safe Side Clyde