Tomorrow is Election Day. I’ve done as much homework as I can for my national, state, and local balloting. I hope you have done the same.
As the title of this post alludes, I’ve done some more digging in the Prelinger Archives for information on voting and “Yay America” propaganda films. Here are a few I found most pertinent.
First up, Tuesday in November released in 1945 by The U. S. Office of War Information. This film uses the election process in a small California town to illustrate how the election committee and process works, how to mark a ballot, and how our three governmental branches balance one another. There is an animated section concerning the powers and responsibilities of each part of the political machine; if you don’t recall which office has the power to enact a treaty, propose a law bill, or allocate funds for specific projects, you’d do well to watch this.
Next, A Citizen Makes a Decision from 1954, released by The Centron Corporation (we’ve met them before). This one is a bit longer, and is more focused on local issues and how to educate yourself. The protagonist, Homer Keith, lives in a community which recently had a horrible flood (and not for the first time). He immediately thinks a dam should be built – but is that the best solution? Some of his friends don’t think so. Homer then does a VERY thorough job of informing himself about the realities involved in any kind of community decision: impact on land, people, environment, labor, funding…the list goes on. When election day comes, he knows he has all the facts to make an informed and educated decision. This one is a bit of a slog, but that’s what it takes to inform yourself thoroughly before ANY big decision.
Now to slightly more heavy handed propaganda: From 1950, In Our Hands, Part 3: How to Lose What We Have. Part three of a series from Wilding Picture Productions, one could draw some disturbing parallels between this fictional account and our current election. In the film, our voters seem fed up with our current government and decide to elect the “Master State with a Master Plan”. Under the Master Plan, everyone will have a good job, a good home, proper food and clothing, and everyone will FINALLY be equal. Except, of course, that the Master State now owns everything and so can kick you out of your house, take your car, move your family halfway across the country, and turn you into a mere cog in the machine – for the good of everyone. And the guy moving the new family into what was your home? He’s just following orders. Remember, YOU voted for the Master State! Released during the fervor of the Cold War period, this is a harsh anti-communist criticism. If you’re interested, you can also view Part 1 and Part 2.
Alright, let’s have a little levity! Make Mine Freedom from 1948, produced by Sutherland Productions and MGM. A short animated film in which the slick salesman Dr. Utopia is offering bottles of “ISM” (for the low low price of your freedom). A well-informed citizen named John Q. Public gives the members of Dr. Utopia’s audience a sip of ISM so they can see the reality – and they pour the bottles out on the ground. The nice thing about a cartoon is the creators can comment on things more easily than in live action: The ISM bottle features a bull (so you know what it’s full of). There’s a great quote near the end of the film from John Q.:
When anybody preaches disunity, tries to pit one of us against the other through class warfare, race hatred or religious intolerance, you know that person seeks to rob us of our freedom and destroy our very lives. And we know what to do about it.
Did you get that?
Funny thing about this film: There’s scarce little information about it. Wikipedia doesn’t have a page for it, IMDB only has info on three of the voice performers, and we don’t even technically know who animated it (though my guess is Tex Avery, who worked at MGM at the time).
And while I don’t really like ending on a down note, here’s one that you really REALLY need to watch: A Challenge to Democracy, put out by the U. S. War Relocation Authority. If you didn’t know, the U. S. of A. had internment camps during World War II. This film, released in 1944, was produced as a sort of excuse for why it happened, and an explanation of how it was carried out. As you listen to the narrator describing the harsh realities, remember that this was created by the office that carried out the “evacuation” of Japanese-American citizens. Even they seemed to think it was full of [expletive deleted]. My favorite hypocritical line comes at the end:
The Americanism of the great majority of America’s Japanese finds its highest expression in the thousands who are in the United States Army. . . .They know what they’re fighting against and they know what they’re fighting for — their country and for the American ideals that are part of their upbringing — democracy, freedom, equality of opportunity regardless of race, creed, or ancestry.
The film then shows US soldiers of Japanese descent training, fighting, and going to visit their families in the camps (which are surrounded by barbed wire and armed soldiers). Freedom indeed.
May all your decisions be educated and informed.