Mental Hygiene Films

“A Date with Your Family”

"A Date with Your Family"

After World War II, the American government saw television as a way to govern by spreading American values to every household with a TV, which by the mid-1950s was the majority of households (McCarthy 1). In place of directly government-sponsored programs, organizations like the Ford Foundation and the AFL-CIO stepped in to fund these televised projects (McCarthy 4). One method employed were so-called “mental hygiene” films. 

Coronet Studio in Glenview Illinois shot hundreds of these “social guidance” films just in the 1950s (“Camp in the Classroom”). Although various companies made almost 3,000, only about half survive (“’Mental Hygiene’ films”). These films aimed to teach children and teenagers how to become well-behaved, productive members of society. They covered everything from dating, fitting in, homosexuality, menstruation, and etiquette (“’Mental Hygiene’ films”). The films likely did more harm than good because it set an “artificial ideal” that was impossible to live by (“’Mental Hygiene’ films”). One of these films, named “A Date with Your Family” teaches each member of the family, children included, what roles they are supposed to play within in their family. The mother and daughter must change into nice clothes, prepare dinner, and set the table. The oldest son studies in his room while dinner is being prepared then spends some time with his father after he and the youngest brother come inside from playing baseball. When the family sits down to dinner, there are etiquette rules to follow and deference must be shown to the mother and father. Though these films failed to have a significant impact on American society, they still make an interesting study in attempts to manipulate gender roles within the family through televised programs (“Camp in the Classroom”).