‘Are You Popular?’ IU Libraries Film Archive to screen vintage social guidance films

Looking for some tips to overcome the awkwardness of that first date? Or, if things go well, how to act as your relationship develops?

SGFilm7The IU Libraries Film Archive has the answers, 1950s style — the archive will screen a series of social guidance films from the era designed to help young viewers navigate the tricky social waters of dating and going steady, as well as the pitfalls of gossiping and how to determine personal popularity.

The free event starts at 8 p.m. May 5 at The Bishop, 123 S. Walnut St. in downtown Bloomington.

“We screened some of these films a long time ago as part of another university event, and I thought people would come and go. But they all sat and watched all of them,” IU film archivist Rachael Stoeltje said. “We thought screening these films at The Bishop would open up our collection to a different audience, and hopefully draw some attention to it in a really fun and entertaining way.”

Stoeltje worked with graduate student Jay McClurg, who also works at The Bishop, to make the screening a reality. The short films are all from the 1950s, with titles such as “What to Do on a Date,” “Gossip,” “Going Steady,” “How to Be Well Groomed” and “Are You Popular?”

The films came to the archive through Indiana University’s old Audio Visual Center. The center acted as a major distribution hub for such films, fulfilling requests made by the nation’s schools for the educational tools. The former center’s holdings became part of the archive’s collection when it was formed in late 2011.

The IU Libraries Film Archive collections now include about 82,000 films, including an educational collection featuring social adjustment and personal hygiene films from the 1940s to 1960s; World War II propaganda films; the collections of filmmakers John Ford, Orson Welles and Peter Bogdanovich; films from the university’s archives; and more than 3,000 titles from the Lilly Library’s David Bradley collections.

Much of the archive’s collections are searchable through IUCAT, the IU libraries’ online catalog, and are available for on-site viewing or through a digital streaming service.

“I watched quite a few of the social guidance films recently when curating this series, and there are really some treats in there,” Stoeltje said. “They were created as learning tools but, when viewed through the lens of today’s culture, they’re hysterical. And honestly, most people are really charmed by them.”

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