rejectomorph (flying_blind) wrote,

The Dead are Hanging Out on teh Intarwebs

Charles Phoenix collects other people's slides, buying them from thrift shops or wherever they turn up, and then he puts together slide shows which he presents to audiences around the country, to considerable acclaim. There's one particular slide from his collection to which he gives the cozy caption "Watching Home Movies, L.A., 1959", but I wonder if he hasn't misinterpreted the scene.

Cheerful optimist that he is, I think Phoenix is inclined to make the most positive interpretation of the pictures he unearths. I'm a bit more cynical perhaps, but this particular picture does not look to me like a happy family watching home movies. Look at the grim faces. Note the large, apparently 16mm, projector (home movies by the 1950s were almost invariably 8mm.) And note especially the figure, partly seen, seated next to that projector. Is he not garbed in a military uniform?

Charles Phoenix isn't old enough to remember the 1950s firsthand, but I am. What I see in this slide is a man, perhaps a friend or relative of one or more of the members of his audience, who is showing a propaganda movie about some looming threat that, left unchallenged, will destroy the nation. The slide is thus a scene depicting an ancient custom: Indoctrination into the mysteries of the current cult organized against whatever the current Threat to Civilization is. Cave men probably learned to fear ghosts in pretty much the same way these people are learning to fear (most likely) Communists (especially the ones running the local library or teaching at the elementary school or editing the daily newspapers of the nearest metropolis.) It's sort of a Tupperware of Terror party—at least that's what it looks like to me.

There's even a possibility that the uniformed fellow is a con artist, long out of the service or never in it, presenting a pitch for a fad product of the time, the bomb/fallout shelter. There were in fact many scam artists in that era who took advantage of the low-grade hysteria of the day to sell costly holes in the ground which still lie under suburban lawns or patios today, usually sealed off and often forgotten until some hapless house flipper stumbles onto them and has to deal with this residue of yesterday's paranoia. Maybe the folks in the photo are going to be buying a shelter and stocking it with tinned foods and bottled water. If so, that shelter probably still exists, a hidden monument to their old fears. Maybe if somebody finds it, they can clean it up and rent it out to illegal aliens—or hide from them in it. The more things change....

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