“Looks Like It’s Gonna Be A Free Country”: ‘Schoolhouse Rock!’, 1973 – 1976

It’s hard for me to square the aesthetic of these friendly, vivid, hippie-lite cartoons with the messages they convey. The patriotic, even nationalistic approach to American history was nothing if not commonplace in K-8 schools even in the liberal Northeast as late as the 1980s. Plymouth Rock, 1620, taxation without representation, Bunker Hill, Lewis and Clark, Manifest Destiny, Civil War, women’s suffrage: the parade of America’s history presented as a series of easy-to-remember facts and figures…

“Mum Says It’s Alright As Long As I’m Careful”: British Public Information Films

Designed to educate the country’s public in virtuous behaviors and warn them of the dangers they might encounter in everyday life, Public Information Films, or “PIFs,” were broadcast on British national television throughout most of the second half of the 20th century, and were one of the tools successive post-war UK governments employed to educate the populace in civic comportment…

We Who Are Alive: The End Times On Screen

When I was about 7 or 8, one of the girls in my neighborhood explained what would happen to me if I didn’t become a Jehovah’s Witness. She said that we were all living in the “last days,” that the world was a horrible place full of sin and disease and false prophets, and that God was coming back soon to rescue His “sheep”—those baptized into the Jehovah’s Witnesses…

Ready Player None: Toppling the Diseased Colossus of Geek Culture

I honestly hadn’t thought about Ready Player One until the movie was announced. Even then, I tried to avoid it. But I finally saw the trailer, against my will, and dear God, what a hideous mess. But hey, I wasn’t going to see it, because I lost my virginity and I’m married to a good-looking man and can watch grown-up films because I’m a Big Girl. Then I read his poetry. And since then, I’ve been training, Linda-Hamilton-in-T2 style, to take this motherfucker down…

Pogo Bal Commercial, Circa 1987

Hasbro’s Pogo Bal made a splash in the States during the summer of 1987, becoming the third bestselling toy on the market after G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (also Hasbro) and Barbie. Invented in 1969 by two Belgians, Raphael J. Van Der Cleyen and Wilfried F. Ribbens, the updated pogo stick became “immensely popular” in Europe during 1985, where it was sold as “Lolo Ball” or “Lolobal.” Hasbro acquired the rights soon after…