Forman and Morality

Henry Forman wrote Our Movies Made Children to convince people that movies are destroying the minds of young people. He says that while movies are the next step in media, they convey messages that should not be discussed in a public manner. He also notes many movies show certain people in a bad light and that has influenced the young people to see them in a bad light. Another argument he makes is regarding sex and how it is shown too frequently in movies and is giving the young women a bad impression.

Forman uses many sources throughout his article but he never really says where he got his information. To a historian, this is a red flag indicating many of these “quotes” may not actually be real and this source is therefore not entirely reliable. One quote he uses is supposedly from a young woman in college. Her quote is about how a certain movie portrayed the villain as a Chinese man and how because of that movie, she is unable to see a Chinese man without thinking he will kill her or make her a slave. By using this quote, Forman hopes to prove his theory of movies influencing the way people feel about one another.

The next big argument Forman makes is how movies have affected how young people think of sex. He does this by specifically citing the movies “Our Dancing Daughters” with Joan Crawford. In the movie, Crawford flirts very heavily with a man and she shows she has a lot of freedom to do whatever she wants. This is obviously bad in Forman’s eyes and his audience. He uses this to show how watching movies will make girls more rebellious and if the girls get more rebellious, so will the boys.

The next argument Forman makes builds off of this idea of rebellion. He states “Possibly some parents may be willing to have their children acquire their attitudes, manners, morals, ideas of love and sex from movies. But how many of us would like to have our children become dissatisfied with their homes, or rebelliously resentful of parental control, in consequence of the teachings of what we may perhaps call our movie Bible” [1] Now in case it was not obvious before, the reader can really tell how Forman views movies. They are the start of revolutions. Movies mold children into delinquents. There are seldom good movies that make kids better members of society. Movies are monsters.  In chapter 11, Forman notes a young boy who was interested in crime because of a movie in which the hero was a criminal. Forman uses this as proof of how movies can influence youths into delinquency and stating that movies blur the lines between good and evil. These blurred lines then confuse children and they will begin to think that because they did a criminal act they are the good guys while in reality that would make them the bad guy.

From all of his arguments, it is obvious that Forman was really interested in restricting movies and what they were allowed to show. He probably would have wanted to ban movies  altogether because he thinks they are becoming the only source of entertainment in young people and therefore they are driving people away from reading and learning.  However, with reform, he could make it so the movies follow the path of entertainment he stated in the beginning. He realized that movies were the next step in the progression he just did not like how they were made and the messages they put out. With reform, Forman could make the movies the way he wants them and use them to influence the youth in a positive way. All in all, Forman’s argument is that even though movies are the next logical step there needs to be a guide in place for the kinds of things movies are allowed to show and the messages they are allowed to put out.

[1]Henry James Forman, “Molded by the Movies,” Our Movie Made Children, (New York: The MacMillian Company, 1935), 167

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One thought on “Forman and Morality

  1. Thanks for this post, Vicky. My one caution about going too far with your discussion of his lack of documentation is that we didn’t read the entire book. I don’t have it at hand with me now, but he purports to cite social-scientific studies from the 1920s and early 1930s when he refers to the types of discussions you raise in your post. It’s entirely possible that he discusses the origins of those studies in a chapter that we didn’t read. Which is to say that your caution is warranted (and commendable!) in general but that we’d need to get a little more information from the book to make a judgment with regard to Forman.

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