A SURVEY OF TRENDS
Those who want to know what has been discovered about the influence of the cinema on children and adolescents will find an answer here. It has been given by some four hundred writers, from nearly thirty different countries, whose work is represented in the following pages.
The purpose of this bibliography is to list and to annotate the most important books and articles published throughout the world during the past three decades dealing with the influence of the cinema on young people. The task has not been an easy one: the field of subject-matter is wide and has been approached from various points of view ‐ physiology, psychology, psychiatry, sociology, criminology, education - and the results have been published in many languages and places. Indeed, almost the only completely unassailable conclusion that may be drawn from a study of these pages is that great and growing importance is attached to the problem of film and youth. There is widespread agreement that something should be done.
What should be done is quite another matter. Few authoritative judgements could be made simply on the evidence of the bibliographical data collected here - at least without reference to the full texts of the books and articles themselves. Even then, the considered opinions and apparently substantiated conclusions of one writer seem, all too often, to cancel out those of another. As one author puts it, if one thing is known with certainty about children and the cinema, it is that very little is known with certainty about children and the cinema - beyond the obvious fact that they have a persistent liking for it.
Yet, when this note of caution has been sounded, there are nevertheless some broad trends which can be discerned in the present bibliography and which should not be overlooked. At various points in this world debate on the cinema's influence it is possible, without taking a show of hands, to gauge "the feeling of the meeting".
Studies on the educational film - that is, on the use of the film strictly as a teaching aid - have been excluded from this bibliography, in order to keep the publication within manageable proportions: but such action does not rule out the topic of film education ("éducation cinématographique") or, as it is called in several countries, "film appreciation". In point of fact, the growing interest in film education, allied with the development of ciné‐ clubs for the young, the production and distribution of special children's entertainment films and the presentation of special programmes, represents the most noticeable of the trends to be detected here. A large number of writers advocate that teaching about the cinema should not merely be encouraged but that it should be given formal recognition in the school curriculum. In several countries (e.g. the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United Kingdom), even before the period covered by this book, this attitude existed. Any attempt to classify a collection of data such as this into positive and negative categories would have been "unscientific"; yet, as against those items which express viewpoints plainly antagonistic towards the cinema and its effects on the young, one cannot help being impressed by the volume of opinion in favour of the educational aspects and practical measures which are considered as positive influences of the film. The largest sections in fact deal with these, and even censorship, traditionally regarded as essentially negative, is represented as capable of being a positive factor.
The individual opinions expressed by writers in most of the other sections are often sharply contradictory, but nowhere more so than in the section dealing with "juvenile delinquency". However, although the subject is tendentious and controversial, it was obviously necessary to include a grouping of items under this heading, if only because the problem has attracted such widespread contemporary interest. Two or three assumptions can safely be made after an examination of these items. One is that, on the evidence so far available, it is extremely difficult - indeed, virtually impossible - to establish that the cinema has a direct influence on juvenile delinquency. While a great deal of research has been carried out to decide whether or not films corrupt youth, what has been done is conflicting both as to methods and results. There are a number of psychiatric theories on the subject, but the evidence in support of them is inconclusive. At one extreme it is claimed that films actively incite young people to delinquency; at the other that they are safety‐ valves which may help to prevent it; on the one hand, that they supply first-hand knowledge of how to commit criminal acts; on the other that, by keeping children off the streets, they prevent juvenile misbehaviour and crime. A "half-way" attitude is that criminal and amoral behaviour is to be imputed to deeper and more subtle influences than the film alone, although much that is shown on the screen is unsuitable for children.
There is no doubt that a good many hobby‐ horses are ridden through these pages. Nevertheless