Angels with dirty faces : children, cinema and censorship in 1930s Britain
Over the last two centuries, a succession of childhood pursuits has been blamed for deterioration in children's health, morality, education and literacy, as well as increases in juvenile delinquency, yet there has also been a constant voice in opposition to these charges. In Britain this debate reached something of a climax in the 1930s, due to the massive growth of cinema and its huge popularity with young people. This thesis aims to explore all aspects of the controversy surrounding children's cinemagoing in the thirties, with a particular focus on the mechanisms used to try and control or contain children's viewing, together with an assessment of the extent to which these mechanisms were successful. Its main arguments are that while concerns about child viewers motivated the development of film censorship practices in Britain and elsewhere, the debate is too complex and varied to be seen as a straightforward moral panic. In addition, it argues that, despite the attempts of the BBFC and others, children were essentially the regulators of their own viewing, as they frequently subverted or circumvented the largely ineffectual mechanisms of official cinema regulation. Moreover it suggests that, in a period when school, home and even leisure tended to be strong on discipline, the cinema was colonised by children as an alternative site of recreation. Matinees in particular were the birthplace of a new and somewhat subversive children's culture, which only started to be `tamed' with the introduction of more formal children's cinema clubs towards the end of the decade. Finally, the productive nature of the debate surrounding children, cinema and censorship is explored in a cases tudy of the 1930s MGM Tarzan films, which assesses the extent to which issues relating to the child audience may have helped to shape a genre.