Saturday, October 3, 2015

"Boys Beware" Anti-Homosexual Propaganda from the 1950s.

     This was a short film produced by Sid Davis productions in 1959 on the suggestion of the Inglewood Police Department in Southern California. Shot on a shoestring budget, it was ostensibly was made to warn young boys of the danger of predatory men, but does not differentiate between homosexuals and pedophiles. 
Rakph, 1950's homosexual
      Actual quote from the film, “What Jimmy didn’t know was the Ralph was sick. A sickness not visible like smallpox, but no less dangerous and contagious- a sickness of the mind. You see Ralph was a homosexual, a person who demands an intimate relationship with members of their own sex.”
     As you can see, it minces no words and certainly reflects the prevailing attitudes of the authorities of that time which believed that all gay men were child predators. One that still is pushed forward today by certain religious and conservative groups. At one point in time Boys Beware was required viewing for males in many school districts across the country.
Ralph and Jimmy
    The plot follows four different scenarios of young boys being preyed upon by older men. The first one is the tale of Jimmy who is befriended by Ralph a pedophile (again the word used here is homosexual). Ralph buys Jimmy things and eventually lures the boy back to his apartment for sex. Ralph is ultimately arrested and Jimmy is placed on probation. It’s unsure why this is done to Jimmy, speculation runs from the idea that the sex is consensual to a form of victim blaming. The second scenario deals with Mike a young boy who accepts a ride home from a stranger and ends up (as the narrator puts it) “trading his life for a newspaper headline.” A third boy is tricked into a stranger’s car by the man asking the boy for help to track down some stolen bicycles. The man is arrested after the boy’s friend writes down the man’s license plate number. The final boy is Bobby who is stalked by a man after Bobby makes the mistake of using a public restroom, which is a “known predatory spot for the homosexual.” Bobby almost compounds the error by taking a shortcut under a boardwalk, but he notices the man following him and takes another route, thus narrowly escaping death.
     The film was remade twice by the studio. The first time in 1973, under the title Boys Aware and a third edition being produced in 1979. Each of these was made using the exact same script and even the same voice-over narration as the original.
Sid Davis
     Sid Davis Productions created short pieces directed at the educational market and gained an edge by covering topics most other educational studios wouldn’t. Besides Boys Beware, the studio had a catalog of over 150 titles- all shot cheaply with little to no input from experts who had studied the subjects in question. He often relied on purely on anecdotal evidence from police officers and detectives The topics varied from driver safety, the dangers of marijuana (an early example of the “gateway drug” myth), gang violence, juvenile delinquency, rape prevention, heroin addiction, anti-smoking, and household safety. All done in a grim exploitative manner.
     Ostensibly Boys Beware sports some good safety tips. Don’t get into strangers cars. Hitchhiking is dangerous. Let your parents know where you are going. Let you parents know if a strange man approaches you. Writing down the license numbers of cars. Etc. But the heavy handed narration and its refusal to see homosexuality as anything other than a mental illness that drives a man to lust after young boys, destroys all credibility that it may have had.

Boys Beware 1959

                                                                 Boys Aware 1973