‘Fouling civilisation’?: official attitudes towards popular film and literature

Robert James

in Popular Culture and Working-Class Taste in Britain, 1930-39

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print September 2010 | ISBN: 9780719080258
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781702444 | DOI:
‘Fouling civilisation’?: official attitudes towards popular film and literature

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The state's relationship with cinema and literature revolved around two main issues. The first was economic; the second, and arguably most the important, was ideological. This chapter assesses official attitudes towards both cinema and popular fiction, providing information about the processes behind the production and distribution of these cultural goods. As cinema audiences grew in the 1920s, it became evident to many within the Establishment and film industry that the most popular films with British audiences were those produced in America. Unease was consequently expressed over the economic and ideological effects of this on the British film industry and the country. Establishment figures were blaming society's cinema-going habits for the cause of national decline and cultural debasement. According to them, Americans looked upon films as a purely commercial item, while they regard them partly, at least, as a cultural responsibility. It was assumed that the influence of these films would create the ‘Americanization’ of British culture, a situation which, if left unchecked, could weaken the existing social structure. The establishment also showed a vested interest in what type of fiction was made available to the working-class reader through the public library system, and it was not driven by a mere altruistic desire. Steps taken by the various government bodies show that they viewed the public library with some skepticism.

Keywords: state; cinema; literature; cultural responsibility; commercial item

Chapter.  7785 words. 

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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