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Documentary of the Day – The Atomic Cafe

Posted on the 03 February 2012 by Plotdevice39 @PlotDevices

I kind of wish that the media and defense departments of the US would go back to making these old style public service announcements.  It’s not because I think they would be useful by any means, but I would want to see them build up this public fever about those scary terrorists and the dangers of life waiting around every corner.  It amazes me that films like the one above existed in the first place, but then again it was a dangerous time back in the 40s with the war and nuclear weapon and all those scary Russians threatening our way of life.  Actually nothing really has changed even after 70 years of progress, shit these little War Department public announcements might be useful now.

Documentary of the Day – The Atomic Cafe

There is something though that makes the documentary, The Atomic Cafe, rather unique.  It isn’t meant to scare, but it does something that puts life into perspective through the use of over-dramatized statements about radiation and fear of war.  It’s a chronicling of our fear or the fear that we are supposed to have about life.  I like to think that they did more harm than good.

The Atomic Cafe is a documentary created by Jayne Loader, Kevin Rafferty, and Pierce Rafferty. They sifted through old public service videos that were prevalent in the 40s, 50s, and 60s, created by the government and war department to help inform the public of the dangers of the world that threaten their lives.  It is a compilation of news clips, radio announcements, training films from the government and print advertising, all chronicling the heightened fear of nuclear war and calming the public with these announcements.

The documentary plays out like a black comedy.  It’s almost comical to watch this fear-laden portrait of America, but you have to understand that these were made during and after WWII.  There was already a threat out there and a informed public is an effective public.  While there are some nuggets of information that is useful, the clips just kind of get absurd the longer you watch the film.  Even as a kid, I knew that the duck and cover method was going to do fuck all against a bomb going off, but at the time what do you tell people to do.

Documentary of the Day – The Atomic Cafe

I personally love watching this documentary, not because I have some weird fascination with nuclear weapons or even watching comical information segments on what to do against radiation.  I watch this and marvel at the creation of these videos as a chapter in the fabric of America’s upbringing.  What you are watching is a pivotal moment when America entered into the Atomic Age of civilization.  If you weren’t a scientist, how the hell do you even begin to comprehend all of this as a simpleton.  The videos are highlighted by archival footage from news reports about the use of nuclear weapons and the threat that the nuclear arms race has on the world.

In the end, this isn’t meant to scare, even though nuclear war is a scary thing, but that is something that is outside our hands and control.  I think the documentary makes a point of not having us worry so much and live in constant fear all the time.  It’s a wonderful look at a time in America when we didn’t have an idea of what was in store for us.  Nuclear power was a reality and it was something no one was prepared for.  It’s a poignant and humorous look at our past history and just goes to show that even with 70 years of progress, we still have a bit of fear of the unknown.  Sure, we laugh a bit about these videos, but this was a real threat that people needed to be eased into.  A little information goes a long way.


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