American Thrift (film #5 on Lifestyles, U.S.A., Vol. 1 (Something Weird, 2000). Also, film #375 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]

This third General Motors "American" film puports to be a tribute to the "Woman American" and her thrifty ways. Basically, the point being made is that Americans are so darn thrifty, especially American women, and our country thrives because of it. The problem with this idea is that this was made in the early 60s, a time when throw-away consumer culture had pretty much taken over, and economic wealth was (and is today) not based on thrift, but on spending, spending, and more spending. The emphasis on savings in the film will particularly make you snicker. Well-dressed wives are shown carefully saving for the things they want in little budget envelopes, not whipping out credit cards like in reality. The point of all of this is not clear––you'd think that a big company like GM would make a film singing the praises of spending and credit instead of saving and thrift––unless it was to lull the indebted public into a false sense of security, at least until the bills come. Apart from that, this film is a wonderful slice of idealized early-60s middle-class life, complete with spotless homes, perfect families, people dressing up for church, women and girls wearing little white gloves when they go shopping, and even a token black family. It's not nearly as sexist as you'd expect given its theme––it's even admitted that some women have careers (though these are made possible by innovations in household appliances) and some families can actually afford to send their daughters to college! It's also much less car-oriented than the other "American" films, perhaps because cars were more associated with men at the time.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.

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