An American Girl (film #363 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Educational]

This film, made by the same folks responsible for All the Way Home, show us the underside of the "nice, simpler time" of the 50s, this time from a teen's perspective. Teenaged girl Norma gets a pretty silver charm bracelet for her birthday from her little sister, who bought it in a second-hand store. When Norma returns to the store with her friends to get the storekeeper to decipher some foreign characters on one of the charms, she finds out it is a Jewish bracelet. When the storekeeper shows her a star of David charm that goes with it, Norma has it put on the bracelet, despite the protests of her friends, who think it is "weird." Norma does it because she thinks it's pretty, but she finds that wearing a bracelet with Jewish symbols on it is "not done" in her neighborhood and it leads to ostracism by most of the kids at school, including her best friends. One of her friend's mothers actually accuses Norma of hiding a Jewish identity and insists that she should make friends with "her own kind." Fortunately, Norma's parents are unusually intelligent and thoughtful in this matter. They realize that they cannot shield their daughter from the ugliness that is showing in their "nice" neighborhood after the bracelet scratched its surface, and they allow Norma to make her own decision about what to do about it, according to her own conscience. Norma chooses to confront the PTA with her experiences by reading her diary aloud to them. This film is a good counterpoint to the social guidance films made during this period, most of which stress "fitting in." What those other films failed to show was that some people were not even given a chance to "fit in" and that conforming to the group is not always a good thing. The fact that the filmmakers didn't actually make Norma Jewish just shows how pervasive the problem of racism was, and how it was covered up with innuendo and hints, in order to maintain the facade of "niceness." Again, this is a film that is necessary viewing in order to get a more complete version of what the 50s were like, and the price that was paid for its "niceness."

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

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