1954 Propaganda Film Assures Us That Clean Houses Are Key In Surviving Nuclear Diasters

By Nick Venable | 8 years ago

I don’t think I’m alone here in having a mother whose insistence that I keep my room clean often overrode all of her other expectations of me. Considering she rarely had to enter my room, I never really understood what the big deal was. Now I know she was just trying to save me from certain doom in case anyone ever decided to set off a nuclear explosion in small-town Louisiana. (A threat that haunted my nightmares after seeing Terminator 2: Judgment Day for the first time.)

Even though I doubt my mom, or any of your moms for that matter, ever watched the good-natured propaganda film The House in the Middle, I’m sure she’d respect its central conceit: cleanliness saves lives. The 12-minute film takes footage of bomb testing at the Nevada Proving Grounds, now known by its less manly, more bullshitty name, the Nevada National Security Site, and “proves” to its viewers that nuclear bombs hate all the same things we do: crumpled-up newspapers, cluttered tabletops, and the crappy paint jobs on city houses. I mean, how dare these things exist!?! Ensuring that your community is kept clean is a civil defense and…I…I simply cannot continue spouting off this malarkey.

Essentially, the film imparts the timeless wisdom that making sure your house is clean, clutter-free, and freshly painted will save it should a nuclear bomb go off anywhere in the vicinity. What it doesn’t explain is why my radiated-ass corpse would care about how well my house fared during the explosion. I mean, perhaps homes on the very outside of a blast radius might keep a family inside safe if that family remembered to patch up any gaping holes in their walls and put panes up in all their windows instead of just pieces of paper that said “window pane.” But I don’t think “not weed-eating that weekend” would be enough to seal the house’s fate.

mushroom cloud
The Hendersons can leave their magazines and newspapers on the floors of Hell now.

Now, we know that sci-fi authors were wrong about what today’s world would be like, as were sci-fi filmmakers, but at least they were predicting a future life that they couldn’t have possibly been privy to. I don’t think anyone ever thought that a fresh coat of paint would save their house from anything but cracked paint (and possibly the ridicule of douchey neighbors.)

What’s that? You say you want to know who sponsored this film? Why, the National Clean Up-Paint Up-Fix Up Bureau of course, with production credits going to the National Paint, Varnish, and Lacquer Association. I’m kind of surprised that “American Suburbs” wasn’t another sponsor. I wonder if this film was the final nail in the coffin for Big Lacquer.

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