The talk, which is based on my current research into the infancy of video rental culture in Britain, takes place between 4pm and 6pm somewhere on campus (helpful, I know). I will be participating on a panel with Oliver Carter and Xavier Mendik.
“Video nicies”: re-thinking the relationship between children and video entertainment in 1980s Britain
Published work addressing video’s formative years in Britain typically frames children in one of two ways: either as victims of ‘video nasties’, or as scapegoats used by social guardians and policymakers to further a profoundly moralistic, censorious, agenda. The centrality of youngsters to this historical moment cannot be denied, but there is much more to be learned about their relationship with video entertainment during the early 1980s.
It would be unreasonable to suggest—as some have—that, because the video industry lacked governmental regulation between the years 1978 and 1984, video distributors were so ‘brash and out for profit’ that they disregarded children’s welfare. On the contrary, and as this talk will reveal, many distributors traded in an array of videos intended specifically for a child audience, ranging from age-appropriate feature films to cartoons to non-fiction education videos, while others dealt exclusively in children’s entertainment. Indeed, far from simply being irresponsible peddlers of horror and pornography, some companies went to great lengths to appeal directly to youngsters—including companies that would be subsequently prosecuted for trading in ‘obscene publications’. Situating the video boom in its historical context, this talk examines how distributors marketed ‘kidvids’ in the trade and consumer press, and how they sought to promote children’s product that was not only designed to entertain, but also to educate.