Nightmare Fuel

Imagine that you're a child, too young to understand anything much. And all the older children who think they know everything tell you: the world is going to end. That you'll die. Your brother and sister will die. Your parents will die. Your friends will die. You know they're not lying because you can see it on TV too. There are programmes your parents won't let you watch because they want to to sleep without fear, but they show trailers for them. You see a town like yours burn in a firestorm and glass milkbottles melt on doorsteps.

That's my earliest memory of the Cold War. It was 1983 or 1984, and Threads was shown one night, far too late for me to see, but the trailer kept me awake. They wanted people to know how horrifying nuclear war was, but it made no difference. The Cold War ground on for the rest of the decade and didn't stop just because people knew it was pointless and suicidal to launch nukes at each other.

It turns out that this approach was tried before, in 1956. Ed Sullivan showed a short animation on his wildly popular TV show, better known for introducing the US to The Beatles. He wanted to raise people's awareness as well. A far better blog than mine has the full story, and the BFI have gone to the trouble of sharing the film with us:

It didn't work then, either. The Cold War kept getting colder. The animation just scared a lot of children in my parent's generation, as I would be scared eighteen years later. It's been near on thirty years since then...

And the nukes are still there. And I'm still scared.