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A Transnational Tale of Teenage Terror: The Blackboard Jungle in Global Perspective

Abstract

Adam Golub’s research in “A Transnational Tale of Teenage Terror: The Blackboard Jungle in Global Perspective” on the Cold War era depiction in popular film of the US educational system as plagued by juvenile violence—specifically in Blackboard Jungle (1955; based on the novel by Evan Hunter)—is timely and sets into motion a series of relevant questions about the global perception of on-campus violence, US youth, and US culture. Golub focuses on the film’s reception in post-occupation Japan and West Germany in order to highlight the role of geopolitics in assessing the social and cultural “honesty” of a critical self-representation in fictional narrative, as well as the US government’s willingness or unwillingness to allow such depictions their freedom. This essay expands the transnational interpretation of the value of this film by not only comparing how different countries responded to the film but by demonstrating that the intervention of the film into the political moment affords significant insight into the inner workings of cultural diplomacy. A highly teachable essay, this work could be usefully paired with more contemporary narratives problematizing juvenile violence and educational space in US culture and elsewhere; furthermore, it highlights the transnational interpretative framework as essential to an understanding of the mutuality of the political and forms of representation when read in historical context. JTAS is grateful to Red Feather: An International Journal of Children’s Visual Culture, which originally published Adam Golub’s essay in 2012.

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