Sunday, 20 December 2009


Following suit from such other cautionary tales as Reefer Madness and Cocaine Fiends, Crane Wilbur’s Tomorrow’s Children weaves a questionable yarn about enforced sterilisation. Our protagonist is Alice Mason, a well-spoken woman in a happy relationship. She and her beau Jim often talk about the future, discussing the children they would love to have. Cut to the Mason household – a state health official examines Alice’s many younger siblings, while her alcoholic father sits passively at the table, bottle in hand. The official is there to aid in the birth of another Mason child, which turns out to be stillborn. However, as he warns a devastated Alice, the state of affairs in their household is so deplorable that he demands Alice and her family be sterilised to prevent their weak genes from passing down another generation.

The subject itself is nothing less than shocking – compulsory sterilisation has its roots in eugenics, often stretching the definition of poor genes to include not just hereditary conditions, but also different skin colours. Of course, the film fails to present any facts persuasively. As with many social guidance films of the time, everything here is hugely exaggerated to the point of hysterics. Alice is remarkably turned out given the callousness exhibited by her parents, who casually give the health officials the thumbs up to her sterilisation. It should also be pointed out that any educational film dealing with a serious ethical debate might want to steer clear of using a mincing doctor as comic relief.

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