The anti-alcohol (actually, anti-alcoholic) ‘temperance’ movement was the inspiration for many sets of Victorian magic lantern slides. The surviving material is so rich and varied that it has been the topic of past blog posts and will, no doubt, be again in future. Today’s set of slides is called ‘A Strong Contrast’ and its message isn’t subtle.
I remember being shocked on one of my visits to California by an advertisement in a shopping mall that said ‘Buy this’. That doesn’t seem outrageous now but, at the time, the bluntness of the message offended my British reserve. It was brash, in-your-face marketing that I wasn’t used to and this set of slides is the Victorian equivalent. It doesn’t suggest that your life and that of your family might be improved if you drink less, it screams “Do you want to be like this …. or this? It does so by showing everyday objects owned by people who drink and others who don’t. There are ten slides in the set and I’ve shown the title slide and the first four with the note for the lecturer underneath each one.
Magic lantern lecture scripts would usually ramble on and on for many pages and each slide could be on the screen for several minutes. Victorians must have had much longer attention spans than we do! In contrast, these captions are a short, sharp warning for potential alcoholics.
I am worn by a man who works hard and thinks
Did this approach work? Probably not, as we don’t like being told what to do. Does ‘Buy this’ work? Probably not, for the same reason. Whenever I use these slides in my shows, the response is always the same ….. laughter. That might just be our one-hundred-years-later response to the message but perhaps the Victorians who saw them responded in the same way.
And I by one who’s lazy and drinks!
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