Friday Fluff: The Outsider (1951)

By | January 21, 2011

Today’s distraction comes to us from the Prelinger Collection at the Internet Archive, one of my favorite places on the web. I present a short 1951 discussion film entitled “The Outsider”. Susan Jane has what could be delicately referred to as social problems. Mainly she is convinced that all the kids at school hate her. Susan Jane is quiet, soft-spoken, painfully awkward, given to crying jags, and something of a proto-nerd. Her melodrama would be hilarious if it weren’t true that so many adolescent kids still go through the same damn issues.

Actually, it’s still hilarious, if only because this film is so dated. I am fascinated by the different words these kids stress in compound nouns: root beer, ice cream cone. Further, I really want to wear penny loafers with white socks all of sudden.

Susan Jane’s low self esteem leads to an unfortunate misunderstanding, which is ultimately resolved by one of the girls at school specifically going out of her way to make friends with her. Susan Jane then reads “a book on what to do to make people like you,” according to the narrator, and at the end of the film, leaves for the big party, where we can hope nobody dumps pig’s blood on her. Curiously, this short film could be interpreted to be carrying the message that it’s okay to be different, which is pretty unusual for what we expect of the uber-conformist 50s.

Also of interest in this short is incontrovertible proof that fat children existed even sixty years ago. This proof takes shape in the character of Junior, a tubby and cheerful boy who loves food and, interestingly, suffers none of Sarah Jane’s social problems, but is rather fully accepted by his friends.

Enjoy, my loves, and have a delicious weekend.


Michelle on January 21, 2011 at 12:22 pm.

God I love these things. As well as the internet archive.

The whole time, I was waiting to see if Susan Jane was going to shoot someone on a beach.


Other Kate on January 21, 2011 at 1:30 pm.

The whole issue of word stress is so fascinating . . . my grandmother always said “ice CREAM.” Also, “dungarees!”


Courtney on January 21, 2011 at 2:03 pm.

Ah, Centron. Some Centron renegades eventually made Carnival of Souls.

The accent you guys find so interesting is geographical, not temporal. The Centrons were made in Lawrence, Kansas. Today, I think you mostly find the accent in the southeastern part of the state.


BuffPuff on January 21, 2011 at 3:45 pm.

Omigod I love Carnival of Souls! Come to think of it the dreadful acting’s kind of reminiscent of it too.

Lesley, did you see the equally hilarious three-parter Dee posted on BFB a while back from Sociological Images?


Lesley on January 21, 2011 at 7:27 pm.

I actually found this on my own today! It seems pretty epic.


BuffPuff on January 21, 2011 at 9:10 pm.

It was a real eye opener to see how far back some of that prejudice goes. It’s also provides a great example of how sizeism conveniently mask various other isms. Got to keep the working classes with their broken marriages and heedless scarfing of lard in their place eh wot?!


Lesley on January 21, 2011 at 7:28 pm.

And of course now I’ve got “Cruel to be Kind” stuck in my head. Sigh.


BuffPuff on January 22, 2011 at 7:18 am.

Damn it, now I have too!


BuffPuff on January 21, 2011 at 3:46 pm.

Ugh. Duff formatting strikes again. Sorry, my bad.


kbryna on January 22, 2011 at 6:57 pm.

you know, I’ve read through some of those “how to make people like you” books (I used to work in a bookstore), but they never actually worked.

and the *Carrie* reference is hilarious. thanks for the fluff!


madagascar_b on January 23, 2011 at 3:14 am.


On an unrelated note, when will we see the next Fatcast?


Lesley on January 23, 2011 at 12:07 pm.

Soon, I hope! I am working hard on finishing my book before the deadline, and that has swallowed up most of the weekend time that Marianne and I would spend recording. But I hope to make time to do so in the near future!


Taylor on January 23, 2011 at 9:36 am.

I love Prelinger too. Hey, Lesley, when is the next podcast coming? I check for new ones all the time.


Molly on January 23, 2011 at 7:52 pm.

Wow, this was beyond cute. . .loved it & loved poor little Susan Jane! As a Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan I’m well-acquainted with those old Centron films but had no idea they were made in Lawrence, KS, where I lived for 5 years! Thanks, Courtney! I can’t help but feel they should still show things like these in schools now.


Courtney on January 25, 2011 at 12:27 pm.

I too am a MSTie… and I grew up in Kansas. As far as the MST shorts go, if you watch the “What About Juvenile Delinquency?” one, you might notice that the school they are in front of is Lawrence High, and pretty much all the characters have last names that correspond to towns in Kansas (Lawrence, Leawood, McPherson, etc.)

Actually, the FatCast about love that mentioned early 90s MST3k bulletin boards as an example of where to meet people really made me laugh, as I met my beloved via an MST3k chat room just a year ago. Some things never change.


Stephanie on January 24, 2011 at 3:53 am.

🙁 I still feel like Sarah Jane.


Lesley on January 25, 2011 at 9:28 am.

It’s okay to feel like Sarah Jane! Everyone does, sometimes! And it’s okay to be awkward and everything else we see in her character! We just need to own that and not let it hold us back, is all.


Audrey on January 25, 2011 at 10:07 pm.

Gee, that was SWELL! 😀
OMG – I was Sarah Jane in High School! I’m amazed at how this translates to further generations.


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