Dating Do's and Don'ts [sic]1 is a 1949 instructional film designed for high schools, to teach adolescents basic dating skills. Produced with the assistance of Reuben Hill, Research Professor of Family Life at the University of North Carolina, it is one of a number of films produced in the mid-1900s by the United States government to promote conservative American middle-class family values, particularly after World War II. That same message would later be projected via early television sitcoms such as Father Knows Best and Leave It to Beaver. In this film, for instance, the boy is the sole initiator of any contact with the girl, and all arrangements are made under the warm supervision of the family, particularly a matriarchal housewife for a mother. As such, the film relays both spoken and unspoken values regarding the structure and hierarchy of the "typical" American family in the post-War era: the mother washes the floors and makes dinner for the family, while the father, who was obviously at work during most of the pre-date scene, helps his wife by drying the dishes after dinner while she washes them, adding a jibe about how he is the perfect man for her.
The film follows a young adolescent boy, Woody, who receives tickets for "one couple" to the Hi Teen Carnival. At different stages in the film, it offers options on how Woody might respond to various situations:
- What kind of girl should he date?
- How should he ask her out?
- How should he say good night after the date is over?
As Woody prepares for his date with Anne, he receives hints from his older brother, who is already an expert at dating--for instance, he tells him to act like his "natural, talkative self" while on the phone, and says that Woody does not have to bring Anne flowers on her first date. He also convinces their mother to allow Woody to go on his first date even though he is young, with her adding that it would be acceptable provided that Woody only dates on weekends and comes home at a reasonable hour. As Woody prepares for his date, his mother and father reflect on their own first dates to remind Woody how important it is for him to show up on time. His mother adds that any girl who is not ready for him on time is not worthy of going out with "my boy."
The film ends with Woody leaving the door outside Anne's home, whistling happily as he contemplates his next date.