In 1964, Paul Almond began a film series intended to test the Jesuit proverb, “give me the child until he is seven and I will give you the man.” Set in England, this series looks at how a child’s socioeconomic status–or, in the English context, class–impacts his or her political and social world view and ultimate class standing as an adult. The producers selected 13 seven-year-olds from varying social classes, ranging from old-moneyed, upper-class children to orphans, and filmed the children’s interaction at a party, in addition to conducting interviews. From this initial interview, we can see how a child’s class standing, and the attendant privileges and hindrances, profoundly impacts the child’s ultimate socioeconomic status. The series follows up with each interviewee every seven years to determine if the Jesuits were indeed correct. So far, there eight instalments, and the “children” were 56 during the last interview.
So as not to either positively or negatively influence your opinion of the film makers approach, I will not provide any specific details about characterizations of the children or the overarching theme. Though, please be aware of the producers’ general thesis, “Why do we bring these children together? Because we want to get a glimpse of England in the year 2000. The union leader and the business executive of the year 2000 are now seven years old.” After the first episode, you quickly see in which direction the subsequent episodes are headed.
For the next eight weeks, Youtube videos will be posted for each episode, so you can see if Suzy, Charley, John, etc. either conform to the pressures of their childhood class standing, or rise above expectations. Alternatively, you can watch the entire series on Netflix.
For full disclosure, I must admit that this is a highly addictive series. Once you start watching it, you likely won’t be able to stop. In essence, this is The Truman Show, but without the horrific ethical issues.