Setting the Scene: An Introduction

  • Gillian Arrighi
  • Victor Emeljanow
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Theatre and Performance History book series (PSTPH)


In his book Youth, Popular Culture and Moral Panics, John Springhall writes about the moral panics that have afflicted British and American middle-class observers of young people’s behavior since the 1830s.With mounting anxiety they have railed against young people’s consumption of and exposure to cheap theater, cheap novels, films, television, and latterly electronic media. As he explains,

Media panics … proved enduring because of the pioneering cultural position of the young in modernity: from the 1860s as dominant consumers of mass-produced penny serials; from the 1900s as major cinema patrons; from the later 1930s unrivalled as comic-book readers; obsessive television viewers from the 1950s; and from the 1980s accomplished as operators of video recorders and computer games. This cultural power of the young in the world of commercial leisure poses a potential threat to existing power relations.

He goes on,

… moral panics often tell us a great deal about adult anxieties—fear of the future, of technological change, and the erosion of moral absolutes—than about the nature of juvenile misbehaviour. Attacks on the media [including theater] thereby act to conceal social uncertainties.1


Young People Moral Panic Traditional Performance Double Decker Adult Anxiety 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    John Springhall, Youth, Popular Culture and Moral Panics: Penny Gaffs to Gangsta-Rap, 1830–1996 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998), 160–1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Clement Scott, “The Children’s Pinafore,” The Theatre new (3rd) series 1: 38 (January 1, 1880).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Marah Gubar, “Who Watched the Children’s Pinafore? Age Transvestism on the Nineteenth-Century Stage,” Victorian Studies 54:3 (Spring 2012): 410–26, at 410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Gillian Arrighi and Victor Emeljanow 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gillian Arrighi
  • Victor Emeljanow

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations