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Goodbye Mrs. Ant by Curtis, Adam

As part of the documentary series Pandora's Box Goodbye Mrs Ant examines the influence of chemicals discoveries on everyday life. The documentary focuses on the development of the insecticide DDT, its effects on the environment and men's changing attitude towards the environment. The documentary consists of archival footage accompanied by narration and interviews. Filmmaker Adam Curtis discusses the development of DDT with those who were involved in the respective administrations as well as involved civilians.

'When chemists were heroes'
The opening prologue describing the work of American chemist Thomas Midgley is characteristic for the documentary's further argumentation. Midgley was responsible for both the addition of lead to petrol as the development of CFCs as a refrigerant. While lauded at the time of his discoveries, after their negative impact on the environment became apparent his legacy was considered with much more mixed sentiment. This led one historian to comment that Midgley "had more impact on the atmosphere than any other single organism in Earth's history."

Historical background
The documentary outlines how the radical implications of chemical discoveries in the 1930s and 1940s were initial lauded for their perceived beneficial ability to control disease and pests. However, public sentiment changes in the early 1960s towards a more critical position as the negative environmental effects of these innovations became apparent. While focusing on the shifting public sentiment towards chemistry, the documentary also covers how the sciences entomology and ecology were transformed by social, political and economic pressures.

Social interest
The serious side effects of some insecticides on the environment were known by many entomologists as early as the 1940s. Yet, the benefits were considered so great that nothing changed until shifting public sentiment and civil pressure aided in the ban of chemicals such as DDT. Hereby the documentary argues how civilian activism aided in the preservation of the environment where scientific, economic and political interests had obviously failed.

Although the documentary highlights the obvious benefits of the ban of DDT, it claims that present ideas about ecology and environment are not any more scientific our rational than previous notions of nature. In both cases the representatives assumed to advocate the undisputed truth by equating their claims to scientific reality. However, scientific theories never have a single meaning, thus the transferred ideals always originate from a very particular social-political affiliation and not one objective view on reality.

Pandora's Box
Pandora's Box is a six part BBC television documentary series written and produced by British television producer and documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis. Each part of the series focuses on social, political or scientific aspects of reality and examines the increasing influence and danger of political and technological rationalism.

About the filmmaker
Adam Curtis is a renowned British television producer and documentary filmmaker noted for making programmes which often make far reaching claims on grand subjects. The scale of his subject matter and his claims to the undisputable truth of his opinion often give rise to controversy. However, his documentaries always expound clear views on the subject which are structurally well argued. Curtis is known for his extensive use of archival footage and the narration his own documentaries.

Pandora's Box won the BAFTA Award for Best Factual Series.

Curtis, Adam
Copyright Holder
46 min.
Year of release

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