For audiences, public officials, and commentators alike, media and popular culture have long been sites where potent social anxieties heave to the surface, animating a wide range of moral and cultural panics. Routinely charged with being a vector of moral vice and political subversion, the moving image has often landed squarely in the crosshairs of those quick to ban, blacklist, and censor. The Carsey-Wolf Center’s 2024-25 feature series Panic! explores the complex relationship between media, an anxious public, and the turbulent currents of social, cultural, and moral panic. The series will examine how such panics have appeared on screen over the decades, but also consider how the screen itself—as technology, as gathering space, and as a site of fantasy and desire—becomes the object of reactionary backlash. In an effort to understand the recursive nature and often repressive consequences of widespread social panic, the series will consider the cycles of outrage that roiled pre-code Hollywood, Cold War-era anxieties over Communist infiltration in the film industry, longstanding fears over the corruptibility of young moviegoers, persistent worries regarding the persuasive power of deceptive images and misinformation, and more. Panic! will be a yearlong showcase of the films, discourses, and cultural practices that have tested the limits of public acceptability, and that have much to teach us about the cycles of panic that define our own political moment.

Please contact Carsey-Wolf Center Director Patrice Petro and Associate Director Emily Zinn if you have ideas for public events that might fit with our 2024-2025 programming theme.