22 Apr Censorship in films – where does it come from?
A brief history: social progressivism was a global movement borne from the Industrial Revolution resulting in positive social changes through government regulations and social organizations. An example would be censorship in films.
The first ever censorship law was passed in 1897 in Maine, USA, regarding a long film showing a major boxing match, as boxing was illegal there at that time. As time passed, municipal censorship laws were brought about regarding moral grounds. However, instead of protecting films, it hurt the film industry as many theaters were being shut down due to safety hazards. In New York in the early 1900s, an organization was created to review and cut films (for money) deemed appropriate for viewers. This organization became so popular it became a nationwide success, warding off government intervention. In 1915, the Supreme Court stepped in saying that movies were not considered free speech and therefore the government was officially allowed to implement laws over content of films. Hollywood films in the 1920s were scandalous, and so a list was drawn of taboos and don’ts for studios. As sound in films came along, content seemed more “real”, and codes became more strict regarding nudity, suggestiveness of anything sexual, profanity, racism and violence. These codes were in place to protect studios in New York from Washington’s control. This naturally destroyed creativity: all films needed to follow a specific blueprint of Catholic sensibility, and needed to be produced en masse. This is why Howard Hughes is such an important character: he challenged and began to break these codes with his films – an example being that Hughes specifically emphasized Jane Russel’s bosom. In the 1950s, the Supreme Court stated that studios were no longer permitted to own theaters, meaning theaters could now show whatever they wanted. Films being made during that time openly defied the codes and by the time the 1960s came about, the codes were scrapped. In the late 60s, a rating system was created and is still in use today.
To conclude, we have now become so desensitized as to whatever films throw at us, perhaps the silent sexy and scary films of the 20s under censorship codes were more fulfilling and satisfying to viewers?