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Dissertation on movie protest, censorship; do you have any suggestions?

Old 01-30-03, 03:24 PM
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Dissertation on movie protest, censorship; do you have any suggestions?

My friend s writing a dissertation for college on movie protesting and censorship -where morals have encroached on the artis's vision, is it effective etc. I posted the whole thing below. Please tell me of anything you think should be changed that would help his essay. I have posted my suggestions below the dissertation.

Don't worry - it's not that long, and it IS an interesting enough read.




Picture the scene: Protesters are standing in front of your local cinema. Some are chanting, some are carrying banners and some others distribute flyers. All seem frenzied, almost to the point of them being non-sensical. You wonder what all the commotion is about and decide to go there and find out what could possibly be so outrageous about the movie against which they are protesting. Your interest is aroused and you decide to cross their picket line to find out what all the fuss is about. Beside you, three 15 year olds, who are going to see the latest Arnold Schwarzenegger film, are also the target of boos from the mob because they were seen entering the cinema. As you purchase your tickets a protester approaches you. “Don’t watch that movie!” he yells. “It’s all lies!” Is this a healthy expression of democratic freedom?

Should this sort of action be outlawed? Is it dangerously close to being riotous behaviour? Although some anti-movie actions by certain groups may be quite censorious in their outcomes, it can be argued that it is far more beneficial to risk that than to limit groups’ abilities to “peacfully gather” and protest.

In the United States, censorship has become a high profile social phenomenon. According to posters, badges, and bumper stickers throughout the country “censorship is un-American”. It can quickly become a political debate, if there is a certain politician who dislikes some lyrics written by the latest rap-music sensation. The debates rage on, but offer little clarity as to the precise meaning of censorship. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, censor can refer to (1) “The title of two magistrates in Ancient Rome, who drew up the register or census of the citizens”. (2) “An official in some countries whose duty it is to inspect all books, journals, dramatic pieces, etc., before publication to ensure they contain nothing immoral, heretical, or offensive to government. In legal circles, censorship leans towards the dictionary’s second definition.

Throughout this dissertation, I will explore the origins of movie censorship and its relationship to the Catholic Church, as well as detailing protest against Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ and Kevin Smith’s Dogma, two films which were highly controversial and subject to a wide variety of protests. I will investigate if there is a place for film censorship in society, or whether giving the film any kind of publicity is counterproductive and I will also explore the British Board of Film Classification and analyze their response to he “video nasties” era of the mid 1980’s as well as detailing controversial films from across the globe.

Chapter One

In 1934, a small group of priest and laywomen formed something called the Legion of Decency in New York. They assumed the role of the lone cleric in Cinema Paradiso, who sat alone in a cinema and rang a bell whenever a couple kissed or an immoral act of some kind was committed and the projectionist was forced to censor that scene from the movie before it was released to the public. However, the Legion of Decency was not safeguarding the morals of a small town, like in Cinema Paradiso, but those of the entire nation. And anyone who tried to splice together all the cuts made by the Legion in the 16,251 films it bore some objection to would have a much more unenviable task that that of the projectionist in Cinema Paradiso.

The Catholics Church’s involvement, however, began two decades before the Legion of Decency in 1914 but was slight. It has been widely acknowledged by film historians that the Legion was a powerful influence on cinemagoers of the era, but the same historians are at a loss as to the sudden interest of the Catholic Church and their objections to the morality of films in 1934. It almost seemed like church leaders underwent some sort of mystical change to movie reformers. This alludes to the fact that the Catholic Church largely ignored the topic of movie reform and censorship before the formation of the Legion of Decency. But, in reality, the decision to launch the Legion was the culmination of a struggle to shape the identity of the United States and the content of American Films dating back to World War I. It was around the beginning of that war that the Catholic Church embarked on its first national film campaign, which was a battle to prevent the release of a government-sponsored movie trying to halt the spread of venereal disease amongst the military.

The events leading to the Legion of Decency’s decline were gradual. Church leaders recognized that the Legion was losing touch with the motion picture audience in the mid 1960’s. The new generation of better-educated Catholics were becoming more liberal in the postwar years. To counter this, the Legion of Decency was re-packaged as the National Catholic Office for motion pictures (NCOMP), however it was somewhat of a failure. There was a small group of conservative Catholics who longed for the good old days of the Legion, but the majority of the laity adjusted to the times. The dwindling interest led to the closure of NCOMP in 1980. Although Catholic leaders continue to speak out against what they consider objectionable, the vast majority of the protests come from conservative Protestant groups who have adopted many of the Legions old tactics: letter writing campaigns, decency oaths, film morality ratings, boycotts and pickets. Some even go as far as to issue death threats.

Some of the fundamentalist groups wonder where the Legion of Decency is “when we really need it”. Some even attribute the film industry’s moral collapse to the Legion’s disappearance. Ted Baehr, head of the Christian Film and Television Commission, has called for a return to the days when every film script was scrutinized by his Production Code Administration before its approval to go into production.

The depression of the 1920’s meant that the film industry, along with all major industries, struggled financially. This, coupled with the introduction of sound to motion pictures meant that the studios needed to generate larger and larger quantities of cash to stay afloat. Most studios were forced to seek financial assistance from external sources, such as Wall Street banks that saw the film industry as a dependable source of income. However, it has been said that their involvement in the industry was largely detrimental.

The investors demanded that a significant proportion of studio output were to be the generic crowd-pleasing films, created using the tried and tested formula. The suppression of individual ideas attributed to the formation of the Hays Code – a code that every film to be released in the country had to observe and alter their script accordingly to meet its requirements. The Hays Code was very much a product of its time and was eventually withdrawn, due in no small part to the objections of the new age of filmmakers who felt their artistic integrity was being restricted. Among the subjects banned under the code’s rules were “any licentious or suggested nudity-in fact, or silhouette”, miscegenation, slavery, homosexuality, adultery or childbirth. Films were required to display positive attitudes towards marriage, family, home, government and religion. Essentially, it was a form of propaganda – the Code was trying to influence the populace to be good, wholesome, law-abiding citizens. However, the sterilization of movies was not generally received well by the American public and widespread contempt was observed as time went on.

Chapter Two

On August 12th 1988, approximately 25,000 Fundamentalist Christians and Catholics armed with bibles and wooden crucifixes stormed the Universal Studios lot in Los Angeles to protest Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, a movie they thought to be blasphemous and the result of a society without rules and structure. According to the protestors, this was the last straw in a series of attacks on Christian values by the media and liberals.

Based on a novel by Nikos Kazantzakis, The Last Temptation of Christ depicts Jesus Christ struggling with his faith and divinity. Protesters were particularly infuriated with the aspects of the film that depicted Christ imagining making love to Mary Magdalene and becoming a parent. At his execution, Jesus is tempted by an alluring image of a peaceful family life in order to get him to refuse the sacrifice he must undergo.

Although fundamentalist protests forced Paramount to withdraw support in 1983, Scorsese eventually made the film after a five-year battle made the film with Universal for under $7 million. After it became known the Universal were going to release the film in the summer of 1988, a 7500 strong public demonstration of chanting picketers outside its studio led by the Reverend Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association. Wildmon threatened a four-year boycott of any theater that showed the film. Reverend Bill Bright, the president of the Campus Crusade for Christ even tried to persuade Universal to hand over the prints to him so that they could be destroyed. The protests, as unusual or as unnecessary as they were, forced General Cinema, the fourth-biggest chain in America, not to book the film. Threats of violence caused the police to search the bags of anyone entering Washington’s Odeon Theater; however the only potential weapon found was a can of Coke that an embarrassed film critic was carrying in his briefcase.

Catholic church leaders had learned from past experience that protests and demonstrations often backfired, so when the United States Catholics Conference cited The Last Temptation of Christ as being morally objectionable, it did not ask the Church to join in the protest. Picketing was labeled as being counterproductive and Richard Hirsch, the secretary of the Catholic Conference’s communication department, suggested that priest might do more harm than good by lecturing against the film from the pulpit. This was a valid point. The film had garnered a sense of notoriety from Wildmon’s campaign and had given a film that was intended for a small audience an invaluable amount of free press – including an appearance on the cover of Time. Long lines and sold out shows greeted the films opening in nine selected cities.

However the film was not universally scorned by Catholics. Scorsese received some support from Father Andrew Greeley. He stated that the films detractors believed in a heresy called Docetism – the notion that Jesus was not really human. “Those who would exclude the poignancy and joy of erotic desire from the life of Jesus wish to deny Him his full humanity”, he stated. Cardinal Mahony also provided a semblance of support when he decried the anti-Semitism that had accompanied some of the protests. The Cardinal didn’t single anyone in particular out, but clearly had in mind the 500,000 flyers sent out by Wildmon which painted Universal as “a company whose decision-making body is dominated by non-christians”.

The film opened to great reviews and is considered to be one of Scorsese’s best alongside the likes of Mean Streets, Taxi Driver and Goodfellas. However, it is still a subject of great debate. Pat Buchanan defined the protest against the film when he said, “the issue is not whether “Last Temptation” can be shown, but whether such a film should be shown…With “Last Temptation”, Hollywood is assailing the Christian community in a way that it would never dare assault the black community, the Jewish community, or the gay community”.

Although The Last Temptation of Christ was controversial Hollywood has learned that after a century of continuous criticism it’s next to impossible to make a movie that doesn’t offend some groups. Rising Sun (1993) alienated Japanese-Americans and Falling Down (1993) created a wave of Korean-American protests. Gays have also expressed concern at the depiction of the murderous transvestite Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs (1991). The Oscar nominations for Scent of a Woman and Passion Fish unleashed a wave of criticism from advocacy group Barrier Busters that the films presented disabled people as being maladjusted. Wiccan Worshippers were even concerned about the stereotyping of witches in films like Hocus Pocus. Disney’s animated The Lion King was subjected to numerous protests including charges of racism because of jive-talking hyenas who some claim stigmatize urban blacks, homophobia arising from the main characters “effeminate” gestures and sexism because the characters’ only hope in the story is to “find a male lion who can save them”.

Chapter Three

“To insist that any of what follows is incendiary or inflammatory is to miss our intention and pass undue judgement; and passing judgement is reserved for God and God alone (this goes for you film critics too…just kidding). So please – before you consider hurting someone over this trifle of a film, remember: even God has a sense of humour. Just look at the platypus. Thank you and enjoy the show”. – Disclaimer that appears before Kevin Smith’s Dogma.

Dogma is a film starring Ben Affleck and Matt Damon as a couple of renegade angels who were banished from heaven and sentenced to “hell on earth” (Wisconsin, in case you’re wondering) for all eternity. Also starring in the film are Alan Rickman (as Metatron, the voice of God), Linda Fiorentino(as Bethany, the last descendant of Christ) and Chris Rock (as the thirteenth apostle, left out of the bible because he’s black). The comedy was generally received very well by critics, but met with heavy criticism by certain extreme right Christian groups. Smith, who wrote, directed and also had a part in the film, was subjected to death threats even before the films release. The official web-site for Dogma even had a section called “Hate Letter of the Week”, in which they would print whatever letter they found amusing that week. One stated, “God in heaven can bring swift and severe judgement to those who attack his sheep. The makers of this film deserve to burn in hell for all eternity”.

Protesters soon began congregating outside showings of Dogma and even William Donahue’s Catholic League got in on the act. The Catholic League and The Catholic Church are two completely separate entities and the Church bears no affiliation towards Donahue’s group whatsoever. Essentially, The Catholic League are just a bunch of guys who take a moral standpoint on religious matter and act as spokespeople for Christians everywhere, despite not earning the position but merely assuming it. The Church largely ignores the League, correctly staying out of matters that are obviously well outside it’s sphere of importance. The Catholic League, due to this, are widely viewed as being a petty and immature.

Smith’s curiosity was aroused when he read about a planned protest against Dogma of about 500 people in a town near his New Jersey home. So he quickly drew up a couple of signs (“To Hell With Dogma” and the slightly more amusing “Dogma is Dog-****”) and went to join the protest. Upon arrival, he discovered that only 20 of the promised 500 had shown up. So, he joined in with the group and prayed the rosary. Smith was even interviewed for a local newspaper, but not as himself. In this he maintained he was angry at the movie, but would mentioned he would not patronize it (he did mention that he liked the directors first movie though!). A woman complained about his sign, so he rendered it to a neutered “Dogma is Dog”.

After the rosary, Smith spent some time talking with the protesters. Not wanting to ruin their night, he didn’t begin conversations with “Hi, I’m Kevin Smith. I made Dogma”, he was just interested in trying to understand the rationale of the people who would go to this much trouble to complain about his film. Smith was told some nasty things about his parents and about himself (or rather, the director). He inquired how many had seen Dogma and some mentioned reading a review, but that was about as close they had gotten. Smith later said that he doubted that their opinions would have been altered had they seen the film, but said that they were genuinely nice people but, unlike Smith, had a lot more reverence for the church than for the Lord. Both he and the protesters were Catholics, just with a different set of values.

Smith went on “Point is, I didn't get in their face or flame them - as the Catholic League enthusiast in our midst seems to think is appropriate. That would be like an atheist going into church and yelling contrarian sentiments at the priest mid-Mass. I'll never understand the folks who can't simply dislike something (as Christians, we're not supposed to hate), and feel the need to go to a place where folks who DO like something (and aren't hurting anyone in the process) congregate, and get up in their face about feeling the opposite. If I don't like something, I pay little or no attention to it, or just flat-out ignore it”.

The ChildCare Action Project (CAP) objected strongly to Dogma on their website (www.capalert.com). CAP is an organization which claims to give a Christian analysis of American culture. The website reviews films in the context of the teachings and expectations of Jesus Christ, so if a commandment or two is broken they’ll give it a damning review. Bizarrely, the site states “Disguising sinful behaviour in a theme plot does not disguise the sinful behaviour of either the one who is drawing pleasure or example in deed or thought from the sinful display or the practitioners demonstrating the sinful behaviour. We will not situationally redefine or conditionally apply His Word to suit modern morality, lifestyles, other faiths or even to avoid invading the comfort zone of Christians. His Word will not be set aside for the sake of religion, political correctness, entertainment or artistic ‘license’. We will not cheat you by cheapening His Word with feel-good counterfeitings of it. We love you too much to do that to you”. The site goes on to explain the many movies “hturT” us, the viewers. “hturT” is a word the site invented, describing reversed Truth – twisted and counterfeited beyond recognition and shows the hidden and sometimes invisible hurt in doing so. Strange bunch, this lot.

The CapAlert review refers to Dogma as a “rape of the scriptures”, saying that the film belittles God and magnifies man due to the fact that the Lord was played by Alanis Morrisette, and is presented not as the vengeful Old Testament-style God but as a loving and joking God who cares intensely for her (God is a woman in Dogma) children. The reviewer comes off as the God-fearing type, the sort of person who goes to church not to celebrate their faith but because they are afraid of the consequences if they don’t. This was one of the primary reasons, Smith said, for making the movie. He said that mass was supposed to be a celebration of faith, but that it wasn’t much of a party in there. Smith said that the apostles so loved Christ that they wrote psalms for the guy and Kevin Smith said that this was his version of a psalm, albeit “with a few dick and fart jokes thrown in”.

The site objects to a lot, if not most of the dialogue. An example of which is Metatron’s (the voice of God) explaining why he speaks for God. “Every documented account where some yahoo claims to have talked to God, they’re speaking to me. Or they’re talking to themselves. Man has neither the oral nor the psychological capacity to withstand God’s true voice. If they were to hear it, their chests would cave in and their heads would explode. We went through five Adam’s before we figured that one out”.

CapAlert continues to point out every instance of impurity that they object to in the film, even listing “suggestive eye movement” and “facial piercings” as offences to God. A point that is made in Dogma is that the scriptures have evolved over time and our interpretations of them have grown with us. As Bartelby says in Dogma, “Times change. I remember when eating meat on a Friday was a hell-worthy trespass”.

Chapter Four

In June 2002, the BBFC certified The Evil Dead for an 18’s release in Great Britain. However, this was not the first time that they had been asked to certify Sam Raimi’s cult horror film. In 1990 the board had asked for one minute and six seconds of cuts before allowing a video release, and prior to that they had demanded a 49-second cut for its X-Certificate theatrical release in 1983. In 1985 they again brought the film under review, this time refusing to certificate it altogether. The Evil Dead was banned, and thus became one of the most high profile films to have undergone this procedure ever in the UK, which came as a shock to its fans who claim it’s the best-loved horror film of all time.

The “video nasties” era then began. The arrival of the video recorder brought with it a new sense of freedom for those wishing to watch films such as The Evil Dead or The Driller Killer or Cannibal Holocaust that were unavailable at the local cinema. This was because for a period in the 1980’s, videocassettes were subject to no regulation aside from a rarely enforced Obscene Publications Act. The Daily Mail took a moral standpoint and positively loathed these films and opportunistic lawyers took it upon themselves to blame these films for any crime that was committed by those who watched them.

In 1984 the powers of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) were extended under the Video Recordings Act, which finally gave them the power to cut and classify video releases. This meant that all videos in the market had to be re-submitted for a certificate and those deemed unsuitable for public viewing were revoked. During this time, the Director of Public Prosecutions drew up a list of banned films, which included The Evil Dead. However, as has happened so many times before in film censorship, this only really served to heighten the reputation of the films on it and secure the legend of the “video nasties”. For many, this era was not only their first experience of censorship, but also an experience of the media’s ability to distort the truth. The Daily Mirror reported on the “Pony Maniac”, a horse-worrier in Kent who they claimed was influenced by “video nasties or a new moon”. I Spit On Your Grave was attributed to have caused Mark Austin to have “lived out his fantasy” and commit a rape in 1983.

The Director of Public Prosecution’s list was perhaps a little too conclusive. For every reprehensible film on it, there were two or three films that were made with intelligence and held in high regard by critics and fans alike. Wes Craven’s Last House On The Left took its plot from Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring. Dario Argento’s Tenebre is considered to be a masterpiece among the Italian directors work. Dan O’Bannon, who was also behind Alien, wrote dead & Buried and it has been heralded as a creepy paranoia classic. Even I Spit on Your Grave, with its rape-revenge story line, was subject to impassioned defenders who drew comparisons between it and the Oscar winning The Accused, which demotes the victim to a secondary character after the crime. In comparison, I Spit on Your Grave is unflinching in its portrayal of the main character and she remains at the center of the story. It is nasty, but many wonder does it really deserve the same company as The Beast In Heat, about a female SS doctor who tortures prisoners of war before feeding them to an insane midget. Similarly, the infamous “cannibal” films of the late 70’s and early 80’s, Cannibal Holocaust and Cannibal Ferox, were supposedly depicting a satire on third-world exploitation. Abel Ferrara, who was behind on of the list’s most notorious films The Driller Killer has gone on to have a critically successful career, famously working with Christopher Walken in King of New York.

Ironically, Sam Raimi is still giving the BBFC some trouble. The BBFC claimed that his big-money Spider-Man film was the one of the most violent films ever aimed at children. At least four councils broke ranks to show it “un-rated”, as it were.

In the summer of 2002, a screening of a French film called Baise-Moi was interuppted by several police officers in Sydney, Australia. The film, which features strong sex scenes had been granted an “adults only” release, and was being shown at art-house cinemas. However, the censors eventually had their way and the films certificate was revoked. But this was not before 50,000 Australians who rushed to see the film in the weekend before the ban was enforced, many, in fact, were forced to Que. in the rain. The tale of two women going on a sex-and-murder rampage after one of them is raped so outraged a coalition of Christian conservatives that the lobbied the rightwing Liberal government to ban the film.

Baise-Moi broke art-house cinema box office records for the few days it was available for viewing before the government ordered a panel to review the certificate of the film. However, this led to combination of state leaders and free speech activists condemning the ban. “This could be the worst film made in the last five years but it leaves some of us with a dubious feeling if we now have police going into cinemas,” Bob Carr, the Labour politician of New South Wales, said. “We don't want to give encouragement to people who institute banning of books or closing down stage shows”.

But apparently the BBFC is becoming more and more liberal. They are not sitting on their laurels. Only one 18-certificate cinema release was subject to cuts in the year 2000. Also the list of banned scenes looks incredibly tame by comparison to the cuts that were enforced in the years before: A head-butting sequence from a wrestling video, a naturist documentary from Canada, a Buffy The Vampire Slayer scene in which a character hotwires a car. Sex and violence have become less of an issue. American Psycho, which featured more than its fair share of both, escaped uncut through the BBFC. 120 Days of Sodom and The Story of “O” were finally deemed suitable for distribution. More lenient guidelines were introduced for 18-certificate movies. The BBFC’s Robin Duval states “The public today is less worried than it used to be about portrayals of sexual activity, particularly in a loving or responsible context. By contrast, it is concerned about levels of violence in the lower classification categories”. By this he means seemingly mundane violence in PG and 12-certificate films. They seem to be mostly concerned with head-butts and double ear-claps, which accounted for 13 cuts in films aimed at children in the year 2000. One issue that the BBFC remains unmoved on is cruelty to animals. Scenes with falling horses, burning snakes, “scenes of a monkey bound to a crucifix and an attack on a rabbit” were all banned for release in Britain. Also, some decisions seem quite incendiary and controversial, such as the BBFC’s observations over a recent Spike Lee film The Original Kings of Comedy. The film contained a huge amount of swear words but was given a 15-certificate rather than the 18-certificate that it merited because it was felt that the language was “mitigated by its context of working-class black comedians” and was not likely to cause offence to the intended audience. Arguments could be raise as to what they were saying here. Working class black people swear more than their white counterparts? Or is it that the white audience has grown so used to black people swearing? Social observations like these come dangerously close to the BBFC damning itself through its stupidity.

However, there is no doubt that the BBFC has evolved for the better. No longer is it seen as an old-fashioned dictator but more of an over-protective parent who generally leaves us to our own devices and decisions.


Throughout this dissertation I have detailed several separate protests against movies, of both large and small scale. Whether it is a nationwide protest organized months in advance, or a handful of people picketing outside a cinema, it seems to yield one common result. Interest. The protests against The Last Temptation of Christ were extremely counterproductive. What was supposed to be a defamation campaign by Fundamentalist Christians and Catholics ended up making Scorsese’s film infamous, thereby giving the low-budget film an invaluable amount of free press. The same goes for Dogma. Although not subjected to as high a level of protest as Last Temptation, the film was made for a relatively low budget by Hollywood standards ($10 million) and through the notoriety generated by The Catholic League et al, went on to have a lucrative opening weekend. This verifies the old cliché: there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

The evidence I have provided gives rise to the notion that perhaps the interests of those who wish to slander a film would be best served if they were to keep their mouths shut and try to ignore whatever film they were aggrieved by. The perpetual inclination to do something just because we understand it to be controversial is human nature, and this even applies to films. When a parent tells a child not to watch a horror film on TV, that child will more often than not strive to see it just because they have been told not to. This begs the question: would the child have seen the film if the parent had not told them about it in the first place? It’s the classic “forbidden fruit” theory.

But does film censorship have a place in the 21st Century? Protestors will picket and campaign against movies, demanding that studios revoke controversial films, all the while preaching that it is their right to express their opinion, however forcefully. But free speech works both ways. There is a place in this day and age for films filled with violence and sex. There is an audience who will pay money to see Sylvester Stallone wage war in a jungle and then go home with the girl at the end of a movie. People who nostalgically look back at the “good old days” of film censorship must realize that times change and values that were held in the first four decades of motion pictures are not the same these days. It’s akin to a 70-year-old bemoaning the lack of Bing Crosby records on the radio amongst all the “noise” these days. People, times, values: they all change over time. There certainly are circumstances where pornographic or obscene films need to be withheld from public consumption, but for a film to be restricted for it’s political or religious viewpoint is self-defeating and ultimately un-democratic.

Some things I might add, besides grammatical errors and structure fixing:

The Hays code seems a bit skipped-over. He may want to include examples of films that were affected, such as "The Bad Seed", which, although based on a famous play, had to have the ending changed so that the villain would not get away with it. The Hays code said all villains must be punished for their crimes.
That's just one off the top of my head. William H Hays' quick bio is up at http://us.imdb.com/Bio?Hays,+Will+H . I think the idea that married couples couldn't share a bed onscreen was the silliest thing... It was quite extreme; "The Moon Is Blue", a film by Otto Preminger, faced a lot of controversy because of its use of vile language... such as the word "pregnant".

The Kevin Smith "Dogma Protest" story, while funny, takes up a lot of room in the piece. While the Scorcese stories were quick, to the point and protest-centric, I think the Smith story shifts the focus from moral outrage to "this is funny how he resolves this situation". I'd keep the story in, but trim it a little. At present length, it interrupts the flow a bit.

Point out that Baise-Moi doesn't just have strong sex scenes (Basic Instinct had strong sex scenes but you never heard of Australia banning THAT); it has HARDCORE sex scenes, showing penetration. That's what shocked everyone.

Depending on the feelings of country doing the rating, a film might be grossly misrated. "Michael Collins"'s PG rating in Ireland, despite the bloody violence that garnered it an R in America. A more recent case is the G rating in Italy for "Gangs Of New York", despite its abundant violence (the film was shot in Rome). Why would these ratings boards be so hard on other films, but so passive on the films mentioned?

I'd put in an appendix on some international film ratings (what an "R" means, what a "15" means, where are they enforced). Brief, though. It'd take pages - and days - to make sense of the german system!

I'd make a point about how the DVD market has been flouting the powers of ratings boards (American Pie's huge "UNRATED VERSION!" banner used as a sales gimmick), and how it has added to a video nasties resurgence (there are about five different versions of Evil Dead on DVD in America; Salo:120 Days Of Sodom is the most saught-after DVD in the world***; film buffs with all-region players spend top dollar on imports of hyperviolent films such as "Cannibal Holocaust","Battle Royale", "Versus", "Ichi The Killer").

Sometimes, what appears to be moral censorship gone awry might be a different story altogether. There was a huge outcry over Universal's plan to dub lines and digitally remove guns from police in their reissue of Steven Spielberg's "ET" - despite the fact that these modifications were the will of Spielberg himself.

Old 01-30-03, 04:34 PM
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going to start to read it now, will post again when done. and actually it is that long.
Old 01-30-03, 04:49 PM
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I will phrase my criticism in my best "Hays Code" voice:

"There is objection in whole or in part to the following:
Essentially, it was a form of propaganda – the Code was trying to influence the populace to be good, wholesome, law-abiding citizens. However, the sterilization of movies was not generally received well by the American public and widespread contempt was observed as time went on.
"The word "propaganda" is objectionable and should be altered to suggest another flavor"

(Why was the Hayes code so obsesed with the word "flavor" anyway? One memo would use the word "flavor" at least 30 times.)

Any way, all joking aside I disagree with this quote. The code wasn't de facto propaganda. It wasn't trying to enforce a way of thinking, feeling, and behaving. In fact it was the other way around. The studios, eager to protect their investment, protected themselves from public outcry by making sure the films conformed to standards that would be acceptable by all. They did this by getting script approval from the Hayes Office. It was a pre-emptive effort made by the studios (perhaps wrong-headedly) to prevent what they feared most: public condemnation of any of their films. Hollywood was very concerned about its image. Litterally they (the studio heads) wanted their product to please everybody. They saw the Hayes code as doing two things for them:

1. Ensuring that there was no public outcry against any or all of their films due to content

2. (and this is most importatnt of all) Ensuring that multiple state or regional censor boards didn't take their scisors to the films. If one volentary, central committee could do the censoring that would ensure that there was one cut for the whole country and not 48 different cuts (one for each state), or more.

Furthermore I disagree that "the sterilization of movies was not generally received well by the American public and widespread contempt was observed as time went on."

The films made during the Hayes Code period (1934-1968) acount for the vast majority of the greatest Hollywood output. The 1930's were the peak of the movie business. More people flocked to more films in the 1930's than in any other decade (INCLUDING TODAY!) Sure, by the 1960's films were outgrowing the Hayes code. Cutting edge content was pushing the boundaries of the permissable, but it always had! The Outlaw, The Bicycle Thief, Detective Story, A Place in the Sun, etc. had been challenging Hayes Code rules for decades. The end of the Hayes code had more to do with powerplays within the industry and the industry's desire to compete with grindhouse indies and foriegn imports, than it did with "audience contempt" for the code.

Last edited by Pants; 01-30-03 at 05:08 PM.
Old 01-30-03, 05:02 PM
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Well, this
censor can refer to (1) “The title of two magistrates in Ancient Rome, who drew up the register or census of the citizens”....legal circles, censorship leans towards the dictionary’s second definition.
is pretty pointless to the topic. Since this appears to be a serious paper, skip the (insanely dry) humor. Unless that works well with this prof.
Old 01-30-03, 05:19 PM
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That IS long. How about an executive summary?
Old 01-30-03, 10:21 PM
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That's a "dissertation?" methinks your friend would do well to say "paper" or even more appropriately, "essay" instead.....either that or let me know where in the hell that qualifies one for a Ph.D.!!

dis·ser·ta·tion (d¹s”…r-t³“sh…n) n. Abbr. diss. A lengthy, formal treatise, especially one written by a candidate for the doctoral degree at a university; a thesis.

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