From Marcia Segelstein and One News Now.
“Movies with no nudity, profanity, and ridicule of religion? Believe it or not, it used to be that way … and it took no government intervention — only public outcry. It can happen again.
Many years ago, my first job out of college was working as a secretary for the Department of Program Practices at CBS. (It was essentially the censorship department, but nobody used that term.) My duties included typing up instructions for the Programming Department regarding what objectionable language had to be cut from various movies that would air on the network. The editors I worked for also had to keep track of instances of smoking, drinking, and if I’m not mistaken, use of phrases like “Oh my God” and other potentially offensive content. In those days, at least, there was concern on the part of the networks — not only CBS — about airing material viewers might find inappropriate.
Since it was long before cable, and the networks had licenses that had to be renewed, TV was pretty innocent. Early evenings were considered family viewing time, and the programs reflected that. The fact that children might be watching was taken into account. Guidelines for standards and practices existed and were enforced.
And believe it or not, there was a time when moviemakers also followed a code of content. Starting in the 1930’s, the Motion Pictures Producers and Distributors Association (which later became the Motion Picture Association of America) adopted the Hays Code. Some of its general principles read as follows: “No picture shall be produced that will lower the moral standards of those who see it …. Correct standards of life, subject only to the requirements of drama and entertainment, shall be presented.”
The Hays Code also included some specific restrictions: nudity was prohibited; the ridicule of religion was forbidden; specific language was banned; the sanctity of marriage and the home had to be upheld; and “excessive and lustful kissing” was to be avoided.
Sounds positively idyllic, doesn’t it … and like an impossible dream now.
And guess what prompted it all? Public outcry. Public outcry over perceived immorality in the movies and in the lives of Hollywood stars. In a nutshell, the public wanted Hollywood to clean up its act. Will H. Hays, who headed up the Motion Pictures Producers and Distributors Association, set out to project a positive image of the movie industry. The Production Code (which became known as the Hays Code) was written, and for eight years Hays tried to enforce it, with little effect. But public pressure continued from organizations such as The Catholic Legion of Decency which declared certain films “indecent” and encouraged boycotts. Finally an amendment to the code required all films to obtain a certificate of approval prior to release. So for the next 30 years, up until the 1960s, virtually all movies made in the U.S. adhered to the Hays Code.”
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