Mr. Arkadin wrote:I was replying to an earlier post that stated something to the effect that good films ended in the precode era. I never said the code made for "better" films (in fact, better is a subjective term you will rarely see me use), but it meant that a director who wanted to take on a difficult subject had to work harder and be more inventive as to how he presented said subject. In doing so, the works became more complex as viewers did not simply see things happen, but had to interpret different layers and underpinnings.
My apologies if I misunderstood your meaning.
Mr. Arkadin wrote:Part of the initial problem with what you are talking about is the fact that the thirties were a different era where parents often dropped their kids off at the movie theaters (in the depression, both parents often worked) and there was no telling what might be on the screen.
While I don't agree it's my initial problem, it surely is one of my problems, I know. I'd think that a depression-aged kid (and one fortunate enough to have two parents earning a paycheck, no less), who needs to use the movies as his babysitter, has likely seen far worse things in real life than he is likely to encounter in a pre-code. Joan Blondell in her undies might be a welcome relief.
As we all know, the Breen code came about because the Catholic Church could no longer abide Will Hays' policy of atonement (which he called compensating values). Because it allowed the filmmakers to include sex--so long as it was not condoned, and most other sins--so long as in the end, the sinner was made to pay for his/her wicked deeds, Hayes' policy was, essentially, anything goes as long as in the end, somebody pays. Unhappy with this, the Catholic Church formed the Legion of Decency, and every Sunday, preachers warned parishioners not to go and see any movie that the Legion had condemned, lest they be…well, you know. The studios, seeing how this hurt profits but good, adopted a new code, one that could and would be enforced. Enter Breen, whose name, subsequently, was on every seal of approval; a seal needed for a film to be accepted by the Legion (and it's minions), as well as allowing for distribution to the theaters, most of which were owned by the very same studios that created the code. I tend to think of Breen like I do Kenesaw Landis, the first Commissioner of Baseball, having all that power, essentially unchecked. Except Breen's power influenced considerably more than whether Shoeless Joe and Buck Weaver should be in the Hall of Fame. (Anarchist that I am, I think they should).
So, in my humble opinion, the Production Code was not set up to protect Junior from when he skipped school and went to the movies, for if that was the reason, a rating system similar to what we currently have would have been adopted. No, the code wasn't created to protect Junior, it was created to protect everyone
, with the result that just about all post code films can be rated G.
Mr. Arkadin wrote: It was actually Madonna who said "I don't believe in censorship, but I do believe in labels."
She also said, "Holliday. Celebrate.
" I'm not exactly sure what she means by labels (nor the bearing it has in this discussion), but If the woman who spent her career pushing boundaries, and has had many labels herself, is okay with those labels, she certainly earned that right. But since we're quoting music performers (in a discussion about film censorship), let me toss up Zappa's Porn Wars.
(Last cut, side 2 of Mothers of Prevention)
Mr. Arkadin wrote:While I agree that the modern rating system has flaws, it gives perspective for filmgoers (especially families) to have some idea of what they will get for their money and if it is something they want to expose their children to. I think the Breen code was ridiculous and way too harsh, but then again I would not want to take my son to a Tarzan movie and find people swimming around with no clothes on with no warning. Would it bother me as an adult? No, but therein lies the problem--how does a person know what he will see without some kind of a rating system or code? For me, a rating system facilitates choice.
I did previously write that I could understand a system that distinguishing between adult and children films. And while I'm not comfortable depending upon an anonymous board, using undisclosed criteria, as the arbiters of what a film is rated, if parents are, that's okay by me.
Mr. Arkadin wrote:When we cry about censorship we do not take into account that we live with it every day. We often censor ourselves when we talk to others, or children for example.
Big leap here, again, from discussing film censorship, but okay, I'll agree that I censor myself when I talk; although I have never thought of it as censorship. But the difference is, it's me
who is doing the censoring of myself
. Nobody else. (Well, until I was thirteen or so there was my mother. And for the last twenty-five years, my wife. But I had a good run of nine-ten years there. And never once did the MPAA or the Code weight in).
Mr. Arkadin wrote:Paul Schrader's Hardcore (1979) deals with a man who sees the dark underbelly of the film world while searching for his missing daughter, discovering "snuff films" and other unmentionables, which we deem illegal (or censor) in this country and rightly so.
I know the film Hardcore
, and in it, it describes "snuff films" as those where a person is actually
murdered. Now, in most states, murder is illegal, so on that basis alone, the Breen office would never approve. The MPAA might need to know if there was nudity and/or foul language, but I'm pretty sure a film depicting an actual
murder wouldn't get through them either. But is not allowing a film featuring an actual
murder actually censorship? Now, a film depicting a simulated
murder, well that's another kettle of fish. Breen might agree to allow it, but only if many criteria are met. (Submit the script, they'll rewrite it for you to make sure you are on the straight and narrow.)
Mr. Arkadin wrote:While I don't believe you can legislate morality
Which is precisely what the Production Code did. It was ultimate guardian of morality.
Mr. Arkadin wrote:I don't believe in anarchy either. I think they made a movie about that too. It was called Lord of the Flies (1963).
My feeling is that, at the very least, we should know who it is who is rating our movies. (Who knows, the MPAA may be made up of Communists. Or Republicans). I also firmly believe that the Production Code was, at best, repressive. If those beliefs make me an anarchist, I'll be happy to have the conch.
For me it all boils down to this: With or without the Production Code, Hitchcock could have filmed his Notorious
kiss exactly the same. But without the Code, Hitchcock could have filmed it any way he chose. With the Code, he didn't have the choice. Which system is better?
Let's say there was a similar code in effect for music. Beethoven is told that using a G-note, in any manor, is verboten. He is allowed to use an F, but only once, as children may be present. And he can use a C, but only for three seconds. With those restrictions, Beethoven would have still been able to compose great music. He just wouldn't compose the 9th Symphony.
I have no doubt that because of the Production Code, there were a lot of 9th Symphonies never produced.