inkwell.vue.349 : Stephen Tropiano, Obscene, Indecent, Immoral and Offensive
permalink #26 of 70: mother of my eyelid (frako) Sat 21 Mar 09 12:30
    
Stephen, I'm guessing that your book grew out of a course you teach on movie
censorship? Or that your research for the book also turned into a course? I
would love to see how you've shaped such a course.
  
inkwell.vue.349 : Stephen Tropiano, Obscene, Indecent, Immoral and Offensive
permalink #27 of 70: Linda Castellani (castle) Sat 21 Mar 09 14:21
    

Fascinating, Stephen.  I had completely forgotten the sex scene with the 
William Tell Overture.  It was the least graphic of any scene in the film!
  
inkwell.vue.349 : Stephen Tropiano, Obscene, Indecent, Immoral and Offensive
permalink #28 of 70: mother of my eyelid (frako) Sat 21 Mar 09 14:30
    
It was shot so far away from the action too.
  
inkwell.vue.349 : Stephen Tropiano, Obscene, Indecent, Immoral and Offensive
permalink #29 of 70: Strangest I Could Find (miltloomis) Sun 22 Mar 09 20:56
    
If we are going to have a ratings board, it should at least comprise
known individuals who are selected in an open, visible way. Ideally, a
mix of people with credentials in the medium and who are up to date on
what's happening culturally and folks who are just viewers. Be nice if
the ratings could somehow reflect the vote counts of the board members,
too, but I suppose that would be asking way too much. Just MHO,
y'unnerstan ... next thing you know, I'll be proposing pubic  meetings
... I guess that would be taking things too far in a democracy like
ours.
  
inkwell.vue.349 : Stephen Tropiano, Obscene, Indecent, Immoral and Offensive
permalink #30 of 70: Stephen Tropiano (stropiano) Mon 23 Mar 09 17:40
    
MY MOVIE CENSORSHIP COURSE: After  completing research on my book, I
decided to teach an undergraduate course on film censorship. My
students' favorite assignment was to re-conceive the censorship. They
basically had to rewrite the ratings system (their ideas were
interesting and some of them were a little out there)--but they all
confirmed their perception that it needed to be a much fairer system,
beginning with having people with backgrounds in film serving on the
ratings board...
  
inkwell.vue.349 : Stephen Tropiano, Obscene, Indecent, Immoral and Offensive
permalink #31 of 70: mother of my eyelid (frako) Mon 23 Mar 09 19:24
    
What films did you have them watch to see what riled the Legion of Decency
and Joseph Breen and the ratings board?

I would love to hear some of your students' ideas for rewriting the ratings
system.

Trivia question: Did any movie show a baby's head crowning before KNOCKED
UP?
  
inkwell.vue.349 : Stephen Tropiano, Obscene, Indecent, Immoral and Offensive
permalink #32 of 70: Bob (bob) Mon 23 Mar 09 20:38
    
One thing I found amusing in the book was that it occurred to censors to
take issue with the "raspberry" in a war propaganda cartoon (The Fuhrer's
Face). Setting aside the absurdity of trying to censor fart references (my
1-year-old was doing what were essentially fart jokes before he could talk)
were there attempts to censor other war propaganda cartoons and other
shorts? In particular, I've seen a few that included some pretty strong
(typically anti-Japanese) racism.
  
inkwell.vue.349 : Stephen Tropiano, Obscene, Indecent, Immoral and Offensive
permalink #33 of 70: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Tue 24 Mar 09 21:34
    
#24: what was the saying? You can show a breast being cut off but not
kissed?
  
inkwell.vue.349 : Stephen Tropiano, Obscene, Indecent, Immoral and Offensive
permalink #34 of 70: Stephen Tropiano (stropiano) Tue 24 Mar 09 23:34
    
When I was doing my research, the censoring of the "raspberry" (also
known as the "Bronx Cheer") in cartoons and films took me by surprise.
The censoring of WWII Disney short "The Fuehrer's Face" was due to the
"raspberry" as opposed to the racial stereotypes (they were more like
caricatures of Mussolini, Hirohito and Hitler). During the war it was
acceptable to caricature the enemy (Germans and Japanese) and as I
point out, the derogatory names for them did not make the list of
forbidden racist words.

In regards to animation, there are many instances of cartoons getting
banned many years later due to their racist stereotyping. The most
famous group are Looney Tunes' "Censored 11." You can read more about
them on wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censored_Eleven
  
inkwell.vue.349 : Stephen Tropiano, Obscene, Indecent, Immoral and Offensive
permalink #35 of 70: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Wed 25 Mar 09 08:23
    
Oh, it's astonishing the sort of racist and sexist and homophobic
stuff there is in some cartoons. There used to be a guy who did
lectures at the Castro periodically about that.
  
inkwell.vue.349 : Stephen Tropiano, Obscene, Indecent, Immoral and Offensive
permalink #36 of 70: the secret agenda of rabbits (cjp) Wed 25 Mar 09 09:51
    
I recently saw ADAM'S RIB again, and was fascinated by the character
of Kip (David Wayne), who was depicted as extremely flamboyant, and
there was a clear pattern of dialog to suggested that he was gay:

  Amanda: "...it's clear that you're behaving like a, like a... well,
I'd hate to put it this way... like a *man*."  
  Kip: "You watch your language."  

Or,
  Kip (to Amanda): "... You've got me so convinced, I may even go out
and become a woman. Goodnight."  
  Adam (Tracy): "And he wouldn't have far to go, either."

At the same time, though, there was an opposite message sent out as
Kip wooed and pursued Amanda (Hepburn) throughout the film, as if this
would somehow assert his character's heterosexuality.  It was downright
weird, yet somehow delightfully subversive, which only makes sense
since the script was written by Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin.

Which leads me up to my question: Was it against the Code to portray
gay characters in film in any way back before, say, THE CHILDREN'S
HOUR?  If so, in what other ways did Hollywood get around this
censorship?
  
inkwell.vue.349 : Stephen Tropiano, Obscene, Indecent, Immoral and Offensive
permalink #37 of 70: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Wed 25 Mar 09 14:28
    
viz. Celluloid Closet

I was talking elsewhere on the Well recently about how Colonel
Pickering in My Fair Lady seems to hint about being gay.
  
inkwell.vue.349 : Stephen Tropiano, Obscene, Indecent, Immoral and Offensive
permalink #38 of 70: Michael C. Berch (mcb) Wed 25 Mar 09 14:35
    
Stephen, I'm just catching up with this discussion, and the question
that comes to my mind, is how do we get away from the idea of either
censorship *or* "self-regulation", and to some sort of open platform
for independent ratings?  The Internet makes it possible for people to
listen to whomever they want regarding film content and suitability
for themselves or their children.  I certainly don't trust *any* sort of
board or panel, no matter how notionallyy neutral they are or how 
transparently they were selected, to have an official or even
semi-official cachet.  So I'd really like to see the MPAA rating
system totally scrapped, and instead people would seek the advice of 
whomever they want to -- whether it's the Catholic League 
or GLAAD -- perhaps in some sort of standardized format (or not).  

Can we get there, and if so, how? 
  
inkwell.vue.349 : Stephen Tropiano, Obscene, Indecent, Immoral and Offensive
permalink #39 of 70: Stephen Tropiano (stropiano) Fri 27 Mar 09 00:29
    
HOMOSEXUALITY & THE CENSORS:  The Production Code spelled it out
pretty clearly--No sex perversion allowed.  This was understood to mean
homosexuality, yet as critics like Vito Russo has shown in his study
THE CELLULOID CLOSET, there were certainly characters that we could
read as gay--but they were "coded" as gay (like Kip in ADAM'S RIB and
perhaps Colonel Pickering in MY FAIR LADY, though I think we were to
believe he was just a lifelong bachelor) and usually asexual and,
therefore, non-threatening.  
  
inkwell.vue.349 : Stephen Tropiano, Obscene, Indecent, Immoral and Offensive
permalink #40 of 70: Stephen Tropiano (stropiano) Fri 27 Mar 09 00:39
    
SO WHO DO YOU TRUST? Rating movies is such a subjective activity, so
one wonders what it is a parent really needs to know to make an
informed decision about making a movie. It seems to me that I would
want to know the specifics regarding the content of the film. I agree,
you can check out the rating of an organization with the same values
and beliefs--but even then, isn't there still going to be some degree
of subjectivity (because when it all comes down to it, there are going
to be a small group of individuals giving their opinions). So what I
would like for are websites, that are several, that are going to give
you the facts---quantitative information. Some examples are
kids-in-mind.com, parentspreviews.com (I am not endorsing them, but
giving them as examples), which provide you with detailed information
about nudity, sex, violence, and profanity (some will provide you with
the number of times certain words are said), etc.  I found these by
googling the words "Parents rating movies."
  
inkwell.vue.349 : Stephen Tropiano, Obscene, Indecent, Immoral and Offensive
permalink #41 of 70: Idea Hamster On Speed (randomize27) Fri 27 Mar 09 07:38
    
I like how the ratings in recent years are going the route of cable
movie channels and including the reason for the rating.  For example, I
might watch a PG-13 for violence and language with a teen, but I might
be uncomfortable with nudity or sexual situations.  Of course, this
depends on the teen a bit too.

I remember the discomfort I felt when I saw Risky Business in the
theater while sitting between my mother and my sister.
  
inkwell.vue.349 : Stephen Tropiano, Obscene, Indecent, Immoral and Offensive
permalink #42 of 70: Betsy Schwartz (betsys) Fri 27 Mar 09 07:55
    
I trust Roger Ebert. I also sometimes look at <screenit.com>, which
gives a very detailed blow-by-blow description of possibly
objectionable moments (at the expense of being a total spoiler). My own
values are very skewed from that of the ratings board, I know. 

For example, I wouldn't let my daughter see The Lion King when she was
in preschool. That movie was so violent that I found myself
fast-forwarding through the fight scenes. The theme of a young boy
finding out that his uncle murdered his father and was trying to murder
him is totally inappropriate for 4-year-olds, I believe. And some
shows aimed at pre-teens have a precocious sexuality and cynicism that
I don't think does anyone any good. 

On the other hand, a lot of movies get rated PG-13 or even R for brief
bursts of language, but have an overall positive message that is fine
for kids. Whale Rider, for example, in which a character is shown using
a pot pipe, but it's clear that smoking pot is a waste of his life,
and he stops smoking pot when he decides to do something useful. Or
School of Rock, which was just plain *fun* at a pre-teen level, even if
Jack Black does have a potty mouth. More recently, I watched the
R-rated "Little Miss Sunshine" with my 12-year-old. Some of the
language was rough and some of the topics were difficult but 
in its very offbeat way it was about a family trying to stay together,
and we had several great talks about various things that happened. 

I don't know how you'd get a sense of values into check boxes, these
days. It's easy to count swear words and exposed body parts and bloody
closeups - but how do you measure whether the movie has any sort of
moral compass? 

Slippage - I am sometimes uncomfortable watching movies with sexuality
with my kid, but it also can be a very valuable opportunity for
talking about values. Over the last year we watched Say Anything and
Real Women Have Curves, two PG-13 movies in which teens deal with
having sex. Believable teens in believable situations, sometimes hard
to watch because it's so *real*, but not played as porn.  
  
inkwell.vue.349 : Stephen Tropiano, Obscene, Indecent, Immoral and Offensive
permalink #43 of 70: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Fri 27 Mar 09 08:15
    
<randomize>, I watched Kinsey with my 75-year-old maiden librarian
great aunt.
  
inkwell.vue.349 : Stephen Tropiano, Obscene, Indecent, Immoral and Offensive
permalink #44 of 70: Idea Hamster On Speed (randomize27) Fri 27 Mar 09 08:24
    
Were you a hormone crazed teen at the time?
  
inkwell.vue.349 : Stephen Tropiano, Obscene, Indecent, Immoral and Offensive
permalink #45 of 70: the secret agenda of rabbits (cjp) Fri 27 Mar 09 10:20
    
Heh. I remember watching THE GODFATHER with my family and feeling
*very* uncomfortable when Sonny got it on with the bridesmaid.  I
didn't dare look at my mom and wanted desperately to slide down into
the popcorn and Jujubes on the floor so I could die a quiet death.

Well, since the current MPAA rating system we have doesn't really seem
to do the job, is it necessary nowadays?  Does it do the job it's
supposed to do, and, if so, how could it be improved?  Does it really
favor violence over sex, as many feel?  I noted many times in your
book, Stephen, when artists were forced to find ways to whittle down
their films to avoid an R or even the dreaded NC-17 (or X) rating.  How
has this affected these film artists?  Do artists end up
second-guessing and censoring themselves to avoid trouble?  How has
this affected their films?  And finally, has the film community come up
with any viable alternatives?

(So many questions, so little time.)
  
inkwell.vue.349 : Stephen Tropiano, Obscene, Indecent, Immoral and Offensive
permalink #46 of 70: Stephen Tropiano (stropiano) Fri 27 Mar 09 23:18
    
The current MPAA Ratings system....
It is not exactly a mystery to filmmakers, film studios, and
distributors what constitutes an R or the NC-17. There is a limit
across the board for each of the ratings as to what you can get away
with. So, yes, some filmmakers will purposely avoid an R.  But another
trick filmmakers try is the reverse: putting scenes in that they know
will get them an R or NC-17.  The board might advise them to take out
(or more likely trim something), in hope of getting away with leaving
other stuff in.  This can go back and forth, which means that the
ratings board might have to see a film 5 or 6 times before issuing the
desired rating. This has indeed affected the content of films. I
suggest you watch Kirby Dick's documentary, "This Film is Not Yet
Rated."  He exposes the inconsistencies in the ratings system as well
as offers testimonials from directors whose work was rated NC-17,
mostly because of sexuality (the ratings board has historically been
tougher on sex, particularly female sexuality, than violence).
Unfortunately, the film community hasn't come up with any viable
alternatives, because it is the studios who make up the MPAA and they
control the industry's purse strings.
  
inkwell.vue.349 : Stephen Tropiano, Obscene, Indecent, Immoral and Offensive
permalink #47 of 70: David Albert (aslan) Sat 28 Mar 09 08:16
    <scribbled by aslan Sat 28 Mar 09 11:24>
  
inkwell.vue.349 : Stephen Tropiano, Obscene, Indecent, Immoral and Offensive
permalink #48 of 70: Betsy Schwartz (betsys) Sat 28 Mar 09 08:54
    
Wellllll... it's nice to have some sort of heads-up that doesn't
reveal the whole plot. 

As the parent of a 12-year-old who doesn't like violent movies, the
ratings system does provide a good heads-up. If a movie has a PG-13
rating I'm usually comfortable sending her off to see it. This WOULD be
different if she liked violent or gross-out movies, or if she had easy
access to a movie theater without parental supervision, but  if she's
going to see a movie without me, it's something another parent or her
after-school has approved, so it won't be something on the borderline. 


At the video store, we're often looking at movies that I've seen some
time ago and don't remember well. An "R" tells me I'd better refresh my
memory before renting it. A lot of times my personal decision is that
it's OK for my kid to see an R movie or not OK for her to see a PG-13
movie, but if a movie's rated R there's usually something I need to
think about and maybe warn her about. (and I've made mistakes. The
Shining was a mistake).

I guess that boils down to: the ratings system is a useful headsup for
parents but I don't think it could possibly substitute for parental
involvement. If you want a system that locks kids out of unsuitable
stuff, you need a different system.
  
inkwell.vue.349 : Stephen Tropiano, Obscene, Indecent, Immoral and Offensive
permalink #49 of 70: David Albert (aslan) Sat 28 Mar 09 11:17
    <scribbled by aslan Sat 28 Mar 09 11:18>
  
inkwell.vue.349 : Stephen Tropiano, Obscene, Indecent, Immoral and Offensive
permalink #50 of 70: David Albert (aslan) Sat 28 Mar 09 11:20
    
But for the kids for whom many G-rated movies are totally unsuitable,
and many PG-13 rated movies are fine, the ratings offer very little if
any assistance in terms of a heads-up.

The Boston Globe runs a pretty good column suggesting realistic age
ranges for various movies that have come out recently, and gives fewer
spoilers than Screen-It while doing so.
  

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