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.
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!
mother of my eyelid (frako) Sat 21 Mar 09 14:30
It was shot so far away from the action too.
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.
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...
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?
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.
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?
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
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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."
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.
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.
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Fri 27 Mar 09 08:15
<randomize>, I watched Kinsey with my 75-year-old maiden librarian great aunt.
Idea Hamster On Speed (randomize27) Fri 27 Mar 09 08:24
Were you a hormone crazed teen at the time?
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.)
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.
David Albert (aslan) Sat 28 Mar 09 08:16
<scribbled by aslan Sat 28 Mar 09 11:24>
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.
David Albert (aslan) Sat 28 Mar 09 11:17
<scribbled by aslan Sat 28 Mar 09 11:18>
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.
Members: Enter the conference to participate