Sunday, August 19, 2012
Protecting the Hays Code Audience - Beauty Through the "Limit" of Form
Resolved, That those things which are included in the following list shall not appear in pictures produced by the members of this Association, irrespective of the manner in which they are treated:
Pointed profanity – by either title or lip – this includes the words "God," "Lord," "Jesus," "Christ" (unless they be used reverently in connection with proper religious ceremonies), "hell," "damn," "Gawd," and every other profane and vulgar expression however it may be spelled;
Any licentious or suggestive nudity-in fact or in silhouette; and any lecherous or licentious notice thereof by other characters in the picture;
The illegal traffic in drugs;
Any inference of sex perversion;
Miscegenation (sex relationships between the white and black races);
Sex hygiene and venereal diseases;
Scenes of actual childbirth – in fact or in silhouette;
Children's sex organs;
Ridicule of the clergy;
Willful offense to any nation, race or creed;
And be it further resolved, That special care be exercised in the manner in which the following subjects are treated, to the end that vulgarity and suggestiveness may be eliminated and that good taste may be emphasized:
The use of the flag;
International relations (avoiding picturizing in an unfavorable light another country's religion, history, institutions, prominent people, and citizenry);
The use of firearms;
Theft, robbery, safe-cracking, and dynamiting of trains, mines, buildings, etc. (having in mind the effect which a too-detailed description of these may have upon the moron);
Brutality and possible gruesomeness;
Technique of committing murder by whatever method;
Methods of smuggling;
Actual hangings or electrocutions as legal punishment for crime;
Sympathy for criminals;
Attitude toward public characters and institutions;
Apparent cruelty to children and animals;
Branding of people or animals;
The sale of women, or of a woman selling her virtue;
Rape or attempted rape;
Man and woman in bed together;
Deliberate seduction of girls;
The institution of marriage;
The use of drugs;
Titles or scenes having to do with law enforcement or law-enforcing officers;
Excessive or lustful kissing, particularly when one character or the other is a "heavy."
The Motion Picture Production Code was the set of industry moral censorship guidelines that governed the production of most United States motion pictures released by major studios from 1930 to 1968. It is also popularly known as the Hays Code, after Hollywood's chief censor of the time, Will H. Hays.
The Motion Pictures Producers and Distributors Association (MPPDA), which later became the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), adopted the code in 1930, began enforcing it in 1934, and abandoned it in 1968, in favor of the subsequent MPAA film rating system. The Production Code spelled out what was acceptable and what was unacceptable content for motion pictures produced for a public audience in the United States. The office enforcing it was popularly called the Hays Office in reference to Hays, and also later the Breen Office, named after its first administrator, Joseph Breen, who took over from Hays in 1934.
By the late 1960s, enforcement had become impossible and the Production Code was abandoned entirely. The MPAA began working on a rating system, under which film restrictions would lessen. The MPAA film rating system went into effect on November 1, 1968, with four ratings: G, M, R, and X and Geoffrey Shurlock stepped down from his post. In 1969, the Swedish film I Am Curious (Yellow), directed by Vilgot Sjöman, was initially banned in the U.S. for its frank depiction of sexuality; however, this was overturned by the Supreme Court.
The M rating was changed to GP in 1970 and to the current PG in 1972. In 1984, in response to public complaints regarding the severity of horror elements in PG-rated titles such as Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the PG-13 rating was created as a middle tier between PG and R. In 1990, the X rating was replaced by NC-17, partly because the X rating was not trademarked by the MPAA, whereas pornographic bookstores and theaters were using their own X and XXX symbols to market products.