By: Thamer Alhamidi
What role does censorship play in pop-culture? Who decides what’s acceptable for the masses and what is not? These questions have been around since the beginning of power. In order to retain power, one must have control, in order to have control, one used to have to control through religion, or by the sword. These days, celluloid is mightier than the sword.
In 1930 (after the advent of sound cinema) the motion picture industry was booming. As the number of movie –goers grew, so did the criticism. This ballooned and peaked once the church got involved. Hollywood, out of fear that censorship from an outside organization would take place, put it’s own regulatory stipulations in place. This was known as the “Production” or “Hays” code. This code stipulated that certain guidelines were to be followed in order for a film to get wide spread distribution; in other words your film had to pass through this code to be successful. In looking at the extreme measures taken to ensure only wholesome material was being created one gets a clear picture of just how seriously the government and religious groups were taking this new phenomena. The fear of course lies in the popularity of the medium. Though not everyone reads, or goes to art galleries, film is one pass time that nearly every single citizen takes part in. So, naturally they assumed the control of the material of such a medium would be necessary Here is a link to some images which were considered unsavory for the general public: (excuse the annoying music)
What is interesting to me is that this was not a governmental decree. This was a conscious decision by a small group of powerful men. This is one instance in which popular culture was in fact being controlled by a small group with an agenda. One must keep in mind that this was before the age of television, before home movies, and before the extreme popularity of the independent film. To make movies was to be in the big time, and a select few held the gavel on censorship. This group of course approved other films such as the infamous Reefer Madness:
Though this film contains subject matter which would have been shut down had the drug been Religion instead of reefer, the film was made due to it falling in line with the standards of the code; and seeing as popular culture is largely a product of the mass media which fuels it, these men were in effect deciding in what direction to push popular culture, though they did not succeed.
I think the role of censorship in popular culture is something that needs to be explored fully. By censoring some things and not others, agendas are being projected. These agendas become norms, and norms have a funny way of working themselves into the psyche of social interaction, whether it be face to face, or through an art form such as film.