One of my favorite things in the world is to watch pre-code films. Before the Hays Code was adopted to stave off congressional censorship of films, there was an era of adult talk and intelligent plotting in motion pictures. I like both those things. The Pre-Code era ended in 1934 and we all suffered for it.
The effect of the Hays Code was felt on television far longer than in the motion picture industry. That’s why two single beds in a married couple’s home were the rule until “The New Dick Van Dyke Show.” That’s why we were flooded with widowers like Andy Taylor (The Andy Griffith Show) because people aren’t supposed to divorce or separate so it was easier just to kill off the woman.
You could argue that profanity and sex – and many other things should be censored. I disagree. Many awful things are part of our lives and can be discussed. There are things that should be censored like reality shows. I don’t mean specific lines. Reality shows should not exist. Putting television cameras on real people who are exorted to act out is detrimental to the viewers, the victims and everyone else. Watching an episode of “Survivor” was one of the worst experiences of my life. The people were placed on an island to plot, connive, cheat and lie for the amusement of the viewer. It was pathetically degrading.
The ethics of censorship in films and television are an enormously complex area of analysis. I’d like to talk about it some more in the future. Gene Roddenberry used to write about executives constantly interfering with his science fiction programming and his comments were the beginning of my interest in television censorship.
I’ve got a link below to a young gentleman who has made a film about the Hays Code and its effect on four motion pictures. In my opinion, he did a great job and I found his ideas compelling. So please give it a watch. I hope to see more of his work.