Films Mirror Shifting Values

By Larry Terry, HCN Staff Writer

The following article is reproduced from the Community News (P.O. Box 280, Channelview, TX 77530) and submitted by Bill Murff of Cosby, Texas. We appreciate him sharing this with us.

  • Brutal killings are not to be presented in detail.
  • Methods of crime shall not be explicitly presented or detailed in a manner calculated to glamorize crime or inspire imitation.
  • Obscenity in words, gesture, reference, song, joke or by suggestion, even when likely to be understood by only a part of the audience, is forbidden.
  • Blasphemy is forbidden. Reference to the Deity, God, Lord, Jesus Christ shall not be irreverent.
  • Complete nudity, in fact or in silhouette, is never permitted.
  • No film or episode shall throw ridicule on any religious faith.
  • The sanctity of the institution of marriage and home shall be upheld. . . Adultery and illicit sex, sometimes necessary plot material, shall not be explicitly treated, nor shall they be justified or made to seem right and permissible.

These statements were taken from “The Motion Picture Production Code,” which served as a moral guideline for American film makers for 35 years.

Based on the majority of today’s films, it is difficult to believe such guidelines were ever formulated, much less adhered to.

During the early years of the motion picture industry, major studios submitted scripts to representatives of the largest church denominations, according to a foreword to the production code. Films that met the code’s requirements were granted the Motion Picture Seal of Approval. Those that did not, often were held up until adequate revisions were made.

The code was enforced largely through the prospect of fines or that films might not be distributed to major theaters.

Whether we have been desensitized by the onslaught of profanity, promiscuity and violence in so many of today’s films or whether we attempt somehow to rationalize overstepping the boundaries of dignity and decency by defending such films as realism or “freedom of expression,” we have grown accustomed to accepting the unacceptable.

Even those who composed The Motion Picture Production Code were not trying to avoid unpleasant subjects or sanction only films that ignored the realities of life. Theirs was an effort “to bring the motion picture to a still higher level of wholesome entertainment for all concerned.”

Some films manage to do that; most do not.

A portion of the production code reads, “The treatment of low, disgusting, unpleasant, though not necessarily evil, subjects should be guided always by the dictates of good taste and a proper regard for the sensibilities of the audience.”

Many films today not only ignore our “sensibilities,” but pummel them with images, words and ideas that only a few could construe as entertainment.

Does the proliferation of such films indicate that we want our sensibilities to be attacked? Are we impressed by the profanity thrown into a script simply because a writer thinks it is what the audience wants to hear?

Many of us are offended by profanity. Yet even movies that have PG ratings or purport to be family-oriented often sprinkle profanity throughout the dialogue, as if all American families accept profanity in their households.

Paradoxically, perhaps, in the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding flag burning, another of the code’s tenets would become passe: “The use of the flag shall be consistently respectful.”

Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 3, p. 73
February 1, 1990