November 28, 2013

Censors, Ratings, and Rules, Oh My! A History of Hollywood Censorship

Jane RussellWhen actress Evan Rachel Wood took to Twitter yesterday to call out the MPAA over some deleted scenes from her film Charlie Countrymanit reminded us that the topic of censorship is and always has been a thorny issue. It's easy to make snap judgements on either side of the aisle, especially if the history of censorship is largely unknown to you, but John P. Hess from Filmmaker IQ discusses the pivotal moments in Hollywood censorship, from the Hays Code to the MPAA, and how social progressivism and the Internet have changed and continue to change cinema.

Everybody has their own opinions regarding censorship in film. Some believe that there should be strict rules and guidelines when it comes to rating a film, some believe films should only be loosely regulated, and some believe there shouldn't be any regulation at all.

The interesting thing about film regulation is that filmmakers aren't necessarily forced to abide by any kind of censorship -- at least not legally. American cinema is self-regulated. Filmmakers self-censor themselves through the discernment of the MPAA and the ratings system, and any deviation can have serious financial implications further down the road -- for instance, films with an NC-17 rating don't get screened by certain theater chains, or carried by certain retailers, or advertised by certain media outlets.

Take a look at Filmmaker IQ's video on American film censorship below -- and then feel free to get into a lively and inappropriately loud debate with your uncle during Thanksgiving dinner until one of you tosses the gravy boat at the other's head. Happy Thanksgiving!

What do you think about the history of film censorship in America? Let us know in the comments.

Link: The History of Hollywood Censorship and the Ratings System -- Filmmaker IQ

Your Comment


I think it's fucked up. The MPAA is shady. Check out Kirby Dick's documentary:

November 28, 2013 at 12:38PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Micah Van Hove

That is a fantastic doc. May favorite part was the guys from South Park talking about how they made the South Park movie dirtier in order to get it past the MPAA.

November 29, 2013 at 6:11AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


great doc!

November 29, 2013 at 7:50AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Sometimes I pray for totalitarian censorship. Back then people were forced to at least look classy in public and on screen, now look at them twerking whores.

November 28, 2013 at 1:41PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


My favorite thing about twerking whores is their ability to upset people to a strangely deep degree

November 28, 2013 at 2:46PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Dave Kendricken

it's up to the Artist…classy or trashy

November 29, 2013 at 1:32AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Bust some caps instead. MPAA doesn't give a damn about those.

"Report: Gun Violence in PG-13 Movies Higher Than R-Rated Films"

November 29, 2013 at 7:07AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Censorship is created by a "someone" that has a need do deny.

December 5, 2013 at 9:32PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


I believe in notification over censorship. The current ratings system should be replaced with a category ratings system. Film content should be graded based on categories such as sex, language, violence, etc. That way we could choose a film based on the content instead of a general rating that is often vague. It would be cool to see a histogram of the content on a poster or advertisement instead of a single code.

December 9, 2013 at 9:58PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM