Film Censorship in the 21st Century

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Film Censorship in the 21st Century

In the present day, Americans have had to realize what the word “freedom” means. Whether it is recognizing our freedom as American citizens and defending ourselves against a growing threat of terrorism, or protesting war as we attempt to protect another country’s plea for freedom, all Americans have looked closer at the definition of freedom. In this heightened age of freedom and evaluating our constitutional rights, it is interesting that censorship is still a controversial issue. Perhaps the most significant examples of censorship take place in the arts. While the First Amendment considers censorship illegal, there are many ways that censorship still occurs in visual art, theatre, television, and film. Perhaps film has the most organized system of censorship found in the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America). Chris Roth writes in his article “Three Decades of Film Censorship…right before your eyes”, that censorship by ratings is a serious First Amendment issue that deserves debate and action. The article poses many questions about the MPAA and the restrictions it places on director’s creativity. However, the most important issue it addresses is our freedom as American citizens to promote, protect, and view a diverse mosaic of ideas on screen.

The censorship of film has been an issue since the Supreme Court made the notorious ruling on the case of Mutual Film Corporation v. Industrial commission of Ohio on February 23, 1915. The case, which was initially about restricting commerce rather then freedom of speech, was brought to the Supreme Court after being rejected at the state level. In 1915, film censorship was done on the state level and The Mutual Fil...

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...is a growing interest in freedom, there should also be a growing interest in film and the protection of the First Amendment.

Works Cited

De Grazia, Edward, and Roger K. Newman. Banned Films: Movies, Censors, and The First Amendment. New York: R.R. Bowker Company, 1982.

Jowett, Garth S. “A Capacity for Evil: The 1915 Supreme Court.” Controlling Hollywood: Censorship and Regulation in the Studio Era. Ed. Matthew Bernstein. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1999. (16-40).

Roth, Chris. “Three Decades of Film Censorship…right before your eyes”. The Humanist. Vol. 60, No. 1. January/February 2000.

Wyatt, Justin. “The Stigma of X: Adult Cinema and the Institution of the MPAA Ratings System.” Controlling Hollywood: Censorship and Regulation in the Studio Era. Ed. Matthew Bernstein. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1999. (238-264).
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