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Outline

Introduction: Nadine Gordimer once said, “Censorship is never over for those who have experienced it. It is a brand on the imagination that affects the individual who has suffered it, forever.” In other words, some believe censorship is a positive reinforcement, which protects society from profound evils, when in reality censorship mainly just damages the creativity in artists.  Because the First Amendment protects freedom of speech producers felt censoring movies was a violation of their rights and decided to take the issue to court in the case of Mutual Film Corp. v. Industrial Commission of Ohio in 1915. With Justice McKenna’s statement that the movie industry was a business, “the Court confirmed… that “pure” entertainment… was a commodity… and its manufacture and distribution [was] just as liable to the incursions of government regulation,” as any other business commodity (Richard Maltby 102). While this case ruled in favor of censoring movies and may have solved a temporary issue, many producers as well as outsiders still feel strongly about censorship and wish to change the current rating system into one where the producers have more freedom to create their artistic visions.

Section 1: In this section, I intend to go into detail about the court case of Film Corp. v. Industrial Commission of Ohio.  I will discuss both sides of the case and their reasoning behind their arguments.  I will then go into detail about the courts opinion and ruling of the case, which will finish this paragraph

Section 2: In this section, I will discuss the previous forms of censorship that took place before the court case of 1915.  I will talk about their intentions and the reasoning’s behind their failure.  I will discuss how they eventually became the current rating system and how that has positively affected movies and viewers, which will lead me into my next paragraph discussing the MPAA.

Section 3:  In this section, I will discuss the current rating system.  I will talk about the different ratings and what they mean as well as the classifications that give a movie a specific rating.  I will then discuss the reasoning behind why this organization came to be and how it is positively affecting the public.  I will then refute the positivity for this organization, which will then transition me into my next paragraph.

Section 4: In this section, I will discuss the issues people have with the current rating system.  I will talk about why they dislike the system and also give suggestions of how to improve it.  I will quote the different opinions of multiple sources that wish to improve the system.

Section 5: In this section, I will wrap up my paper and state my opinion on the subject matter.  I will retouch on both sides of the issue and give reasoning for why censorship is better, if not eliminated, than improved.  I will finish my paper with a thoughtful conclusion that will force my reader to think about the issue further.

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Nadine Gordimer once said, “Censorship is never over for those who have experienced it. It is a brand on the imagination that affects the individual who has suffered it, forever.” In other words, some believe censorship is a positive reinforcement, which protects society from profound evils, when in reality censorship mainly just damages the creativity in artists.  Because the First Amendment protects freedom of speech producers felt censoring movies was a violation of their rights and decided to take the issue to court in the case of Mutual Film Corp. v. Industrial Commission of Ohio in 1915.

In the opinion for this case, Justice McKenna explains that the complainant argued that the censorship was a violation of articles I and 14 of the Amendments to the United States Constitution, and Paragraph II of article I of the Constitution of Ohio, which states that political power is given out by the people.  The complainant argued that the censoring organization attempted to give legislative power to the censors, and placed “an unlawful burden on interstate commerce” (Mutual Film Corp. v. Industrial Commission of Ohio).  McKenna then questions whether the movies are considered an expression of thoughts, or if the movie industry is like the theaters, circuses and other forms of entertainment, where “their performances may be thus brought by the like reasoning under the same immunity from repression or supervision as the public press” (Mutual Film Corp. v. Industrial Commission of Ohio).  In other words, McKenna questions whether movies are just expressions of thoughts, which are protected by the First Amendment, or if movies are businesses like other public performances where the press has the right to rate the appropriateness of the performance given.  Justice McKenna then continues by stating “The conducting of a theater or other place of amusement is a perfectly lawful business, and can only be subjected to such regulations, as may other legitimate businesses” (Mutual Film Corp. v. Industrial Commission of Ohio). In this statement, McKenna discusses the business aspect of entertainment. He explains that a business has the right to take away the rights from its company if the business so chooses. This is true for normal businesses as well as performance or entertainment businesses. After discussing this, McKenna gives out the Courts decision that the censorship of movies if not a violation of the First Amendment strictly because, “Under the law of Ohio, just as elsewhere, a corporation has the right to avail itself of these constitutional guaranties” (Mutual Film Corp. v. Industrial Commission of Ohio). In other words, the Court feels that the censorship of movies is not a violation of the First Amendment because the movie industry is a business and therefore has the right to take away natural rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

With McKenna’s statement that the movie industry was a business, “the Court confirmed… that “pure” entertainment… was a commodity… and its manufacture and distribution [was] just as liable to the incursions of government regulation,” as any other business commodity (Richard Maltby 102). While this case ruled in favor of censoring movies and may have solved a temporary issue, many producers as well as outsiders still feel strongly about censorship and wish to change the current rating system into one where the producers have more freedom to create their artistic visions.

Since the Court case of 1915 the censorship of movies has been greatly improved and become the MPAA, Motion Picture Association of America. Before this group was formed, however, there were multiple censorship organizations such as the Motion Picture Parents Company, the National Board of Censorship, and the Motion Picture Producers and Distributers “which were severely damaged” due to public controversies (Maltby 102). These organizations attempted to maintain their own procedures and “subsequently sought to resist the implementation of federal and state censorship… by pledging themselves to voluntary codes of practice of the screen” (Maltby 102). In other words, these organizations attempted to give producers more freedom by stating that censorship was voluntary. While this may have given the film industry more freedom, the people complained that movies were not being rated correctly. This became a problem when films began to take successful plays and books, which were considered inappropriate but popular, and make them into films.

These topics relate to my thesis because it introduces my paper and talks about the court case that decided that censoring movies was not a violation of the First Amendment.  I also discuss the censoring organizations before the current MPAA.

While the court case of Mutual Film Corp. v. Industrial Commission of Ohio confirms that rating movies is not a violation of the First Amendment, many producers feel as though their rights to produce art are still being taken away by the current censoring of the films.  The producers feel this way because when a film receives a low rating such as PG-13, a wider spectrum of the population is able and willing to view this film which in turn, brings in a large amount of revenue.  Where as, if a film receives a high rating such as the NC-17 then a smaller audience, involving adults only, is able to view this film, which brings in a small amount of revenue.  Because films with higher ratings only bring in small amounts of revenue, producers can not afford to produce higher rated movies and are forced to create films with a lower rating. (Sandler).  In order to meet the standards of the lower rating a producer must trim out scenes that are considered profound to the MPAA, but considered art to the producers and some viewers.  This leaves the producer feeling as though their First Amendment rights have been removed.  Because the Court ruled in favor of censorship however, the producers are forced to follow the regulations set by the MPAA.

The MPAA, Motion Picture Association of America, is an organization set up for parents to have and idea about what material is held within a movie.  This allows the parent to make an educated judgement on whether or not they should allow their children to see a certain movie based on its rating.  By having this rating system, the parent does not have to previously view a movie before making a decision on whether or not the material is appropriate for their child to see.  The different movie ratings include: G, for general audience, PG, for parental guidance suggested, PG-13, for parents strongly cautioned, R for restricted, and NC-17, for no one 17 and under admitted.  For G rated movies the material is acceptable for all ages where as PG rated movies some of the material may be considered unsuitable for children.  Movies rated PG-13 includes material that is not appropriate for children under the age of 13, and R rated movies require adult supervision for anyone under the age of 17.  The final rating, NC-17, does not allow anyone 17 and under to view the film with or without a parent guardian. (MPAA).  Each rated movie contains a box which holds the rating, what the rating means, and why that movie was given the specific rating.  Given this information about the individual ratings as well as the description for why a certain movie got a specific rating allows parents the opportunity to decide whether or not the material in the movie is appropriate for their child.  The MPAA began as an organization to help the parents, however there are some people who feel this organization is more lax on some issues than others.  In other words a movie may receive a higher rating but have a more moral message than a movie with a lower rating, because the higher rated movie had a glimpse of the more regulated material.

Part one:

  • MPAA- Motion Picture Association of America is the current rating system for the movie industry.  This group is was created “for the parents by the parents,” so that parents would know exactly what could be in the movie they are sending their children to. (Toone)
  • Rights- This term means that a person or a company is born with specific privileges which allow them to act a specific way. “Under the law of Ohio, just as elsewhere, a corporation has the right to avail itself of these constitutional guaranties.” (Justice McKenna)
  • Mutual Film Corp. v. Industrial Commission of Ohio- This was a court case which decided whether or not censoring movies was a violation of the First Amendment. The court decided, “that motion pictures were mere representations of events, of ideas and sentiments, published and known and therefore not to be afforded the protection of the First Amendment.” (Maltby)

Part three:

While the court ruled in favor of the censorship of movies, some still feel that because the rating system limits the amount of people that are able to watch a movie, they are loosing their right to produce a film containing provocative art.

Why do some people have negative feelings towards the movie rating system?

The thesis answers the question because it gives a reason for why some people feel negative towards the current rating system.  It explains what some of the negative feelings are towards the system.

While the court case of Mutual Film Corp. v. Industrial Commission of Ohio
ruled in favor of censoring movies, some producers feel as though their First Amendment right of freedom of expression is being taken away because of the current standards for the rating system of movies.

Part one:

“In declaring that the motion picture industry was “a business pure and simple… ,” the Court confirmed a widely held progressive opinion that “pure” entertainment- amusement that was not harmful to its consumer- was a commodity comparable to the pure meat guaranteed by the Food and Drug Administration, and its manufacture and distribution just as liable as the incursions of government regulation.” -Richard Maltby

1. This quote is discussing the courts decision that the censorship is not a violation of the first amendment.  It is saying that because the court ruled in favor of censorship, the court views the movie industry as a business therefore giving the movie industry the right to censor or give ratings on their movies just like any business might censor articles in a journal they produce.

2. In this quote when it mentions the Court, it is referring to the case of Mutual Film Corp. v. Industrial Commission of Ohio held in 1915.  In this case the court ruled in favor of censoring movies stating that it was not a violation of the First Amendment.

3. This quote is important to my topic because it talks about the reasons for the Court’s decision as well as implies the effects of how the movie industry would react after this Court’s decision.  This will be useful in trying to explain the court case and the progressions of the movie industry after this decision.

“Under the law of Ohio, just as elsewhere, a corporation has the right to avail itself of these constitutional guaranties.” -Justice McKenna

1. This quote is saying that any business in the United States has the right to take away some Constitutional rights.

2. This quote came from Justice McKenna’s statement regarding the case of Mutual Film Corp. v. Industrial Commission of Ohio.  When he refers to the law of Ohio he is talking particularly about Ohio’s law to censor movies.

3. This quote will be useful to my topic because it will help explain the Courts decision that censorship does not violate the first amendment.  This is important because it will give the audience a taste of what the Court said about this case.

Part 2:

These quotes relate to each other because they both discuss the Courts decision to allow the censorship of movies.  Both of the quotes talk about the business aspect, and how it is legal for a corporation to take away constitutional rights if they so please.  The quotes differ because one of the quotes is longer and hints on the effects and the meaning of the Court’s decision for censorship. It discusses that because of the Court’s decision, the movie industry is now thought of as a business. While on the other hand, the second quote is shorter and simply states the businesses have the right to take away constitutional rights.  This quote is also taken from Justice McKenna’s Statement where as the other quote was taken from a book discussing movie censorship.  The author’s intent for the first quote is to inform his audience about censoring movies in general not specifically about the court case.  The authors intent for the second quote however, was to entirely inform the reader about this court case because it was Justice McKenna’s statement of the case.

1. In the book, Movie Censorship and American Culture edited by Francis G. Couvares there a few entries dealing directly with movie censorship.  The entry that I believe will be most helpful in my research is “To Prevent the Prevalent Type of Book” by Richard Maltby.  In this chapter, Maltbly explains the birth of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America Inc. (MPPDA).  He discusses the court case of 1915 where the Supreme Court decided “that motion pictures were mere representations of events, of ideas and sentiments, published and known and therefore not to be afforded the protection of the First Amendment.”  He then goes on to explain how motion pictures were thought of as a business rather than the publics opinion on.  Maltby also discusses the troubles brought to the movie industry concerning the transformation of popular books into films.  He explains that because of the regulations and censorships transforming popular books into appropriate films was challenging.

2.  This source can be considered academic because it contains bibliographical references for each chapter.  This book was also published through the Library of  Congress and printed by the Smithsonian Institution.  This book can also be considered academic because it has various authors and was edited by and editor.

3. This book relates to my topic because it includes information involving the MPPDA and the reasons of its formation.  It also adds to my research because it includes information about the court case which decided that censorship of movies was not a violation of the First Amendment.  This book includes the idea that because of the courts decision, the movie industry is not thought of a persons opinion but rather a business.  It also discusses issues that the film industry had with censorships in the beginning rather than the more recent issues I have found.

PART 4

1. The first article I found was called “MPAA ratings — Organization says it’s ‘for parents by parents,’ but critics question system” by Trent Toone.  In this article Trent introduces a discussion a movie critic has with one of his friend.  The critic asks his friend the reason behind choosing to see “The Social Network” but not “The King’s Speech.”  His response was that one was rated PG-13 while the other was rated R.  This discussion transitions into Toone considering the pros and cons of following the rating system.  He points out that while one movie may get the lower rating it may contain unmoral messages, while other movies like “The Kings Speech” may get a worse rating because of one scene, but the over all message is moral. Toone also points out that the rating system is based “for parents and by parents,” so they will be able to make a judgment on whether or not their children should be allowed to watch a film.  Toone suggests that because the rating system is not perfect and some movies get ratings which are not entirely true to their message, people should not decide to watch a movie only because of the rating it received.

2. This article can be considered reliable because it has links to the sources it used within the article.  It was also published in “Deseret News” rather than a random blog website.  This article can also be considered reliable because while the author suggests his opinion, his article remains, for the most part, unbiased.

3. This article relates to my topic because it discusses the rating system for movies.  It talks about how the MPAA actually goes about rating movies.  The author then discusses that the rating system doesn’t always accurately represent the movie in its entirety.  I could use this information to discuss how the rating system may be misleading at times and possibly discuss the legality in rating the movies in this manor. I could also use this article as an example of people following the rating system too closely and not using their own judgement on whether or not a movie is appropriate.

1. The second article I found was called “Rated R for righteous” by Stephanie Zacharek.  Zacharek starts off by discussing the MPAA’s rating system and how they come off as a “folksy little organization” by having a rating system which helps parents decide if their child should or should not see a movie.  Zacharek then goes on to point out the flaws within MPAA.  She argues that under this rating system the artistic possibilities are stripped away.  Zacharek then goes on to introduce a film which explores the MPAA’s rating system and how this system has more control over the people than portrayed.  Zacharek then discusses how the movie contains interviews with a First Amendment layer, as well as several movie directors whose films were not as successful because of the ratings they received.  She also agrees with the movie’s point that the MPAA are afraid of sex, especially gay sex.

2. This article can be considered reliable because the author cites her sources throughout the article.  It can also be considered reliable because it was written in the movie section of the website.  This article may not be considered reliable because the author is biased in her writing.

3.  This article relates to my topic because it discusses the issues people have with the rating system.  I could use it to argue that people feel the rating system is taking away their rights to be artistic. When a movie receives a higher rating, less people are allowed to view their movie and what some people may consider profound others may consider art, such as naked statues.  This article might not relate to my topic because it is discussing a movie that is being made, and while the author agrees with some of the points made within the movie, she is mainly just describing what the movie is about.

PART 5

The first blog is called “U.S. Considers Unified Movie, TV, And Games Rating Systems” by Stephen Johnson.  In this blog Stephen discuses the possibility of merging the individual rating systems into one.  He argues that this will make it easier for parents to be able to decided what their children should be allowed to watch and listen to.   He then goes on to discuss that none of the companies want the government to be involved and regulating their software.  Johnson then points out:

“In a perfect world, the different industries would get together and institute a comprehensive and easily understandable system of rating that anyone could understand across all affected media. That would keep the FCC from stepping in and keep parents happy.”

Johnson concludes his blog by discussing what he would do if he was in charge and could control the movie rating system.

This blog post could be considered reliable if I were to use it for an example of someone’s opinion about the rating system.  The author of this blog is not biased in his writing.  He states both sides of the argument and understands that his opinion may not be possible and the reasons behind that, but still voices his thoughts as something for people to to think about.  This blog relates to my topic because it discuses the fact that the companies don’t want the government to step in and regulate their supplies which might infer that the rating system in a way is taking away the companies rights.  This blog might not relate to my topic because it discusses combining the rating system rather than talking about the first amendment issues with the rating system.

The second blog is called “The MPAA Ratings: Time to Fix a Broken System” posted by The Movie Snob.  In this blog the author discusses the differences of movies rated PG-13 and movies rated R.  The author discusses that the MPAA has rated films PG-13 that contain a lot of violence but then rate movies that have one scene with repeated profanity or suggestions of sex R.  The author gives multiple examples where this has occurred.  Proceeding these examples is a suggestion that would allow a more accurate description of movies so parents have an easier time deciding what movies to allow their children to see.  The author suggests to:

“List the issues with each film that are evident and allow viewers to make their own decisions rather than deciding on some indefinite letter system that really tells an untrue story.”

This blog could be considered reliable if I were to use it to give an example of how a person feels about the rating system.  I could use their argument to point out the flaws in the rating system.  I could also use their suggestion about listing the issues in the films to help argue against the MPAA rating system.  This blog relates to my topic because it discusses how the MPAA finds violence less offensive than sex creating a misleading rating system which is forcing certain movies which may have less offensive morals to have bad ratings.  This causes the movies to have a worse turnout than if the movies were rated properly and because producers don’t want the worse turnout, they are cutting back some of the art within their films.  In other words the rating system is causing a producer’s rights to portray a little profanity in their films in order to receive the lower rating.



Homework for Wed March 23

Part 2:

1. In the article, “The Naked Truth: Showgirls and the Fate of the X/NC-17 Rating” Kevin S. Sandler discusses the issues of replacing the X rating with NC-17 category, which created an adults only category.  He explains the issues Hollywood had with rating movies with this new category because it excluded members of society from being allowed to view. This in turn would not allow Hollywood to obtain maximum profits because there would not be maximum pleasure.  Sandler then goes on to discuss the failure of a movie due to its rating of the adult only NC-17. He discusses that some movies, that could have been considered adult movies, were overshadowed by movies which were more along the lines of porn.  This created a bad image for the rating NC-17.

2.This article can be considered academic because it is found in the Cinema Journal and it is discussing the topic of movies and the effects the rating system has on them.  This is also considered academic because the author of this article is a professor of the arts at the University of Arizona and not just some random guy who barely knows any information about movies. This article also contains multiple citations throughout the piece, which is also considered academic.

3.This article relates to my subject because it discusses the problems the rating system has with trying to stay moral and accountable with the public while attempting to allow the film industry freedom of expression and art within their films.  I could use this article to express a point discussing how the moralities of public may deny the movie system their right to freedom of expression.  I could discuss the idea that while the rating system attempted to allow the film industry freedom, the attendance of the public at these movies was not enough to allow the continuation of these movies to frequently occur.  Because these movies do not allow more of public to watch them, the film industry is forced to create more movies that allow a general audience.  This in turn creates happier customers and maximum profit for the film industries.

 

Homework for Mon March 21

Part 3:

The first article off of google was about the NATO movie rating system. It explained the qualifications for each of the different ratings for movies.  Movies rated G are for general admissions or in other words the general public, including all ages.  Movies rated PG include some details which may be considered unsuitable for children so parent guidance is advised.  The movies that are rated PG-13 include material that is not appropriate for children under the age of 13 and include brief appearances of drugs, sex, and profanity.  R rated movies include adult material which is inappropriate for children under the age of 17 where it is strongly advised for an adult to preview the film before allowing their child to view it.  Films rated NC-17 contain material which parents wouldn’t allow their children under the age of 17 to watch, however it is not considered to be porn.  This article also discusses that the rating system comes from the parents and what they believe their children should and should not see.

The second article would not allow access to view the whole piece however it gave a summary for the entire piece, which is what I read.  It said that in this article a study was done with high school students deciphering whether or not the rating of a movie, using the MPAA system, would affect the attendance of a movie.  The results concluded the attendance of a movie was not different whether it was rated PG or R.

In this research I found the first article to be more helpful on giving me the facts of the rating system.  It gave me the explanations for rating a movie a certain way and how these ratings are chosen.  The second article wasn’t as helpful in finding out general information about this subject, however it could be helpful if I needed to provide evidence for a point involving the effects the rating system has on the public.

 

Part 4:

I don’t have a lot of experience in the library.  I have been to the public library a few times in order to find a required reading throughout middle school and high school.  I’ve done some research in my high school library but it was mostly research on the computer in the library. I have not yet done research in the Lied Library.

 

Part 1:

As of right now, I am most interested in the focus of finding the hidden messages found within Disney movies.  I find this interesting because while the first amendment gives American citizens the right to having freedom of speech, the rating system for movies monitors the amount of profound language, violence, sex and drugs.  Disney creates movies for children with ratings that allow for it, however hidden within various Disney movies certain profanities can be found.  I plan on focusing on finding examples of hidden messages throughout animated Disney movies and then comparing the hidden messages to the regulations of the rating systems for movies.   I don’t know a lot about this topic other than the phallic symbol placed at the top of the castle on the cover of The Little Mermaid, as well as hidden words spelt out in the dust in a scene from The Lion King and a whispered phase hidden within the commotion of on of the scenes in Aladdin.  From this topic, I would like to learn about the hidden messages Disney incorporated into it’s films, possibly the reasoning behind adding these profanities into a child’s movie, and the distinction between what makes a movie PG verses PG-13.  I would also like to learn about the rating system and why it legal concerning the first amendment.

 

Part 2:

When using the google search engine, the results consisted of an app for a rating system, and a few articles about what certain movies were rated, but for the most part it consisted of links which lead to articles about the rating system or why movies are rated the way they are.  Google Scholar on the other hand, produced links which lead to opinionated articles about how certain ratings of movies forced certain beliefs upon a group of people, or why the rating system is bad or should be improved.  I think both of these search engines would be useful in my research because I can use the google search engine to understand how the rating system is currently working, and I can use the google scholar search engine to understand how society is reacting to these ratings.