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Joe Breen's Personal Propaganda Machine - Essay Example

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Attend a family movie in your local theater today and hardly an eyebrow will be raised when you hear a teenager say something like, "Jeez, he left the [expletive deleted] beer with the [expletive deleted] gun". Yet, barely two generations ago censors would have reduced that line to, "he left the with the"…
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Download file to see previous pages in Espar). In 1934, Hays was joined by Joe Breen, a strict Catholic moralist, and assigned to run the Production Code Administration (PCA). Today's movie codes grew out of these early efforts to classify and render movies safe for children and general public consumption. But was this an effort to make our movie houses safe for women and children Or was there something more sinister than a few obscenities at work In fact, Hays cared little about keeping pornography away from children. His self-serving interest had been to keep the government away from the movies. His misguided attempts would backfire years later as the PCA would evolve into the center of cultural warfare. The Legion of Decency, headed by Breen, joined alliances with Hays, not to regulate morality, but to create an agency who's purpose was to control society, further their personal political ideals, and shape the mind of America.
There is little room for controversy over the need to protect our children from the vast array of products and influences available today. There are good reasons why alcohol, tobacco, and pornography are well regulated by society and kept from the hands of children, and it is nothing new. Censorship has existed in every society since the Athenians arrested Socrates for "... corrupting the children and offending the Gods" (Riley 4). Yes, the world has censorship and censorship is here to stay. In fact, without the modern movie code system of PG, PG-13, and XXX that was spawned by the PCA, it would be impossible for responsible parents to adequately screen the volume of content available today. In spite of the problems within the PCA, the Codes have turned out to be a workable solution to a very complex problem. However, there is a wise old adage that says, "The good is found in the intentions, but the bad is in the unintended consequences". In the case of the PCA, it may be exactly the opposite. The PCA may have resulted in good consequences, in spite of the worst of intentions.
Peering 75 years into the past to measure the intentions of men long passed is not an easy task. Yet, we can examine the things they said and the things they did. We can read their quotes and read their writings. We can evaluate what was cut out, what was left in, and try to see if there is a common thread that runs throughout that might re-stitch the fabric of their thoughts. Putting this information in context with the cultural and social setting of the time, the depression, the looming war, bigotry, and racism can give us a glimpse inside the mind of the PCA.
The original PCA codes were adopted from the Catholic Movie Code and were very specific as to what they deemed a transgression. In part they stated that a film could never "...lower the moral standards of those who see it. Hence the sympathy of the audience should never be thrown to the side of crime, wrong-doing, evil or sin"(Heins). What was considered wrong-doing, evil, and sin varied far and wide and was almost always at the mercy of Breen's interpretation. Semi nudity, lustful kissing, and sexual innuendo were all forbidden. Brutality, drinking, bathrooms, double beds, extra-marital affairs, and other transgressions of Catholic Doctrine have all fallen victim to the censor's ax at one time or another. Yet, the PCA went further to dictate that, "Government and ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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