Friday, September 28, 2012

Reading for next week: Wu, Tim. Ch. 6 and 8 in The Master Switch. Post thoughts about the reading here for further discussion. What bit(s) of history from these chapters will you still remember a year from now?


  1. I found the piece on early Hollywood movies very interesting. When movies became popular in the 1930's they were considered very edgy for the time. This was because of the addition of sound. Before this time, silent films were the norm and it was what crowds were used to. There were many famous quotes that originated in this era that we still use today. Actress May West must have shocked the country with her lines in "She done Him Wrong" and "I'm No Angel." This is where "Is that a gun in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me," and "When I'm good, I'm very good. When I'm Bad, I'm better" took place. I cant imagine putting myself in the shoes of an 1930s audience and hearing something like that on the motion picture screen. Frankly I would probably scared off as this lacks the family friendly entertainment that vaudeville provided .

  2. Ha! Well would you look at that. There once was a time where people fought for Hollywood to be censored to the point of even the "Taliban's satisfaction." I couldn't help but laugh at that. But really, look at how drastic things have changed!

    One sentence in the text summed it up perfectly, "In the course of a single decade film went from one of the most open industries in the United States to one of the most controlled."

    And how true! I think film started out as an expressive art and a form of entertainment in the United States. A country where the freedom of speech and expression is what makes our country so great! Nevertheless, the progression of film censorship truly changed the entire industry itself.

    I remember my dad telling me about the famous "Gone With the Wind," line "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn," being so controversial. I remember thinking to myself, well....what about the movies today that curse every other word? How would those be viewed just decades ago?

    The entertainment industry today continues to desensitize viewers and in turn has to give them more violence, sex, inappropriate language to feed to their desires. If anyone today even tried to pass a law relating to the Production Code, it would a) be a laughing matter. b) all hell would break loose.

    Our country embraces our right to the freedom of expression. Our entertainment industry milks this right for all its worth.

  3. According to the text, “in the United States, it is industrial structure that determines the limits of free speech”. At first I disagreed with this contention. How could it be that the parameters of censorship be dictated by anything other than differing opinions on morality? But then again it is because of the freedom of speech that groups can interact with one another, and even denounce the action of others. On a different note, I was intrigued by this week’s readings.I admittedly adore old movies. I find ragtime music plus the inventiveness and imagination of the old silent films really enjoyable. If we consider film to be an art medium, analogous to painting or sculpture, it’s actually a very young art form. It is therefore, still developing in technique and concept. And so from an art theory perspective, it’s really interesting to see how the creation of an industry with Zukor influenced the film medium. It stands to question, if our art (and our censorship) wasn’t dictated by economics, how would our art, and in this case, our cinema be different?

  4. One thing that stood out, and that I will remember a year from now, is that the Hollywood activists were Catholic. I don't know why this was the most memorable piece of information, it just is.
    I find it interesting that chapter 8 made it very much a point to identify the activists as Catholic. Why does that matter? Why is it so important to mention on every page that they were, basically, crazy Catholics trying to ruin Hollywood?
    It was interesting that on page 118 it said that Catholic parishoners were invited to join the Legion of Deceny. Jews and Portestants were welcome too.
    Why not just say everyone was welcome?
    I don't think Catholics get a very good rep in the media and I think this is an example. I got this picture that he was an over-zealous religious trying to burn Hollywood with a cross.

  5. I always take an interest in industrial battles. The whole attempt to create a single powerhouse company, one that specialized in production, distribution, and exhibition is quite a concept. It always amazes me how genius the moguls of the industry can be. In order to have the most control of the industry, how can they manipulate their companies and the markets to make their bottom lines bigger? There seemed to be no end of solutions for people like Zukor who were primarily concerned with edging out their own competition and accomplishing their own ends. Quite a remarkable summary of the battle between keeping the distribution, production, and exhibition industries separate or merging them and how that battle ended, eventually yielding to "chain" theaters and companies that did films "wholesale." I never realized that certain theaters were created to originally show only the films created by their production group, and weren't always independent businesses. Very interesting. Also interesting is how the film company tried to force exhibitors to buy "block and blind." It seems like no one would be willing to do that nowadays, crazy taking a gamble on having to show a handful of movies that you haven't seen. But back when the technology to make films rested with a handful of companies/people, there wasn't much choice if you wanted to have any business at all.

    Second, I think the "decency" campaign was a misguided attempt at a good thing. Sure it was censorship. Sure it would never fly in today's crazy, "free" everything world. But in a time when such things were controversial and people were still adjusting to having movies and Hollywood as an influential part of their lives, bringing new, radical ideas into their homes and families, it was seen as a nearly necessary precaution. Now the fact that the handful of men in charge were Catholic does not make Catholics crazy free speech prohibiting maniacs. I am a Catholic and would take offense to such an accusation, but I think that they truly were fearful of what the new technology would do to the morals of family life. Truly, I believe that today's world is not much better off for all the "free"dom that we show in the movies and on television. If the decency campaign was such a horrible idea than nearly 11,000,000 people wouldn't have supported it. If it, or a similar movement whether Christian or not, wasn't necessary or proper for the transitional period between the more modest 50s and indescribable social changes of the 60s than I'm not sure what was. I think the priests had everyone's best intentions at heart and were simply trying to protect the innocence of American families. Could it have been gone about more appropriately or fairly? Sure. But that doesn't make it wrong.