- All Exhibits
- Exhibit Home
- Walk Through The Exhibit
- 785 Dirty Words
- Virginia Is For Censors?
- Margaret Sanger and Birth Control
- Reference and Religious Works
- James Branch Cabell and the Jurgen Obscenity Trial: A Case Study
- Silenced Minorities
- Counterattack: Writers Speak on Censorship
- Banned, Burned, Bowdlerized
- The Wrath of... Grapes?
- Censorship for the Cause
- The Objectivity of Science
- Entartete Musik: A Case Study
- Through the Eyes of a Child
- Artistic Expression
- All Shook Up: Rock, Rap, & Raunchiness
- Web Filtering and Internet Censorship
- Hooray for Hollywood?
- Censored Films and Television I
- Censored Films and Television II
- Learn More
The musical Guys and Dolls joined the ranks of the censored due to suggestive lyrics and dance in "Take Back Your Mink" and "Adelaide's Lament." Also of concern were the apparent mockery of religion (Sarah, a missionary, becomes inebriated) and an objection to one character giving the "Bronx cheer."
Produced only shortly after the demise of the Hays Code, Bonnie and Clyde is most notable for its influence in redefining violence in movies. Many reviews argued that the brutal and gruesome scenes managed to glamorize violence, in part because the characters committing violent acts were themselves glamorous, likeable people.
Goaded by nude partygoers in The Last Picture Show, young and reluctant Cybil Shepherd disrobes and goes skinny-dipping. It was banned in Phoenix, Arizona in 1973 when the city attorney notified a drive-in theater manager that the film violated a state obscenity statute, and told him to stop showing it. The manager acquiesced. Arguments in federal court focused on the nudity in this party scene, and eventually the courts disagreed that it was obscene.
While the prurient title Carnal Knowledge helped bring 20 million people to the theaters, the storyline involved more than just sex. A fascinating character study of two men with lousy attitudes towards women, this film shows its characters displaying raw emotion and frailty. Still, the censors only saw the sex, or rather, the suggestion of sex. A search warrant was issued in Albany, Georgia in 1972, leading to the arrest of the manager of the theater in which it was showing, and the film was seized. The theater manager was convicted, but the Supreme Court eventually overturned the decision.
The Canadian documentary If You Love This Planet featured Australian physician and internationally known antinuclear activist Helen Caldicott discussing the medical and social effects of nuclear war interspersed with short clips from Ronald Reagan movies. The 23-minute film was destined for obscurity; then was labeled as "political propaganda" by the U.S. Justice Department, which sought to limit its distribution in the United States. Director Terri Nash eventually won an Oscar for Best Short Documentary, and in her acceptance speech, thanked the U.S. Government for so effectively "advertising" her film.
Angry Vietnam-veteran-turned-police-officer Stanley White pledges to "clean up" New York's Chinatown in Year of the Dragon. Assisted by a beautiful Asian-American reporter, White uncovers a powerful Asian mafia responsible for murder, corruption, and a thriving drug trade. Based loosely on a novel of the same name, Chinese-Americans protested the racial stereotyping and sexism well before the film opened. Protesters from a coalition of organizations picketed the various premiers around the country, and statements were issued from groups fearing a negative economic impact on Chinatown if movie-goers thought it unsafe. These numerous objections led the studio to add the following disclaimer to the beginning of the film: "This film does not intend to demean or to ignore the many positive features of Asian Americans and specifically Chinese American communities. Any similarity between the depiction in this film and any association, organization, individual or Chinatown that exists in real life is accidental."
Reverend Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association commented that the script for Last Temptation of Christ was "absolutely the most perverted, distorted account of the historical and Biblical Jesus I have ever read." Jesus is portrayed as sometimes frail and questioning, and has a sexual relationship with prostitute Mary Magdelan, which some movie-goers found to be blasphemous. This film was controversial as early as five years before it was finished, and many religious groups picketed and boycotted the film after it reached movie theaters, some waving signs reading "Don't Crucify Christ Again," "Stop This Attack on Christianity," and "Scripture Not Scripts."
Some members of the gay and lesbian community objected to the premise of a homicidal lesbian maniac terrorizing the men of San Francisco in Basic Instinct. Carolco Pictures was asked to cancel the project, and when that was not successful, the screenwriter, director, and others associated with the film were asked to make script changes that would portray gays and lesbians in a more positive light. The requested changes were largely ignored, leading to protests designed to disrupt the filming on city streets, and, eventually, protests outside theaters where the film was being shown. One group even attempted to give away the ending of "Basic Instinct" in hopes that it would dissuade movie-goers from seeing it. In the original cut, suspect Sharon Stone taunts police with a daring panty-less flash while being interrogated. The scene was later modified to be less graphic. Later, police detective Michael Douglas has rough and not-quite-voluntary sex with girlfriend Jeanne Tripplehorn, a scene that was also toned down. Some say the director seemed deliberate in his attempt to either offend or titillate everyone, and this amoral attitude is perhaps at the heart of the objections to this film.