Back in the early thirties, Hollywood’s biggest bigwigs got together and decided to censor themselves. What was eventually agreed upon was called The Motion Picture Production Code, and for decades you couldn’t get a film exhibited commercially unless you received their stamp of approval. The Production Code self-censored morality, sex, and violence. Studios even submitted scripts for approval before production began.
The sixties spelled the end of the Production Code, and ever since, Hollywood has celebrated the end of all those rules that greatly intruded upon artistic freedom. In fact, the end of the Production Code is something Hollywood has never stopped applauding itself for.
Today the war against censoring artistic freedom just took a big step backwards when one of the most powerful people in the film business, Sony Chief Amy Pascal, called for a new Production Code to regulate morality — not in so many words, but this adds up to the exact same thing:
Last night at a sold-out LA Gay & Lesbian Center gala that raised $1 million for homeless gay and lesbian youth, honoree Amy Pascal asked the industry to scrutinize its depiction of LGBT characters in film and television: “How about next time, when any of us are reading a script and it says words like fag, or faggot – homo – dyke – take a pencil and just cross it out”.
This is also an example of bigotry. Because this is a protection Pascal would never call for on behalf of, say, Christians.
Don’t misunderstand me, either. I’m not defending people who attack the humanity of anyone, gay or straight. But censorship is censorship is censorship. And gays or blacks or Muslims or white conservative Christians should not be given some special inoculation that makes them immune from satire or someone’s idea of artistic expression. Liberty is the highest value and “protecting from offense” is a slippery-slope impossible to define.
Amy Pascal just became the 2013 version of Joseph Breen, a man New Hollywood has spent the last five decades ridiculing as a priggish, overbearing moralist who forced his provincial moral views on an entire industry.
Pascal might see herself as progressive, but she has just suggested we return to what Hollywood used to call the “bad old days.”
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