Film and music have long been among the most popular forms of expression in society. sic have long been among the most popular forms of expression in society.
Often, film and music have led to some of the most groundbreaking moments in the entertainment industry. Artists and filmmakers have continued to spark real-life movements that have stood the test of time.
Despite the waves arts and entertainment have made throughout the years, there was a point in time where it was not respected by the government and higher officials.
In 1929, the Oscars did not even consider movies to be a form of art.
More than a decade prior, the Supreme Court ruled that film was not entitled to legal protection as free speech. The debate of censorship was so strong at the time, as the state of Ohio passed an ordinance forcing the censorship board to be responsible for decisions that could approve or reject any film seeking to be shown in the state.
After the big decision, Mutual Film Corporation, a movie distributor, sued them and claimed that the Ohio law violated the First Amendment.
Many argued that film was a source of artistic freedom and a way to escape the realities of the real world. However, the Supreme Court believed that movies were a “business” and only a means to make money like the pharmaceutical or bank industries.
Shippensburg University student and aspiring filmmaker Quinn Erney gave insight about his views on censorship. “Art is subjective … It comes down to who is the audience,” Erney said.
Erney believes censorship is a way to keep negative things from happening, but also feels creators should not be held responsible for the way their art is viewed.
One of the biggest factors you can take away from a creator is their freedom to create. The final ruling in the case, Mutual Film Corp. v. Industrial Commission of Ohio, held filmmaking back for years at the state, local and in-house level.
It was not until 1952 that things changed, and one of the first films in Hollywood received First Amendment protections.
Apart from films, radio and television have also met with governmental pressure to put restrictions on content the public has access to. Most people believe that violence on television has a big impact on the way children behave as well.
Some of the narrative for whether censorship is good or bad comes from the bias of the audience. Congress has attempted several times to encourage the media to adopt rules to place less violence on television in hopes that it will lead to less violence on the streets.
Erney also discussed how people are far more likely to follow a headline than actually listen or watch what they criticize.
“Even if there is censorship on it … there’s always a way around the system,” Erney said.
Erney’s statement holds true, especially considering for years that people have been able to access things they were never supposed to have. Subsequently, putting censorship on content will only force people to push harder for what they want.
Numerous cities and states looked to get rid of the powerful influence of movies through censorship laws. In 1907, Chicago was one of the first cities to enforce censorship laws, while Pennsylvania became the first state to allow movie censorship in 1911.
After the case was over, there was a lot of popularity surrounding the issue, and many lawmakers were under pressure. In its opinion, the Court ruled that movies were “not to be regarded as part of the press of the country or as organs of public opinion.”
Along with film and music, books are being hit with censorship restrictions.
In December 2021, a San Antonio school district removed 400 books from its library shelves, and laws in Texas regarding censorship have limited public libraries.
Erney said, “I don’t think there should be a limit on what people create … but I do think there should be a filter for certain things.”
Creators in search of artistic freedom will most likely always have to worry about censorship.
There are reasons to use censorship, and that is why laws are put in place.
However, creators’ ability to have free reign to express themselves is the ethical dilemma that they face.
The entertainment industry is an area in which censorship is present in the most visible form. Theater and film are some of the biggest outlets and common interests of the public.
The influence that entertainment has on society cannot be overstated, and because of that, many governmental regulations are placed on its content. These attempts to censor creators will only be an ongoing issue moving forward with the rise of social media and the daring spirit of the people.
So, the question may be: Is censorship morally wrong, or is it a way to stop bad influences? Those questions are left for society to decide.