The Book Was Better

     Censorship has been a problem for centuries. Back in Roman times, people were brutally punished if they spoke out against certain people. This is censorship. During such trials as the Civil War, people were at war for saying what they believed and expressing what they felt. This is censorship. Now, during the age of film and literature, after all of our "progress" as a civilization there is still censorship. Censorship in films adapted from a great literary work takes away from the entire essence of the work and commonly leaves the viewer saying "the book was better."

     For example, in the 1951 film A Streetcar Named Desire directed by Elia Kazan, there was so much blatant censorship. There were several elements in the film that were tiptoed around and not addressed because of the indecency or delicate nature of the topic. It could be argued that such topics were not appropriate for film and the big screen, but that is strictly a matter of opinion. My question is "If it was good enough to read, would it not be better to watch?" But most people do not see it the same way I do so, the films are censored from such topics. The censored subjects the film previously mentioned include the following: the allusion that Blanche's husband was gay, the allusion that Stanley raped Blanche, and the allusion that Stanley and Stella slept together as man and wife. All of these examples were simply alluded to in the 1947 book, by Tennessee Williams, but Hollywood felt that they were too strong to be depicted accurately on film. This takes away from the entire essence of the movie. Without these minor subordinate details, the overall feeling is missed.

     In his Montage '95 essay, "Your Past Will Always Find You," Brian Gray writes of the efforts of Blanche and Eliza to "shed" their pasts. This relates to my topic of censorship because these two women would, indeed, like to censor their pasts. But, unlike the world of film, it is difficult to do so when dealing with one's own personal life. This is what these women found difficult to do.

     A second book-film adaptation that incorporated a good deal of censorship Wuthering Heights directed in 1939 by William Wyler. The 1847 book by Emily Brontė, depicted Heathcliff as a horrible, dirty, ill-mannered, ill-speaking brute. In the respectively, that type of picture was not at all drawn of Heathcliff. Why?--one may ask. This came about because Hollywood thought it would be too brutish of a character to present to the moving-going world. Overall, it was censorship. As before, the toning down of Heathcliff took away from the essence of the movie. It almost makes the viewer have sympathy for Heathcliff instead of disgust. Because the film makers took Heathcliff and made him a "not-so-bad guy" instead of a "bad guy" the entire feeling and motivation of the film have been changed. Another aspect of this film that was censored was the ending scene--why? The producer said it was too harsh. To me that seems ridiculous. "Tell it like it is because life ain't pretty."

     In relation to this, "Mag's Story," by E. L. Gold, discusses the difference between the book and film. He speaks of the way the characters are made to fit what the "American movie-going public" would appreciate.

     There are many areas in American society where things are censored and the movie industry is one of them. Nowadays, though, almost anything goes, and I am not so sure we should go back to the days where Hollywood decided what was appropriate and instead of unreasonable first-amendment activists. Disregarding that opinion statement, because there seems to be no end to a means, I think the censorship of these films took away from the novel and play. That is the reason I and many others who have read the book have said and will continue to say, "Buy the book."

Kim Nantz

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