That’s Not Fair!

         From Funk & Wagnall’s New World Encyclopedia, “censorship” is defined as the "supervision and control of the content in periodicals, books, theatrical productions, motion pictures, and other media of communication before or after they are produced and for the purpose of preventing the publication or production of material deemed by the censoring group to be immoral or against the interest of the public. In a broader sense, censorship denotes the attempt to limit the circulation of ideas in any setting.” Censorship has been a very important part of the entertainment industry, but it has traveled a long way since the films created in the early twentieth century. It is intriguing, yet frustrating to discover some aspects were allowed to be included in the films we viewed in class, while others were not. Hollywood and the government’s inconsistency with censorship becomes illogical when based on what they thought was appropriate for the public to see.

         Pregnant women were prohibited from directly showing a pregnant stomach in films. Hollywood felt that audiences did not want to focus on sex, and a baby can result, so therefore it was not allowed. One film that instantly comes to mind is Elia Kazan’s 1951 film conversion of Tennessee Williams’ 1947 play A Streetcar Named Desire. Kim Hunter played the part of pregnant Stella. We as the audience saw Stella progress through the film from the beginning of her pregnancy to being in her third trimester. Even when she was nine months pregnant, she was still overly-thin to be expectant. She wore loose dresses and nightgowns, but a swollen midsection was never visable, which is the main giveaway a woman is expectant. She looked the same from the get-go but was simply buried under her clothes.

         One recuring theme throughout the course was women’s submission to men. In such literary works as Emily Brontë’s 1847 Wuthering Heights, George Bernard Shaw’s 1913 Pygmalion, Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 A Doll’s House, and A Streetcar Named Desire, the women in the story were ruled by the men in their life, enduring everything from being a “trophy wife” to verbal and physical abuse. The primary endings always resulted in the women returning to the men; however, the film adaptations showed alternate endings where the women took a stand and left; but females still obeyed the males. Mostly everyone is aware that men have always had the upper hand when it comes to relations with women, and the films proved this fact, but silently it was a push for women to stand up for themselves. Men were allowed to treat women poorly in movies, but women were not able to show pregnancy?

         Another astonishing moment in film history was the final scene in Jack Clayton’s 1961 film The Innocents, based on Henry James’s 1898 The Turn of the Screw. The governess, played by Deborah Kerr, shared a passionate kiss with the young boy, Miles (Martin Stephens). The governess was a woman who looked to be in her thirties, while Miles appeared to be around the ripe age of seven. These two locked lips on camera, which completed revolted me because of the age difference and the non-relation. Granted, this did get the point across that maybe the young boy was possessed, but one would think another angle could have been taken. Since sex and sexuality was a topic to be avoided, then why was there sexual tension between a mature woman and a young child? That is not romantic; it is downright disturbing. Nevertheless, Hollywood released The Innocents, but it had been tasteless to correctly present a pregnant woman.

         It is mind boggling to accept that men were allowed to verbally and physically abuse women, and borderline child sexual abuse was blatantly displayed, but women were strictly forbidden to appear pregnant. An audience member’s imagination could wander here, so why could an individual’s mind not wander regarding The Innocents? Censorship should have been more consistent. If pregnancy was prohibited, then the portrayal of women surrendering to men and adults kissing children should have also. Uniform rules keep society in check, and possibly if this had been enforced then, today’s society of loose censorship would not be as severe.

Alicia Cassady

Table of Contents