Today's cinema produces images and ideas that are sometimes too risque for the general public. Grossly, however, these films are not banned but instead labeled with the nefarious NC17 or X ratings, which imply that no children are allowed to see the film. A recent example of this comes from the 2011 release, Shame, which offered a critically praised lead performance by Michael Fassbender. What produces strong labeling often includes overtly sexual imagery such as graphic sex scenes, while over-the-top violence achieves much less restrictive labels such an R rating. Outright banning of a film is an extremely rare occurrence in the Western cinema world, and the reasons often involve lawsuits that result only in a film being delayed.
The reasons why modern films are provided NC17 ratings or are banned are only slightly different from the rationales utilized in the turn of the 20th Century. My previous post discussed how much popular culture had changed in the past 100 years, but this post illustrates how in some areas popular culture has not changed at all.
Thomas Edison is the creator of film and two of his initial films were banned for being too sexual in nature! In 1896 Edison released the incredibly short and silent film, The Kiss. This film featured a couple having a short but sweet smooch. In 1900, Edison revisited the subject with Kissing. The image of two lovers partaking in a kiss was too much for the average Western eye and so the films were moth balled. In one shade of light, this is starkly different from today where film scenes with a sexual nature are much more graphic than this before they are moth balled or slapped with strict labels. In another shade of light, popular culture of today and yesterday are no different for it is the subject matter of intimacy between two people that is the mire of our society while images of violence are allowed and praised. In 1900, the most popular film was The Great Train Robbery, which was also crafted by Edison. From the title alone, this film has a much more violent theme than The Kiss or Kissing.
I am not suggesting that violent films should be moth balled in replace of more sexual films. I personally enjoy action films and movies such as Pulp Fiction, A Clockwork Orange, and Taxi Driver are among my all time favorite films. However, I think it is instructive to consider what subjects our society restricts and to think of why these subjects over others are viewed in certain ways. By doing so, we as a society can understand ourselves better and come to more holistic conclusions on what direction our society should take in the future.