The War on Film Culture: Part 4: What Shall the History Books Read? (1915)

Oh I suppose it began when I was a child.  I used to get under the table and listen to my father and his friends talk about the battles they had been through in their struggles.  First these impress you deeply.  […]  You know, when you’ve heard your father fighting day after day, night after night, and having nothing to eat but parched corn.  A group of people fighting desperately against great odds.  Great sacrifices.  Suffering.  Death.  It was a great struggle, a great story.

— D.W. Griffith

1914, The Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) begins to lobby aggressively for government regulation of films. The WCTU claims that films are “addictive,” that they glorify war and violence, and that they cause crime, delinquency and immoral behavior.  They were one of several religious organizations that began to rally against films for their content.

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The War on Film Culture: Part 3: Holding the Tongue (1913-1915)

The motion picture has entered every city and town of the country. It makes a widespread and subtle appeal to people of all ages and all degrees of mental development. In the short period of fifteen years it has established itself beside the book, the school, and the church as an instrument for moulding opinion.

— Orrin Cocks

The issue of censorship gained even more steam in April 16, 1913, when the state of Ohio passed an ordinance that allowed them to enforce censorship of films released in their state.  This formed an organization which stated that their objective “is to improve the moral quality of motion pictures.”  A fee had to be paid by film distributors in that state in order for it to be under consideration by the Ohio state commission, who would determine if the film should be released theatrically (the only way films could be seen at the time) in the state of Ohio.  If the commission deemed the film unfit or immoral for audiences in their state, it would be illegal for the film to be released there.  And any attempt to release the film in the state without approval would result in the arrest of the film distributors.

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The War on Film Culture: Part 1: Boxing with Edison and Rector (1894-1897)

Enoch J. Rector
Thomas A. Edison

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But political fear is more than an individual experience, and it affects more than personal lives. The morals contributing to it descend from tradition and popular belief, and the rational calculus underlying it reflects the realities of social and political power. Whether by design or consequence—for sometimes the outcome is intended, other times not—political fear reinforces a society’s distribution of power and resources, influences public debate, and compels public policy.

— Corey Robin

In 1894, one of the first films ever was censored by the mayor of Newark, New Jersey.  The films is titled Carmencita.  It was censored because, during the dance, the woman’s underwear is (briefly) visible.  But this was a minor act of censorship compared to what would happen three years later.

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The War on Film Culture: Part 0: An Introduction

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

So a while back, listening to the Slaughterfilm podcast (again), Forrest Taylor brought up the subject on how many were bitching about “the death of cinema.”  And Forrest basically stated that these complaints are nonsense.  Well, this instigated a multi-step response from me over the course of a few of their podcasts.  Below I list each entry I made in response to each podcast.

Entry #1

“Where’s this ‘death of cinema’ coming from?”

You’re looking at it the wrong way. Financially? Nuh uh. A film can be the highest grossing film of the year, and still be a piece of shit, which dumbasses who are easily entertained with money to spend go and see. For example, in the year 2000, the highest grossing film of the year was Mission Impossible 2. As another example, in 1979, the highest grossing film of the year was Moonraker.

The point being, just because a film does well financially doesn’t mean, long-term speaking, it’s going to do well culturally (ex: March 1990, Pretty Woman did better financially than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, yet it’s the latter that had the bigger cultural impact). And that’s where people are coming from when they state that cinema is dying.

Television shows, whether on network television or on streaming services, are doing far better from a cultural impact standpoint than films are. And before you get your feathers in a ruffle over that statement, I’m aware of The Last Jedi (which is coasting on the cultural impact setup by the original and prequel trilogy) and the Avengers films (or any Marvel film in general, which have been coasting on Iron Man and The Avengers’ cultural impact since 2012), and their cultural impact (which is about as negative as it is positive in some cases). But the problem with those films is that they are a glorified series. They don’t stand on their own. You are required to see previous episodes/movies for the sake of understanding what is going on a good portion of the time. They’re not movies, they’re a glorified episode of an ongoing series.

The bigger cultural impacts come from shows like Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Orange is the New Black, Last Man Standing, The Big Bang Theory, Vikings, House of Cards, etc. People know more about those, and are more inspired by those, than they are with films in theaters.

For more on this, I suggest viewing this 10 minute YouTube video that primarily discusses how a remake should be done, but delves into the death of cinema too for a respectable length:

 

Entry #2

Well, I wouldn’t say everyone loves Marvel films. The amount of people starting to hate on them has been growing since Captain America: Civil War (yes, that includes me as one of the haters). And I mean a consistent growing hate across all their movies. It’s small now, most would consider insignificant. But, by the time the Captain Marvel movie hits (at the earliest), or after the 4th Avengers film comes and goes (at the latest), this hate won’t be insignificant anymore. It will be for reasons I’m sure you find silly and childish. However, if you feel strongly enough about it (which I doubt, considering the “not giving a shit” attitude you tended to have with regards to Star Wars), I’m willing to debate the subject. But be warned, when I debate, I do it aggressively and methodically.

In any case, I’m ready and waiting for Hollywood to fall down, while the Independents swarm in to help pick it back up, like they did throughout a decent portion of the 90s and early 2000s. I expect this fall to be the biggest one since the Hay’s Code went away. I hope for a semi-film revolution the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the 70s. I will be disappointed if this doesn’t happen within the next 5 years (I calculate this will happen no later then 2043; just hoping it happens a lot sooner than that).

Entry #3

Regarding where I got that date from, it’s an estimation based on how long the Hay’s Code lasted. The Hay’s Code was put into place in 1930, but wasn’t fully enforced until 1938. Basically, between 1930 and 1938, more and more films became more and more self-censored by adhering to the Hay’s Code during that time until it came to a head in 1938, when it remained in full effect until 1967 where it thematically (but no less officially) died with the release of Bonnie and Clyde. If we state that the whole thing started in 1930, then that’s a lifespan of 37 years.

I predict 2043 to be when the film industry goes through an independent reformation because I suspect this current trend of safe PC liberal films began around 2006, possibly earlier. But there are 2 factors that make me believe this reformation will occur sooner than that.

1.) This trend likely began earlier than 2006.

2.) The Internet, where much information is spread about the state of things at a far more rapid rate than was possible in the 30s-60s. Which makes it possible for things to change faster.

But it’s like Cory said, there are so many films and shows being made that it’s basically impossible to track them all, let alone know which ones are supposed to be good. And social media sites like Letterboxd, and various sites where so-called film critics review films, and Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes, were initially meant to not only track/rate/review all these diverse films, but to also allow one to know if it is something that would appeal to them or not.

But that has now, heavily. Letterboxd has largely become an echo chamber for liberal-minded PC viewers (they greatly outnumber alternative voices, who are never the most popular reviews, and thus are largely ignored unless you search hard enough for the good ones). Film critics are either paid off or just as liberal-minded. And Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes have become a joke like IMDB.  As a result, as things stand now, even if a non-liberal, non-PC film was released that appeals to those of other political/social/cultural tastes, those sites and critics will do everything in their power to bash it to pieces, or even worse, attempt to silence its existence by ignoring it.

So because of those factors, while it is possible for the reformation to happen sooner, the masses who have been brainwashed by teachers and critics, and spend most of their time in safe-spaces where group-think is not only encouraged but mandatory… That could make the reformation happen later rather than sooner.

I warned you about this, and gave you hints about this with my bashing of The Last Jedi. And to be honest, I’m more worried that society will fall before the counter-culture grows big enough and gains enough influence to even matter. And at that point, awaiting good films to be made will be the least of our worries (though it is a symptom of the overall problem).

The key word is culture.

 

Hey! You!  Hey you!  Where Do You Go?

So after thinking on the subject for a while, I decided to do a study on film culture.  My initial intent was to simply study the Hays Code, its rise and fall, and what we could (or should) learn from it.  Lessons we should have learned from it since then, yet showcasing evidence of censorship to conform to some government/corporate/religious view the eerily mirrors that of the Hays Code era.  If nothing else, it would give me a better idea on how to predict events, and form superior arguments more prone to swaying opinions.

However, I didn’t expect to find elements during and prior to the Hays Code that end up being more relevant to the time period we’re in now than the Hays Code period.  As if we’re not so much as living in an era similar to that of the Hays Code, so much as living in a time period similar to the oncoming rise of the Hays Code.  And that is something I find more unsettling than what I thought we were currently dealing with.

There is too much information to condense into just one single post.  So I will be presenting my findings over a series of posts.  I intend to showcase events and speeches that occurred around a century ago, and how they mirror events similar to this day; demonstrating that we are regressing from free, liberated, artistically independent film-making culture, to a film culture controlled by politics and religion (sometimes religion disguised as politics).  You may find them fascinating at the least, terrifying at the worst (or is it ‘best’ in this context?).

I currently don’t have all of the articles done.  But I have enough of them done to feel comfortable to start releasing each of them now, one by one, on a weekly basis.  You may find them not starting out all that exciting.  Stick with them.  By the time they get to the year 1915, you’re going to be in for some heavy-hitting stuff.  And just when you think you’ve seen the craziest most controversial stuff, just when you think you know everything about that time period, it will get even more insane.  The more I uncovered, the more I knew I had to write about this.

The next entry will hit on Sunday.  And I will try to aim for the releases from each Sunday after that.  Until then, here’s some older posts I made that should hold you over until then:

https://theanomaloushost.org/2018/01/09/on-the-topic-of-films-based-on-true-stories-events/

https://theanomaloushost.org/2018/06/30/its-not-just-a-movie-the-importance-of-films/

 

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3Part 4