It's family movie night. You've brought home a DVD that has received rave reviews. Your mother-in-law, spouse, three kids, and a neighbor kid are all there to join in viewing the movie on you 50" flat screen TV. Then it starts: a few F-bombs and gratuitous s**ts are uttered, clothes come off, people engage in sexual acts, heads are graphically blown off, and all in the name of entertainment. Is all of this graphic display needed to get a point across?
Pre-60s films were able to suggest activity without getting graphic about it and it worked quite well, thank you. We knew that Bogie, James Cagney, and Edward G. Robinson were really tough guys that you wouldn't want to mess around with and yet you never heard them utter a profanity. In fact, I think a tough guy who speaks intelligently can be much more frightening than some obnoxious street thug whose every other word begins with an "f".
Likewise, when you saw a couple kiss passionately, the camera might pan away as the scene faded with billowing curtains or waves crashing on the beach. You could imagine what was going to happen after that and didn't have to be titillated with a lesson in romantic biology and the kids could be left with a mystery that they would be unlikely to question. Come on, let the characters have their moment of privacy and let us get on with the real story.
I'm not saying to eliminate the genres that are now mainstream. I'm just saying to let the pornography, slasher, gore, or whatever genres that are distasteful to many of us remain separate from mainstream film releases. There has been a routine influx of what was formerly taboo slipping into films without adding anything particularly worthwhile to the stories.
As an example, check out the edited for television versions of R rated films and see how much of the film is lost in the censoring. To cite a specific example I like to use the Viet Nam war film Platoon. When I first saw this in the theater I was so distracted by the profuse profanity that it detracted greatly from my enjoyment of the movie. Later I saw the edited version on television and it seemed like a much better movie without the profanity.
Some may argue that profanity is necessary for realism because that's the way people, like gang members for example, talk in real life. My argument is that movies and certain popular forms of music like (c)rap have set a standard for popular language usage and that since the early 70s, profanity is much more broadly accepted then it was prior to that time. When I was in high school in the late 60s I heard very little profanity. Now I can listen to the middle school kids using language that would have made a sailor of old blush--odds are they got this from movies and music.
My topic for today's discussion:
Should the Film industry exert more self-censorship?
Would the quality of the resulting product be improved? Would any artistic merit be lost through censoring that which might be objectionable to some? What benefit was gained by being able to show anything and say anything we wanted in films? What films can you think of that you did not enjoy as much as you might have because of some element that could have been left out?