We’re currently living in a time where groups on all sides of the political spectrum feel the need to silence and censor the voices of their identified opponents. This troubling development is seeing an increasing amount of support from extremists on both sides of the spectrum, and seems to be specifically infecting the young members of our post-secondary education system. Our three month long spotlight on Pre-Code Hollywood was something of a response to these calls for censorship.
The least we could do was spotlight one of the most unsung periods of creativity and risk-taking in Hollywood, all thanks to the looming threat of censorship. Once the Hays Code was officially enacted in 1934, the industry began to suffer the wrath of censorship boards who had free reign to cut films and stifle the creative spirit of writers, directors, and actors of the time. While a great many masterpieces saw release during the Hays Code era, one can’t help but think things may have been even greater had Hollywood not bent the knee to the great threat of political correctness.
While censorship certainly does boast a number of benefits to certain members of society, its cons greatly outweigh the pros. Avoiding conflicts by policing media arts is one way to avoid offending more sensitive viewers, but this shouldn’t be enough to warrant silencing dissenting voices, nor should it give governing boards the ability to cut content from existing films, television shows, or music.
This power is too easy to exploit and take advantage of, effectively allowing one major party to curate content based on their own agenda. Freedom of speech and expression is the greatest thing about living in a modern Western civilization, and allowing others to silence your unique voice for fear of offending or troubling others simply should not be tolerated. Silence is a weapon that has been continually exploited by the world’s most evil dictators and demagogues for centuries, and yet somehow those uninformed continue to call for widespread censorship.
Instead of silencing voices you don’t agree with, simply know that you don’t have to listen to them – sometimes it’s better to walk away and know deep down that you have the moral victory. Better yet, challenge their beliefs and make them understand where you’re coming from and why you don’t agree with their point of view. Discourse is the most effective way to challenge the beliefs of somebody you fundamental disagree with, and holds very little potential for unnecessary violence if done with respect and common courtesy. No matter what your opinion on something, you have a voice and a right to speak it – nobody should be able to take that away from you.
If the major studios of 1930’s Hollywood had been more bold and willing to hold a discussion with the governing bodies enforcing the Hays Code, then maybe things would have gone differently. Instead, years were spent by writers and directors subtly trying to subvert the unhelpful Code – only for it to inevitably dissolve after thirty years of enforcement. All this because the deeply conservative government of the time was uncomfortable with the challenging of the church, the institution of marriage, and with the idea that people of all races and genders were equal.
We as a society should learn from these mistakes and not allow history to repeat itself. Censorship is an unnecessary evil designed only to silence the dissenting opinions of those deemed “lesser than” the morally upright popular majority. It’s incredibly important that we uphold our free speech laws and never allow the power of censorship to fall into the wrong hands – it is far too easy to exploit and force your views and morals onto others.
Next time you think about silencing somebody’s voice simply because you don’t agree with them, think about how slippery this slope can become. Before long, we’ll have a much larger group of extremists looking to force their carefully shaped morals and opinions onto those different than them, with the threat of silence (or worse) looming for those who will not comply. We as a society cannot let it get to this point – there are far more productive options to challenge those who you disagree with.