Violence in the Movies


University of Arizona legal scholar Barak Orbach has written a fascinating article on "Prizefighting and the Birth of Movie Censorship." Here's the abstract:

This Article offers an important historical corrective to the history of movie censorship in the United States. Censorship scholars unanimously, but mistakenly treat a 1907 ordinance of the City of Chicago as the first act of censorship in the United States. In fact, however, movie censorship in the United States was born in March 1897 with prohibitions against a now-extinct genre: prizefight films that showed real and staged boxing fights. At the time, boxing was generally illegal, yet the sport was enormously popular and boxers enjoyed privileged social status. The first censorship initiatives constituted one element in a failed social regulation. The Article also shows that content self-regulation in the motion-picture industry started with Edison's 1894 veto of the use of his equipment for prizefight films, approximately thirteen years before the presently-believed-to-be the first forms of content self-regulation. This Article, therefore, begins to close a neglected gap in the literature on movie censorship. Its findings require a reexamination of content regulation in the motion picture industry, whose presumed twentieth century origins actually reveal legislatures and industries already experienced in censorship campaigns and laws. Despite the Article's historical reach, it provides important insights into modern-day social regulation. The failures of the nineteenth-century regulators to curtail popular activities like prizefighting can inform and shape current regulatory efforts, such as the design of anti-smoking policies.

Download the article here. For more on movie censorship, don't miss Joe Bob Briggs's extraordinary "Kroger Babb's Roadshow: How a long-running movie walked the thin line between exploitation and education."

(Via Legal History Blog)

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  1. Next H&R marriage of topics: Penis Size and the Role of Government: Nick Gillespie explores the explosion of anatomy related email spam and the role of government in our everyday lives…

  2. Be honest, Damon. You were looking for something to write about the president and typed his name wrong, leading you to this story.

  3. Barak Orbach? I choose Bach.

  4. Barak Orbach

    The love child of the President and Jerry Orbach. Just think of how huge his ears must be.

    “Nobody puts Baby in a corner!”

  5. I choose a little of the Ludwig van.

  6. Is Mr. Orbach’s middle name Huskin?

  7. Like everyone else in this lame thread, I can’t get past the guy’s name.

  8. Thank you for giving a link to Joe Bob Briggs’ entertaining article. It gives quite an insight into the mentality of the benighted and repressive Fifties, when the exploitative ‘sex education’ producers of the film *Mom and Dad* were exploiting naive and gullible viewers by showing sex material under the guise of ‘education.’

    From the article:

    ‘The books [which were sold at showings of *Mom and Dad*] were rehashes of venereal disease and pregnancy information that could be obtained at any public health agency.’

    Briggs has obviously made an error here. Everyone knows that, in the Fifties, the public health agencies were under the control of fundamentalists who taught that babies were delivered by the stork.

    ‘an “educational” campaign that would have entire high schools buying tickets for its students.’

    Back in those days, high-school administrators were very gullible, and would swallow just about anything in the name of sex education.

    ‘Perhaps the films succeeded because they gave a comforting message to panicked moms and dads, promising that, with just a little more education, these things could be eradicated.’

    Can you believe how gullible parents were in those days?

    ‘But many of the problems already were being eradicated, first by penicillin, which had made new syphilis cases virtually unheard of by the time Mom and Dad came out, and then by more sophisticated forms of birth control that gave young girls more control of their sex lives.’

    And after the principles of this film were taught in schools, there was a further reduction in the number of unwed pregnancies and sexually-transmitted diseases.

  9. violence in movies should be stopped. more law programs should debate on this topic

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