The role of film in our country’s society has been substantial since its conception, but whether films have as much impact or meaning as they once did is debatable. The film industry is enormous. It employs writers, artists, gaffers, musicians, actors, special effects technicians… The list goes on. It also creates media in other communications fields, such as magazines exposing the exploits of Hollywood’s finest to television shows where cameramen are paid to stalk actors at restaurants and airports. I feel the obsession Americans have with movie stars is unhealthy. I would much rather live in a society where people hold H.G. Wells and Ernest Hemmingway in higher regard than George Clooney, but I digress.

Freedom of speech remains the reason why people around the world consider America and other Western societies leaders in human rights. I would feel trapped if I were unable to voice my opinions openly from time to time. With numerous films revolving around controversial issues this freedom is imperative. Freedom of speech allows the presentation of characters from all walks of life. For example, movies allow people to watch poverty stricken individuals carry out acts most would consider atrocious, but through circumstance deeper meaning can be given; films such as “City of God” and “Gladiator” come to mind. Films can teach audiences about significant historical events as well. However, turning the Watergate trials or the Vietnam War into a moneymaking venture is a mistake in my mind.

The 1952 reversal of Burstyn v. Wilson stays in my thoughts. If expression was hindered in films they would not have the influence they have obtained over the decades.  It took a substantial action by the courts to grant these guarantees to movies, as ideas can be expressed more freely through visuals allowing moviegoers to emote and relate.

Movie censorship is closely related to print censorship: powerful religious organizations, such as the League of Decency, sought to rid the country of what they considered improper. This had happened with the press shortly before the emergence of film, and it had been happening with literature for thousands of years. As society expanded and different ideas that broke Christian fundamentalist’s aims gained precedent, however, the artistic merit of movies began to matter more than censorship. I have never been one for censorship, and I am glad movies are protected under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

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