“Movie Gatekeeper Of My Youth”

William H. Hays

I had been about to write about the movie rating system that began when I was a young adult and continues to give letters(G,PG,etc.) to films when I began to wonder why the movies of my growing up years were so free of anything troubling. Why, for instance, did the married couples have twin beds?(All the adults I knew shared beds.)

In the same way that I was mostly unaware that the books in my school library, classroom and public library were being selected by others, I was unaware of the “Hays Code,” officially the Motion Picture Production Code which affected all United States movies from the early 1930’s to the late 1960’s. Named after the above pictured William Hays, this code laid out specific restrictions on everything from depiction of sex to scenes of violence. Below I have pasted a copy of part of the 1934 rules.

So it turns out that my experience in the movies was being as carefully curated as my experience with books. Although I had no idea, it is clear why movies began to jar me with scenes of violence and sex. I had been kept from both for many years. Now it would be up to me to choose what I saw. Now it would be helpful to have a rating system.

Tomorrow I expand on the successor to the “Hays Code.”

23 thoughts on ““Movie Gatekeeper Of My Youth”

  1. There are still many ‘Pre-code’ films avaiable to watch. Most are on You Tube, or available on DVD. We had strict censorship in the UK for decades, but once that ‘opened up’, it was a revelation!
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I wonder where they found the perfectly virtuous people to write these rules? I mean, personally I could do without a lot of things one sees on television and in theatres these days – but most of it is a reflection of real life. So, who decided where to draw the line in media?


  3. We have a censorship system from PG to X ratings here in Australia for the public viewing of movies & tv programs.

    However, it has shifted recently & this I find disturbing.

    What you think is an okay rating to take your grandchildren to view may not necessarily be!

    When Clinically Counselling I appreciated the older system for my patients.

    As many with physical, sexual or emotional abuse in their background are triggered by graphic scenes, scenes that quite frankly are psychologically disturbing within themselves!

    My patients could avoid such triggers by choosing a rating that they knew would be an enjoyable form of entertainment without triggering past horrific experiences.
    Thank you Elizabeth, Jennifer


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