Tuesday, August 26, 2008

McCain and McAbel

I'm currently reading Richard Barrios' Screened Out: Playing Gay from Edison to Stonewall (Routledge, 2003), which amounts to a supplement to Vito Russo's groundbreaking The Celluloid Closet (Harper, 1981). Barrios covers a lot of ground that Russo couldn't: a good number of the films he discusses were hard to find in the 1970s when Russo was doing his research, and some were thought lost. Barrios also had access to a lot of archival material from the studios that probably wasn't available to researchers forty years ago. Screened Out is as good a read as The Celluloid Closet, and where the books overlap it's interesting to compare Barrios' take on certain films with Russo's. I may write about it more later, after I've finished it, because I have some quibbles here and there (surprise, surprise). But here's an interesting bit from pages 128-129, comparing a latter-day crusader against smut and violence in the movies with the censors of the 1930s:
On September 27, 2000, a congressional panel, chaired by Sen. John McCain (Rep., Arizona) convened a day of hearings in which the heads of major film studios were compelled to defend their marketing practices. A series of school shootings in the late 1990s, climaxing with the horrifying tragedy of thirteen dead students at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, had compelled some members of Congress to shine an unforgiving glare on the industry. In the aftermath of Littleton, the American film industry served as an eye-catching and easily attackable target – the great corrupter of the young – and the themes continued to resound to Congress and in the concurrent presidential campaign. Specific and heavy criticism was directed toward the guidelines by which R-rated films could be advertised to children under seventeen. “I don’t understand this language,” McCain complained to the executives, referring to the studios’ marketing policies. “I think it’s filled with loopholes. … Why don’t you just simply say that you will not market to children this kind of R rated material, that you will not market to children this kind of R rated material, that you will not market it to children under seventeen, period.” …

... followed by this footnote a page later:
Senator John McCain’s words, all these years later, seem quite in tune with the days of the Payne study and Our Movie-made Children: “I’d love to be the Super Censor,” he told an interviewer following his committee’s hearings. “I’d love to sit and watch movies every day and say which ones are suitable and which ones are not.”
I'll bet he would, that ol' horndog.

(Photo above from Weekly World News -- it must be true, right, or they wouldn't have published it!)