The Hollywood Production Code

Posted: 05/26/2012 in Uncategorized

Some interesting stuff I gleaned from a posting from the U of Notre Dame regarding the standards that Hollywood executives agreed to during the development of the Motion Picture industry.  I am convinced that the dangerous gradualism that has eroded spiritual and moral sensibilities is a temporary thing – the frog is put in lukewarm water and the heat is gradually turned up until it becomes obvious the frog will boil to death… at which time the frog is removed and put in the microwave until it is cooked to explosion.  Movies are a prime example of boiling the frog slowly, only to explode him quickly in the microwave.  What do we watch on TV, online, and in movies? Consider:

The Hollywood Production Code of 1930

(Films were not rated for different ages by the Production Code Administration. They were either approved by the Code for release or not, and the major studios would not release a film without the Codes seal of approval.)

Some of the original Production Code guidelines followed by Hollywood filmmakers from the mid-1930s until the 1960s listed below:


  • They affect the moral standards of those who thru the screen take in these ideas and ideals.
  • No picture should lower the moral standards of those who see it. This is done:
    1.   When evil is made to appear attractive, and good is made to appear unattractive.
  1.  When the sympathy of the audience is thrown on the side of crime, wrong-doing, evil, sin. The same thing is true of a film that would throw sympathy against goodness, honor, innocence, purity, honesty.

(a)   That evil is not presented alluringly. Even if later on the evil is condemned or punished, it must not be allowed to appear so attractive that the emotions are drawn to desire or approve so strongly that later they forget the condemnation and remember only the apparent joy of the sin.

(b)   That throughout the presentation, evil and good are never confused and that evil is always recognized clearly as evil.

(c)    That in the end the audience feels that evil is wrong and good is right.


  1. Law, natural or divine, must not be belittled, ridiculed, nor must a sentiment be created against it.

life should not be misrepresented, at least not in such a way as to place in the minds of youth false values on life.

1)      The triangle, that is, the love of a third party by one already married, needs careful handling, if marriage, the sanctity of the home, and sex morality are not to be imperiled.

2)      Adultery as a subject should be avoided:

  1.   It is never a fit subject for comedy. Thru comedy of this sort, ridicule is thrown on the essential relationships of home and family and marriage, and illicit relationships are made to seem permissible, and either delightful or daring.

Scenes of passion are sometimes necessary for the plot. However:

(a)   They should appear only where necessary and not as an added stimulus to the emotions of the audience.

(b)   When not essential to the plot, they should not occur.

(c)    They must not be explicit in action nor vivid in method, e.g. by handling of the body, by lustful and prolonged kissing, by evidently lustful embraces, by positions which strongly arouse passions.

(d)   In general, where essential to the plot, scenes of passion should not be presented in such a way as to arouse or excite the passions of the ordinary spectator.

5)      Sexual immorality is sometimes necessary for the plot. It is subject to the following:

 GENERAL PRINCIPLESregarding plots dealing with sex, passion, and incidents related to them:

All legislators have recognized clearly that there are in normal human beings emotions which react naturally and spontaneously to the presentation of certain definite manifestations of sex and passion.

(a)   The presentation of scenes, episodes, plots, etc., which are deliberately meant to excite these manifestations on the part of the audience is always wrong, is subversive to the interest of society, and a peril to the human race.

(b)   Sex and passion exist and consequently must sometimes enter into the stories which deal with human beings.

(1)   Pure love, the love of a man for a woman permitted by the law of God and man, is the rightful subject of plots. The passion arising fromt his love is not the subject for plots.

(2)   Impure love, the love of man and woman forbidden by human and divine law, must be presented in such a way that:

a)      It is clearly known by the audience to be wrong:

b)      Its presentation does not excite sexual reactions, mental or physical, in an ordinary audience;

  1.      It is not treated as a matter for comedy.

But in the case of impure love, the love which society has always regarded as wrong and which ahs been banned by divine law, the following are important:

(1)   It must not be the subject of comedy or farce or treated as the material for laughter;

(2)   It must not be presented as attractive and beautiful;

(3)   It must not be presented in such a way as to arouse passion or morbid curiosity on the part of the audience;

(4)   It must not be made to seem right and permissible;

  1.   In general, it must not be detailed in method or manner.

 Frequent presentation of murder tends to lessen regard for the sacredness of life.

(b)   Brutal killings should not be presented in detail.

  1.    Killings for revenge should not be justified, i.e., the hero should not take justice into his own hands in such a way as to make his killing seem justified

The name of Jesus Christ should never be used except in reverence.


Obscenity is concerned with immorality, but has the additional connotation of being common, vulgar and coarse.

(1)   Obscenity in fact, that is, in spoken word, gesture, episode, plot, is against divine and human law, and hence altogether outside the range of subject matter or treatment.

(2)   Obscenity should not be suggested by gesture, manner, etc.

(3)   An obscene reference, even if it is expected to be understandable to only the more sophisticated part of the audience, should not be introduced.

(4)   Obscene language is treated as all obscenity.



(1)   The effect of nudity or semi-nudity upon the normal man or woman, and much more upon the young person, has been honestly recognized by all lawmakers and moralists.

(2)   Hence the fact that the nude or semi-nude body may be beautiful does not make its use in films moral. For in addition to its beauty, the effects of the nude or semi-nude body on the normal individual must be taken into consideration.

(3)   Nudity or semi-nudity used simply to put a punch into a picture comes under the head of immoral actions as treated above. It is immoral in its effect upon the average audience.

(4)   Nudity or semi-nudity is sometimes apparently necessary for the plot. Nudity is never permitted. Semi-nudity may be permitted under conditions.


(1) The more intimate parts of the human body are male and female organs and the breasts of a woman.

(a)   They should never be uncovered.

(b)   They should not be covered with transparent or translucent material.

  1.    They should not be clearly and unmistakably outlined by the garment.

Obscene dances are those:

(a)   Which suggest or represent sexual actions, whether performed solo or with two or more;

(b)   Which are designed to excite an audience, to arouse passions, or to cause physical excitement.

HENCE: Dances of the type known as Kooch, or Can-Can, since they violate decency in these two ways, are wrong.

 Dances with movements of the breasts, excessive body movement while the feet remain stationary, the so-called belly dancesthese dances are immoral, obscene, and hence altogether wrong.


Certain places are so closely and thoroughly associated with sexual life or with sexual sin that their use must be carefully limited.

(1) Brothels and houses of ill-fame, no matter of what country, are not proper locations for drama. They suggest to the average person at once sex sin, or they excite an unwholesome and morbid curiosity in the minds of youth.

IN GENERAL: They are dangerous and bad dramatic locations.

(2) Bedrooms. In themselves they are perfectly innocent. Their suggestion may be kept innocent. However, under certain situations they are bad dramatic locations.

(a)   Their use in a comedy or farce (on the principle fo the so-called bedroom farce) is wrong, because they suggest sex laxity and obscenity.

(b)   In serious drama, their use should, where sex is suggested, be confined to absolute essentials, in accordance with the principles laid down above.


(1) No film or episode in a film should be allowed to throw ridicule on any religious faith honestly maintained.

(2) Ministers of religion in their characters of ministers should not be used in comedy, as villains, or as unpleasant persons.

NOTE: The reason for this is not that there are not such ministers of religion, but because the attitude toward them tends to be an attitude toward religion in general.

 Religion is lowered in the minds of the audience because it lowers their respect for the ministers.

  1. Ceremonies of any definite religion should be supervised by someone thoroughly conversant with that religion.

ILLEGAL DRUG TRAFFIC must never be presented

 Because of its evil consequences, the drug traffic should never be presented in any form. The existence of the trade should not be brought to the attention of audiences.

4. THE USE OF LIQUOR in American life, when not required by the plot or for proper characterization, should not be shown.

  The use of liquor should never be excessively presented even in picturing countries where its use is legal. In scenes from American life, the necessities of plot and proper characterization alone justify its use. And in this case, it should be shown with moderation.

Many scenes cannot be presented without arousing dangerous emotions on the part of the immature, the young or the criminal classes.

 a. They should not be introduced when not essential to the plot.

 b. Excessive and lustful kissing, lustful embraces, suggestive postures and gestures, are not to be shown.

  1. In general, passion should be so treated that these scenes do not stimulate the lower and baser element.

SEX PERVERSION (homosexuality, etc.) or any inference to it is forbidden.

SEX HYGIENE AND VENEREAL DISEASES are not subjects for motion pictures.


Given what used to be the norm for Hollywood and the moral language used in the industry production code, what other institutions that undergo de-moralizing and destabilizing will be coming to a culture near you?  (Marriage, family, religion/theology, government, and many more)  This is not trivial or unimportant historically.  Just thinking…


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