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Midterm Assignment Essay

The First Amendment was rectified and adopted in 1791. Films could not enjoy the First Amendments rights prior to 1952 because during the process of rectification, the Supreme Court was not keen on restoring freedom of speech; in fact, sources suggest that the court constantly shaped the law so that it restricted the freedom of speech and expression. It was only in the later years of the 20th century that the court started to look at the free exercise clauses (Emerson 877).

There were many laws oppressing the freedom of expression such as the 1017 Espionage act which provided for up to 20 years in jail for using language that was considered abusive by the court or being disloyal to the government. This act resulted into numerous prosecutions. Films had to get permission before distribution of any production and d with the conservative laws, they could only distribute what the government through the Supreme Court found right and safe.

Joseph Burstyn Inc Vs Wilson case of 1952 formed one of the major steps towards attaining freedom of expression in different ways, and in this case through moving pictures otherwise referred to as movies (Jowett 1996: 261). The case was a major triumph for movie producers who argued that they were being denied the right to freely express themselves. The court took long to extend such protection to the films because it argued that movies were just a business venture and not an art that deserved the First amendment protection.

The problem was that the court believed that since moving pictures could be used to for evil purposes, they needed to be controlled (Kilman 60). The problem could also be attributed to the fact that the court had not yet made an effort to review the clauses that restricted the freedom of speech and press. This is because of the existence of laws such as the Espionage act of 1917 which may have made the film owners lie low considering that one film maker who had produced a movie on the American Revolution had been imprisoned. After the First World War.

The delay may be attributed to the reluctance of the Supreme Court to interpret and review the clauses that restricted free speech and expression of the citizens. There might have been fear that the films could be potentially used for ”evil purposes” as had had been suggested hence a source of insecurity in the country (Jowett 1989: 60). American films are often censored for various reasons, the government has argued that it is easier to censure than to completely ban films as banning could be interpreted as restriction of the freedom of expression.

Censoring ensures that the board of examination views the film before it is released. The board requests the producers to do editing if they find it necessary. The Government explains one of the major reasons for censuring is to protect children from child pornography. It argues that it is a requirement and constitutional for film makers to submit films for censor before release (Wertheimer 160).

Sources confirm that film censorship became an issue in the United states in the early 1930’s after rising concern over obscene films produced which were viewed as immoral and led this to birth of the Motion Picture production code which together with the a branch of the Catholic church laid down regulations to control the film production houses. However, over the years, there have been numerous changes in the society and the rules and regulation lay down before have been criticized and deemed to be inadequate. The recommendations have been ignored and even films made to heckle them.

By the late 1960’s, the Motion Picture Association of America came up with ratings that allowed consumers to differentiate adult movies from those meant for children. Study shows that today, most cinema houses would not show or advertise what is considered obscene or rather restricted hence automatic censoring. We cannot therefore conclude censoring as being a thing of the past. That the Burstyn decision and its successors are adequate to protect the current and future film makers from judicial and state interference could be true.

This is because the United States of America is democratic and tries as much as possible to protect the rights and freedom of its citizens. The statute in question of the case was said to violet the First Amendment which advocates for freedom of speech and expression. The decision may be viewed as fair to film makers as they can now openly express themselves and other issues that affect the society through moving pictures without fear of discrimination or interference from the judiciary. We should note that this can only remain so if we continue living in a democratic society, otherwise things might turn around.

The film makers should however ensure that by exercising their freedom of expression, they are not interfering with other people’s Rights and freedom such as the Right to privacy. We could relax and rejoice with them because, films, apart from being entertaining, they are informative. It is through films that we get to know what is happening around us. Films also ridicule and make us see ourselves hence might change ourselves and attitude towards life and situations surrounding us. It is through films that we get to know about events that are happening around hence we can get to respond.

Films sometimes show events that happened in the past, this helps us to keep in touch with history hence we are educated as much as we are entertained. As much we should rejoice with the film makers, we also have to be careful with what we watch. We have to find a way of choosing to watch what is beneficial to us. Research has shown that what we let in usually is what will come out. What we watch could very easily shape us. Study has shown that some habits which later mold character could be picked from what we watch. We should also balance the time we spend watching film we could grow addicted to the screen which is pleasant thing.

We also have to remember that children have their rights and exposing them to obscene and pornographic material is not the best thing to do. We should not forget to respect other people’s rights, opinions. Morals and religion. All this affects our lives in every way hence it should matter to us. Films have the potential of shaping a society. Habits are picked, some are dropped, and information is passed on all through moving pictures. It has been through moving pictures that some lives have been rescued. This is because films were shot of what was happening and the information passed to other people who come in and offer help and rescue.

Lives have been transformed just by watching a movie, people get to see what happens when you continue indulging in some vices and they decide to change for the better. We should care because it is also through the moving pictures that we get to know about what is happening in our government, how resources are being utilized hence we can challenge our leaders as we hold them responsible accountable to us as our representatives. This responsibility should not therefore only be left to the scholars who do research or lawyers and the film makers themselves. It is our responsibility as we are our own custodians.

We should not let others decide for us what we should watch and what we should not. We have the right to decide what we think is good for us and detest from what is harmful. In conclusion, all of us, this includes the film makers should remember to respect other people’s Rights, opinions, morals and religion. Word count: 1302. Works Cited Emerson, Thomas I. (1996) “Toward a General Theory of the First Amendment”. Yale law Journal 72 (5): 877 – 956. Jowett, Garth S. (1989). “A Capacity for Evil: The 1915 Supreme Court Mutual Decision”. Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television.

9 (1): 59 – 78. Jowett, Garth S. (1996). “A Significant Medium for the Communication of Ideas”. The Miracle Decision and The Deadline of Motion Picture censorship, 1952 – 1968”. Movie censorship and American Culture, 258 – 276. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press. Kilman, J, & Costello G. (Eds). (2000). “The Construction of The United States of America”. Analysis and Interpretation. 4. Wertheier, John (1993). “Mutual Film Reviewed: The Movies, Censorship and Free Speech in Progressive America. ” America journal of legal history 37 (2)0: 158 – 189.


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