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Bell v. U-Board of Education (32 )

Performing Arts Censorship

The performing arts is a medium of communication of ideas protected by the First Amendment. Yet, no absolute freedom exists to exhibit every kind of film and theater. What is deemed obscene, indecent, or excessively violent is subject to censorship. Should this censorship exist?

Proponents of censorship emphasize the role of the performing arts as entertainment clearly affecting public attitudes, behaviors, and morals. Blatantly offensive performances encourage violence, sexual promiscuity, and drug abuse. Censorship is, therefore, vital to safeguard children and adults from pornography and excessive violence. Opponents of regulation counter that censorship threatens the free speech rights of playwrights, screenwriters, filmmakers, performers, and distributors. They contend that deciding what is obscene or excessive is highly subjective.

Proponents also support voluntary rating systems. Owners of theaters and video rental franchises maintain such systems keeps customer satisfaction high and their business healthy. Civil libertarians and professional entertainer organizations object, saying in reality the rating systems are not voluntary but imposed through intimidation. The systems are also arbitrary, showing signs of racism, gender bias, and favoring large studios with sufficient budgets to repeatedly edit. Lastly, opponents contend legislation passed in the 1990s to improve children's programming only served to impose the government's values on society.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1981 to 1988Bell v. U-Board of Education (32 ) - Significance, Performing Arts Censorship