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FILM AND MEDIA STUDIES (L53)  (Dept. Info)Arts & Sciences  (Policies)

L53 Film 460Taboo: Contesting Race, Sexuality and Violence in American Cinema3.0 Units
Description:Pushing the envelope or going too far? What is the boundary between films that challenge us and films that offend us? This is a course about films that crossed that boundary, most often by presenting images of race, sexuality and violence, images that could attract audiences as much as they offended moral guardians and courted legal sanctions. Because they were denied the First Amendment protection of free speech by a 1915 Supreme Court decision, movies more than any prior art form were repeatedly subject to various attempts at regulating content by government at federal, state, and even municipal levels. Trying to stave off government control, Hollywood instituted forms of self-regulation, first in a rigid regime of censorship and subsequently in the Ratings system still in use. Because taboo content often means commercial success, Hollywood could nonetheless produce films that pushed the envelope and occasionally crossed over into more transgressive territory. While control of content is a top-down attempt to impose moral norms and standards of behavior on a diverse audience, it also reflects changing standards of acceptable public discourse. That topics once barred from dramatic representation by the Production Code - miscegenation, homosexuality and "lower forms of sexuality," abortion, drug addiction - could eventually find a place in American movies speaks to changes in the culture at large. In trying to understand these cultural changes, this course will explore films that challenged taboos, defied censorship, and caused outrage, ranging from films in the early 20th Century that brought on the first attempts to control film content through to films released under the Ratings system, which has exerted subtler forms of control. REQUIRED SCREENING:
Instruction Type:Classroom instruction Grade Options:CPA Fees:
Course Type:HomeSame As:L77 4601  L84 460  L98 4604Frequency:None / History


A course may be either a “Home” course or an “Ident” course.

A “Home” course is a course that is created, maintained and “owned” by one academic department (aka the “Home” department). The “Home” department is primarily responsible for the decision making and logistical support for the course and instructor.

An “Ident” course is the exact same course as the “Home” (i.e. same instructor, same class time, etc), but is simply being offered to students through another department for purposes of registering under a different department and course number.

Students should, whenever possible, register for their courses under the department number toward which they intend to count the course. For example, an AFAS major should register for the course "Africa: Peoples and Cultures" under its Ident number, L90 306B, whereas an Anthropology major should register for the same course under its Home number, L48 306B.

Grade Options
C=Credit (letter grade)
S=Special Audit
Q=ME Q (Medical School)

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No section found for SP2021.