My Favourite Film of 1931.

Film For its age, Mata Hari feels like a relatively contemporary film especially in its attitude to human relationships and in featuring a strong female protagonist (although even as I write those words we're still awaiting news of a film about another female spy whose arguably even more popular within the modern context). One of the reasons for this is that it was produced before the introduction of the The Motion Picture Production Code or Hays Code introduced in the wake of numerous Hollywood "scandals" in an attempt to sanitise what people saw on screen (even though those "scandals" occurred behind the scenes).

The Code pervaded between 1934 and 1960 and many great films were still released in the meantime as filmmakers went about finding creative ways to communicate those elements which it forbid without actually including them and it's arguable that many were in fact more erotic or violent because they didn't include the elements listed in the code. To an extent, US cinema is still a slave to this sort of censorship although these it's more to do with studios co-opting its principles in an attempt to attract as wide an audience as possible.

Having recently watched Deadpool, I'm going to see how many of these rules were broken by Deadpool.  There may be spoilers.

General Principles

1. No picture shall be produced that will lower the moral standards of those who see it. Hence the sympathy of the audience should never be thrown to the side of crime, wrongdoing, evil or sin.

Yes, broken.

2. Correct standards of life, subject only to the requirements of drama and entertainment, shall be presented.

Yes, broken.

3. Law, natural or human, shall not be ridiculed, nor shall sympathy be created for its violation.

Yes, broken.

Particular Applications

I. Crimes Against the Law
These shall never be presented in such a way as to throw sympathy with the crime as against law and justice or to inspire others with a desire for imitation.

He's not a hero.

1. Murder

a. The technique of murder must be presented in a way that will not inspire imitation.

We don't know yet.  Hopefully not.

b. Brutal killings are not to be presented in detail.

Plenty of brutal killings.  Lots of detail.

c. Revenge in modern times shall not be justified.

Well is revenge ever?  He has revenge in the end but he's really trying to find a way to get his face fixed.  The revenge comes after.

2. Methods of Crime should not be explicitly presented.

Vanessa is kidnapped so...

a. Theft, robbery, safe-cracking, and dynamiting of trains, mines, buildings, etc., should not be detailed in method.


b. Arson must subject to the same safeguards.

Boom again.

c. The use of firearms should be restricted to the essentials.

Actually in the end he does rely on his swords.  That's what you mean, right?

d. Methods of smuggling should not be presented.

Arguably the person in the trunk.

3. Illegal drug traffic must never be presented.

Sort of.

4. The use of liquor in American life, when not required by the plot or for proper characterization, will not be shown.

Deadpool spends half his life in a bar.

II. Sex

The sanctity of the institution of marriage and the home shall be upheld. Pictures shall not infer that low forms of sex relationship are the accepted or common thing.


1. Adultery, sometimes necessary plot material, must not be explicitly treated, or justified, or presented attractively.

Actually adultery isn't specifically shown, although you could infer Vanessa's job might involve something along those lines.

2. Scenes of Passion

Happy International Women's Day.

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

Well ... is the calendar montage important to the plot?

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

The calendar montage.

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

The calendar montage.

3. Seduction or Rape

[The Hays Code and go screw itself at this point.  Seduction and rape are not the same thing.  Just assume I have the former in mind across the following...]

a. They should never be more than suggested, and only when essential for the plot, and even then never shown by explicit method.

Is Wade seduced?  Seems to be more of mutual thing.

b. They are never the proper subject for comedy.

Yes ma'am.

4. Sex perversion or any inference to it is forbidden.

Not in Deadpool.

5. White slavery shall not be treated.

What does this even mean?  If it means that white slavery won't be portrayed then oddly enough it is portrayed and so therefore breaks the code.

6. Miscegenation (sex relationships between the white and black races) is forbidden.

Actually Deadpool doesn't manage to break this rule.  Which doesn't make it right.

7. Sex hygiene and venereal diseases are not subjects for motion pictures.

Do strap-ons count?

8. Scenes of actual child birth, in fact or in silhouette, are never to be presented.

No one gives birth in Deadpool.

9. Children's sex organs are never to be exposed.

Nothing like this either.

III. Vulgarity

The treatment of low, disgusting, unpleasant, though not necessarily evil, subjects should always be subject to the dictates of good taste and a regard for the sensibilities of the audience.

"And let me tell you, he's got a nice pair of smooth criminals down under."

IV. Obscenity

Obscenity in word, gesture, reference, song, joke, or by suggestion (even when likely to be understood only by part of the audience) is forbidden.

"Now, I'm about to do to you what Limp Bizkit did to music in the late 90s."

V. Profanity

Pointed profanity (this includes the words, God, Lord, Jesus, Christ - unless used reverently - Hell, S.O.B., damn, Gawd), or every other profane or vulgar expression however used, is forbidden.

"God, if I had a nickel for every time I spanked it to Bernadette Peters."

VI. Costume

1. Complete nudity is never permitted. This includes nudity in fact or in silhouette, or any lecherous or licentious notice thereof by other characters in the picture.

The Men's Club scene.

2. Undressing scenes should be avoided, and never used save where essential to the plot.

I know right?

3. Indecent or undue exposure is forbidden.

Does the scene when Ryan takes his top off count?

4. Dancing or costumes intended to permit undue exposure or indecent movements in the dance are forbidden.

The Men's Club scene.

VII. Dances

1. Dances suggesting or representing sexual actions or indecent passions are forbidden.

The Men's Club scene.

2. Dances which emphasize indecent movements are to be regarded as obscene.

Scene contains a lapdance.

VIII. Religion

1. No film or episode may throw ridicule on any religious faith.

"Jesus Christ. It's like I made you in a computer."

2. Ministers of religion in their character as ministers of religion should not be used as comic characters or as villains.

Ah, interesting, not sure.

3. Ceremonies of any definite religion should be carefully and respectfully handled.

Again, hmm...

IX. Locations

The treatment of bedrooms must be governed by good taste and delicacy.

Does having the toilet directly in the room next to the bed count?

X. National Feelings

1. The use of the Flag shall be consistently respectful.

I expect it is.

2. The history, institutions, prominent people and citizenry of other nations shall be represented fairly.

"Your right leg is Thanksgiving and your left leg is Christmas. Can I come and visit you between the holidays?"

XI. Titles

Salacious, indecent, or obscene titles shall not be used.


XII. Repellent Subjects

The following subjects must be treated within the careful limits of good taste:

1. Actual hangings or electrocutions as legal punishments for crime.

What if they're used illegally?

2. Third degree methods.

Yes, torture is involved.

3. Brutality and possible gruesomeness.

That too.

4. Branding of people or animals.


5. Apparent cruelty to children or animals.


6. The sale of women, or a woman selling her virtue.


7. Surgical operations.


There then follows a list of justifications which I won't bore you with suffice to say that it's the sort of sanctimonious claptrap which treats humans beings as children and although I appreciate it's difficult to envisage us as complex beings based on recent events, it makes you grateful that the UK now enjoys a ratings body as thoughtful as the BBFC.

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