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Repellent Subjects: Hollywood Censorship and Surgical Images in the 1930s

From: Literature and Medicine
Volume 17, Number 1, Spring 1998
pp. 91-113 | 10.1353/lm.1998.0005


Lederer provides a historical overview of the censorship of surgical images of U.S. films made in the 1930's. This essay examines the Motion Picture Production Code in an effort to understand the effect of the category of "Repellent Subjects" identified by the Code. It includes "surgical operations" alongside "actual hangings or electrocutions as legal punishments of crime," "brutality," "branding of people and animals," "apparent cruelty to children or animals," "the sale of women, or a woman selling her virtue." Lederer looks closely at films such as Men in White and the treatment of the female body in medical scenes as she develops her argument that censorship functioned to suppress controversy, to maintain social order, and to conserve an ethical value system.

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