During the '30s: Obscenity in different media

John S. Sumner of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice participates in an official burning of confiscated literature deemed obscene.Throughout the creative media, the 1930s were a decade of great evaluation and growth. Entertainment media such as books, movies and radio were a welcome diversion from the struggles of everyday life during the Great Depression. The preceding decade had been a time of wistfulness for many citizens, and the ‘30s were far more trying times. Entertainment was a form of escapism, and people were desperately vying for it. Vice societies fought long and hard to have materials declared obscene, rejoicing at their victories (see photo at right: John S. Sumner overlooks an official burning of literature deemed obscene). In books, obscenity standards were not lowered, but better interpreted through the courts after the ban-happy '20s. The result was a freer press. In movies, the self-censorship of the studios relaxed a bit, but vice fighters fought back, forcing the creation of the Movie Code of 1935, which set forth a stringent code of ethics for movie-makers with specific references to curbing obscenity in Hollywood. Radio was viewed as an “intimate friend” of the family, and, as such, it was expected to better living conditions and cultural standards. Some sensitive listeners weren't so sure of its performance.

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