What was NSFW (or, more specifically, theaters) nearly a century ago? Look no further than what CineGraphic has dug up: a compilation consisting of footage from an old reel of 35mm nitrate circa 1926 that was unearthed at an old movie theater in Pennsylvania. The result is Forbidden Images, a collection of clips that were banned and censored to meet local “moral standard,” featuring a brief clip from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and short glimpse of Greta Garbo in The Temptress, among many others.
What becomes glaringly apparent is that all of the scenes feature women (shocker!) and no men. This compilation is a look into the historically sexist lens by which many ratings and censorships are governed, from small towns to the MPAA. To this day, women are still exploited for their sexuality and bodies in cinema. Depictions of sexuality are either celebrated, as in the case of Black Swan (a phallocentric gaze), or shamed, such as Blue Valentine, which received the doomed stamp of NC-17 for its female-centric gaze prior to getting appealed. Considering Hollywood’s ongoing antipathy towards sex and obsession with violence — and the MPAA rewarding these inclinations — perhaps we haven’t come so far in the last century.
Watch the compilation below, with a nod to Open Culture.