It is now August, so #AMonthWithoutTheCode2021 is here! As night follows the day, #AMonthWithoutTheCode inevitably follows #CleanMovieMonth. As you might guess after #CleanMovieMonth2021, we are calling this year’s edition #AMonthWithoutTheCode2021.
In case you need refreshment on what #AMonthWithoutTheCode is, allow me to remind you or, for our newcomers, inform you for the first time. #CleanMovieMonth is our name for July, during which month we watch only Code films. In contrast, during August, #AMonthWithoutTheCode, we watch only un-Code films. I am probably confusing you with all the terminology we coined here at PEPS, so let me explain what an un-Code film is.
Any movie other than those made and released in the United States of America between July of 1934 and 1954, a period of twenty years which we call the Breen Era; namely, any film which was not self-regulated by the Production Code Administration (PCA) under the leadership of Joseph I. Breen.
As long as Joseph I. Breen was the head of the PCA, the Motion Picture Production Code (commonly called the Hays Code) was faithfully enforced in the self-regulation of Hollywood movies. However, his retirement in October 1954 led to the speedy and tragic demise of the PCA, the Code, and, with them, clean movies. The Code continued to decay until it was replaced with the modern Classification and Rating Administration in 1968. Many film historians believe that the demise of the Code in the late 1950s was caused by the rise of television, independent films, and foreign movies, plus the crumbling of Hollywood’s studio system. However, we believe that the Code’s downfall began to soon after Mr. Breen’s retirement to be coincidental. In addition, careful study of the Breen Era shows that whenever PCA second-in-command Geoffrey M. Shurlock had authority, the Code’s enforcement slacked off. Why then should the general work of the PCA go downhill when he took over permanently in 1954?
You might wonder why we chose August to be #AMonthWithoutTheCode. It’s for two reasons. Firstly, it follows #CleanMovieMonth to make the impact stronger on the months’ observers. After immersing oneself fully in the wholesomeness of Code films for a whole month, the absence of that clean entertainment for a whole month makes an even stronger impact. Secondly, Geoffrey Shurlock was born on August 10, so this is also a tribute to him. It’s a strange one, I grant, since we frequently blame Mr. Shurlock for the problems in post-Breen Era entertainment. I don’t mean it in a spiteful or unkind way, however. I sincerely believe that what he did was not the result of stupidity or incompetency but a careful, methodical plan. I truly think he would be proud to know that his plan’s success is being studied for a whole month every year!
The goal in observing #AMonthWithoutTheCode is to avoid watching Code films. I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it, since I find avoiding Code films for a whole month very depressing. Last year, I had to quit partway through the month because it was too upsetting during the already troubling year. This year, I doubt I’ll be able to avoid all Code films during August, but I will try to watch predominately un-Code films. While watching them, I intend to be especially mindful of how they are different from Code films. I recommend that anyone participating in #AMonthWithoutTheCode2021 does the same.
How can you join #AMonthWithoutTheCode2021? Just purposefully avoid watching American Breen Era (1934-1954) movies throughout August. This should only be hard for very devoted classic movies fans. Even if you can’t completely avoid Code films, try to be mindful of Code violations when you do watch un-Code films.
Review the celebrations from the past three years to see how others have participated in this fun project!
This year, as with #CleanMovieMonth2021, the celebration is in the hands of our guests! I am not going to make any grand promises about publishing special articles for this event. I probably will just write one post at the end to summarize my findings. For the rest of the celebration, I am going to rely on guest articles. Please join!
Here are some more specific guidelines for participation:
- Try to avoid watching any Code films. Remember, these are only American films which were released between July of 1934 and 1954. Foreign films, such as British films, from this time period do not count as Code films, even if they were later released in America with a PCA Seal of Approval; thus, they count as un-Code films and qualify for this event.
- Just to clarify, there are five un-Code eras, the Silent Era (silent films from any country, usually made before 1930), the Pre-Code Era (sound films originally released before July, 1934, which don’t have PCA Seals of Approval), the Foreign Era (movies released during the Breen Era [July 1934-1954] which were not made in America), the Shurlock Era (films released 1955-November 1968, during the waning days of the PCA but before the Rating System was formed), and the Rating System Era (films originally released during the Classification and Rating Administration’s existence [November 1968-present]).
- If you can’t completely avoid Code films, that’s alright! You can venture into those twenty years if you have previous commitments to review Breen Era movies or if you have a simple hankering for your Code favorites! The purpose of this series is just to focus on un-Code films in their state of being un-Code.
- Even if you don’t stay completely outside the Breen Era, watch un-Code films mindfully. When you are watching an un-Code movie, whether for the first time or the tenth, notice how it is different from movies self-regulated by the Breen PCA. Ask yourself how it violates the Code’s standard of decency, as we do in our Breening Thursday articles. You may enjoy a little breening yourself! (See our How to Breen article for more instructions.)
- Review the un-Code films you watch during the month, including links to this page and using the #AMonthWithoutTheCode2021 banner. We will republish all participating articles here on PEPS!
- Use the hashtag #AMonthWithoutTheCode2021 and our banner to spread the word about this event. It is very important to study and understand what makes Code films special by noticing how different other films are.
Please join our month-long abstinence from American Breen Era (1934-1954) movies to create greater appreciation for the Code, #AMonthWithoutTheCode2020!
Have an Enlightening #AMonthWithoutTheCode2020.
Follow us to bring back the Code and save the arts in America!