Betty Boop & the Hays Code


Betty Boop before and after the Motion Picture Production Code.

The Hays Code of 1934 was the enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code censorship guidelines. It was first published in 1930, as an attempt to introduce film censorship. In 1933 a theater owner complained to Film Daily that there was too much smut in cartoons, which is also what contributed to animation being censored. Before the Hays Code, Betty Boop was a flapper girl who wore strapless short skirts, after the Code was imposed, Betty's dresses were made longer and her garter was hidden, not removed as falsely written in history, but hidden under her longer dresses. The Betty Boop cartoons were of an adult nature, and were not really for children, which is why the series was affected. The Hays Act cleaned up the media, censoring movies and cartoons. The Fleischer Studios secretly fought back by putting in hidden sexual messages in their cartoons. 

Production Code 

  1. No picture shall be produced that will lower the moral standards of those who see it.
  2. Hence the sympathy of the audience should never be thrown to the side of crime, wrongdoing, evil or sin. 
  3. Correct standards of life, subject only to the requirements of drama and entertainment, shall be presented.
  4.  Law, natural or human, shall not be ridiculed, nor shall sympathy be created for its violation.
  5. The technique of murder must be presented in a way that will not inspire imitation.
  6. Brutal killings are not to be presented in detail.
  7. Revenge in modern times shall not be justified.
  8. Theft, robbery, safe-cracking, and dynamiting of trains, mines, buildings, etc., should not be detailed in method.
  9. Arson must subject to the same safeguards.
  10. The use of firearms should be restricted to the essentials. Methods of smuggling should not be presented.
  11. Illegal drug traffic must never be presented.
  12. The use of liquor in American life, when not required by the plot or for proper characterization, will not be shown.
  13. Pictures shall not infer that low forms of sex relationship are the accepted or common thing. 
  14. Adultery, sometimes necessary plot material, must not be explicitly treated, or justified, or presented attractively. 
  15. In general passion should so be treated that these scenes do not stimulate the lower and baser element. Seduction or rape should never be more than suggested, and only when essential for the plot, and even then never shown by explicit method.
  16.  Sex perversion or any inference to is forbidden.
  17. White slavery shall not be treated.
  18. Sex relationships between the white and black races is forbidden.
  19. Sex hygiene and venereal diseases are not subjects for motion pictures.
  20. Scenes of actual child birth, in fact or in silhouette, are never to be presented.
  21. Children’s sex organs are never to be exposed.
  22. Obscenity in word, gesture, reference, song, joke, or by suggestion (even when likely to be understood only by part of the audience) is forbidden.
  23. 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.
  24. 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.
  25. Undressing scenes should be avoided, and never used save where essential to the plot.
  26. Indecent or undue exposure is forbidden. Dancing or costumes intended to permit undue exposure or indecent movements in the dance are forbidden.
  27. Dances suggesting or representing sexual actions or indecent passions are forbidden.
  28. Dances which emphasize indecent movements are to be regarded as obscene.
  29. No film or episode may throw ridicule on any religious faith.
  30. Ministers of religion in their character as ministers of religion should not be used as comic characters or as villains.
  31. Ceremonies of any definite religion should be carefully and respectfully handled.
  32. The use of the Flag shall be consistently respectful.
  33. The history, institutions, prominent people and citizenry of other nations shall be represented fairly.
  34. Actual hangings or electrocutions as legal punishments for crime.
  35. Third degree methods. Brutality and possible gruesomeness.
  36. Branding of people or animals.
  37. Apparent cruelty to children or animals.
  38. The sale of women, or a woman selling her virtue.
  39. Surgical operations.

Trivia

  • Although Betty Boop was censored in the cartoons, in most newspaper adverts and posters, she continued to wear her original skimpy attire.
  • A 90s Animaniacs episode titled The Girl With the Googily Goop takes note of the Hays Code and focuses on it. But instead of Betty Boop, the cartoon focuses on a parody by the name of Googi Goop, due to copyright reasons and also not wanting to pay to use Betty Boop for the actual cartoon. As Betty Boop is not a Warner Brothers cartoon character and to use her for official projects, she has to be licensed through the Fleischer Studios and mainly through King Features Syndicate.
  • After the Hays Code kicked in, Betty Boop lost most of her risqué appeal. That appeal made her popularity die down a little among adult audiences. The cartoons then tried to focus on Grampy, Junior and Buzzy Boop, none of these characters had any luck. When Betty Boop was rebooted in 1938, the Fleischers tried their luck with Sally Swing, but the audiences were not interested. So then the Fleischers focused on Pudgy, which also proved most disastrous, as Betty was supposed to have been the star of her series, not Pudgy. Pudgy is noted as being cute, but boring.

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