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Better Left UnsaidVictorian Novels, Hays Code Films, and the Benefits of Censorship$
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Nora Gilbert

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780804784207

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804784207.001.0001

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For Sophisticated Eyes Only

For Sophisticated Eyes Only

Jane Austen and George Cukor

(p.45) 2 For Sophisticated Eyes Only
Better Left Unsaid
Stanford University Press

Film censors have traditionally defined sophisticated content as that which can only be understood by the adult, urban, and male members of the audience, and have encouraged writers and filmmakers to speak in a carefully bifurcated language from which “conclusions might be drawn by the sophisticated mind, but which would mean nothing to the unsophisticated and inexperienced.” This chapter draws connections between this gendered form of film censorship and the desire to protect the “young and virtuous female reader” that permeated discussions of the nineteenth-century British novel. The discussion focuses on Jane Austen's Emma (1815) and George Cukor's The Philadelphia Story (1940)—two stories in which the censor's presumptions about the inexperienced, vulnerable female mind are pointedly undercut by the feminized inflection of the texts' most allusive, suggestive discourse. Ultimately, in these works, sophistication becomes more than a strategy to make controversial content more palatable; it becomes a means of freeing the female protagonist (and, by extension, the female reader/viewer) from the social expectation of moral perfection.

Keywords:   British novel, censorship, Emma, Philadelphia Story

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