Article ID: CBB439203153

Darwin on the Cutting-Room Floor: Evolution, Religion, and Film Censorship (2019)


In the mid-twentieth century, film studios sent their screenplays to the Hays Office, Hollywood’s official censorship body, and to the Catholic Church’s Legion of Decency for approval and recommendations for revision. This essay examines how filmmakers crafted stories involving evolutionary biology and how religiously motivated movie censorship groups modified these cinematic narratives in order to depict what they considered to be more appropriate visions of humanity’s origins. I find that censorship groups were concerned about the perceived impact of science fiction cinema on the public’s belief systems and on the wider cultural meanings of evolution. By controlling the stories told about evolution in science fiction cinema, censorship organizations believed that they could regulate the broader cultural meanings of evolution itself. But this is not a straightforward story of “science” versus “religion.” There were significant differences among these groups as to how to censor evolution, as well as changes in their attitudes toward evolutionary content over time. As a result, I show how censorship groups adopted diverse perspectives, depending on their perception of what constituted a morally appropriate science fiction story about evolution.

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Article Amanda Rees; Iwan Rhys Morus (2019) Presenting Futures Past: Science Fiction and the History of Science. Osiris: A Research Journal Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences (pp. 1-15). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Enza Del Tedesco
Kwan, Allen
Hitchcock, Susan Tyler
Brandt, Christina
Casser, Anja
Bishop, Rebecca
Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society
Science-Fiction Studies
Science Fiction Film and Television
Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Science in Context
British Journal for the History of Science
W. W. Norton & Co.
Baylor University Press
Cork University Press
The MIT Press
University of California, Riverside
Palgrave Macmillan
Science and culture
Science fiction
Motion pictures; cinema; movies
Science and religion
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft
Haeckel, Ernst
Russell, Edward Stuart
Darwin, Charles Robert
Time Periods
20th century
21st century
19th century
20th century, late
18th century
20th century, early
United States
Great Britain
Venice (Italy)

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