When I was growing up, my parents subscribed to the Catholic newspaper, which told of all the local news pertinent to San Francisco Catholics and also contained the Legion of Decency list, which told us which movies were OK for us to see.
I can't remember the first time I saw a movie on the "X" list (the bad movies), but I felt as guilty as I did the first time I attended an ecumenical service in a Protestant church. Taking communion felt like I would be going to hell, but not following the example of my Newman Club peers was more important than sending my soul to hell for being inside a non-Catholic church.
My mother "religiously" checked the list every week, when we were choosing which Saturday matinee to see. In the 1950s, movies which were condemned by the Legion of Decency included The Moon is Blue, I am a Camera, Baby Doll, Love in the Afternoon, Some Like it Hot, Never on Sunday, and Psycho.
(When I checked this list I discovered that Love in the Afternoon was taken off the list when a voice over by Maurice Chevalier was added to explain that Ariane and Frank were now married and living in New York. The original version did not include the explanation and left it up to the viewer whether the two were married or living in sin.)
Given what a voracious reader I was then, it's probably a good thing that there was no Legion of Decency published for books. I'm sure the list was available, but it just was not published in our Catholic newspaper, so my parents never checked it.
This is "Read a Banned Book" Week (Sept. 22-28), an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. It focuses on efforts across the country to remove certain books from libraries and schools because some people find them offensive.
Who are these people and don't they have anything better to do? A list of America's most surprising banned books include such books as "The Diary of Anne Frank," for sexually explicit passages, and in 1983 the Alabama State Textbook Committee banned it because it was "a real downer."
A specific illustrated book of "Little Red Riding Hood" was banned because the young girl is shown carrying wine in her basket of goodies for Grandma and rather than seeing the message that children should not talk to strangers, school officials in Culver City, CA saw the book's message as "alcohol is yummy." The LA Times reported that "After reviewing the award-winning book from the state-recommended reading list for first-graders, Culver City Unified School District officials concluded that its message conflicted with the anti-drug and -alcohol theme they promote in the classroom."
"Hansel and Gretel" was banned because it "gives witches a bad name."
In 1952, "Charlotte's Web" was banned in Kansas because it was felt that humans are the highest level of God's creation and so any book featuring talking animals must be the work of the devil. They felt it was sacreligious and disrespectful of God.
And who would ever think that "Where's Waldo" would appear on a banned book list, but it does. It was banned in Michigan and New York because there was "a sunbathing woman suffering a wardrobe malfunction the size of a pinhead in a corner of one of Martin Hanford's drawings."
Who is so dedicated to smut eradication that they would examine every page of a Waldo book to find something objectionable, and ban a book based on such a teeny tiny drawing.
The top banned children's book in the last decade is a book called "The What's Happening to My Body? Book for Boys," deemed inappropriate and banned in 21 school libraries in Texas, following a 2010 complaint by the father of an 8 year old who was shocked that his son could see this book. (I wonder if this Dad has taught his young son how to shoot a gun...?)
Even the dictionary is not free from complaint. School administrators in Alaska have banned both the American Heritage Dictionary and the Merriam Webster dictionary in schools and libraries for its "objectionable" entries — particularly slang words, including "bed," "knocker," and "balls."
I checked the list of books that are frequently challenged or banned. They include books like "The Great Gatsby," "Catcher in the Rye," "To Kill a Mockingbird," "The Grapes of Wrath," "Beloved," "Of Mice and Men," "Farewell to Arms," "Gone with the Wind," "Call of the Wild," "Lord of the Rings," "Sophie's Choice," "Brave New World," "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," "The Sun Also Rises," and a host of others. (You can read the reasons why these books were banned here.)
I feel positively wicked...I think I have read every single one of those books.