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Cinema, Gender Roles and Social Transformation

            Compared to the theatrical stage, motion pictures have proven to be a more flexible medium, spawning an industry that due to its reach and accessible nature propagated ideas and spread information without any bias towards social class or status. The invention of cinema and the projection of films on just about any screen meant that this form of entertainment managed to make more accessible what was previously available to just a select group of society. The impact of motion pictures over communication and the public in general granted this medium a level of influence that not many new technologies were able to reach.1 Cinema was not only bringing change but was also emphasising the social and political transformations that were occurring at the beginning of the twentieth century, and as a consequence it was perceived as a threat by those who feared a decrease of their power in society. As a result, beginning with the early days of silent film, the matter over the content of movies and the need to regulate it emerged in the American society and it continued to arise even more often after the introduction of sound film. The struggle to control this new medium and to impose Judeo-Christian values upon it culminated with the release of the Motion Picture Production Code in 1930.2 In this essay I shall first describe the social context in the United States in the early days of cinema and the introduction of content censorship. I shall then discuss the influence of cinema over society by analysing the transformative role of Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot (1959) and Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) in their portrayal of sexuality, gender roles and gender identities.
             The beginning of the twentieth century was characterised by the influence World War I, a context which drew attention towards the potential of film as a means of recording history and social-political representative. The national concerns over matters such as eugenics and declining birth rate lead to an increased interest in sexuality and the morality of society.

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