Much like football and fresh apple pie, the cinema is an American pastime. It is rooted in the 20th century and has matured over the decades, mirroring the social and cultural growth of our nation. Compared to their precursors, contemporary films vary in content and target audience and convey a multitude of messages to viewers. But film would not demonstrate such variety without the cultural staple of our media, a constitutional right that is, in itself, an American pastime. Freedom of speech, as provided by the First Amendment, has fertilized the growth of cinema, and, in kind, the history of film has proven that free speech is easily applied to many media platforms, protective of controversial content, and accessible to all Americans, regardless of cultural background. The cinema is embedded in our nation’s history, driven by our passion for the motion picture and preserved by the inalienable rights provided by the First Amendment.
Speech as a Medium
The First Amendment explicitly protects freedom of press, religion, petition, assembly, and, of course, speech; it does not, for obvious reasons, reference motion pictures (“First Amendment,” n.d.). Fortunately, the term "speech" is vague enough to apply to multiple media platforms and is not limited merely to verbal or typographic communication. Freedom of speech, therefore, is moldable to every medium in existence, and because every medium has its strengths and limitations, free speech amplifies the constant exchange of ideas by allowing different mediums to coexist while under legal protection (Sterin, 2012, p. 22). For example, the malleability of free speech has allowed film, a visual medium, to be protected like the printed word, although doing so has proven to be a challenge.
The film industry has fought countless battles to obtain its status as protected speech. In 1915, the Supreme Court ruled that motion pictures were not protected under the First Amendment, and in the following years, the industry was frequently accused of disrupting the moral stability of American society. The courts saw film strictly as a business venture that had social responsibilities to uphold. It was not until 1952 that film earned its designation as free speech (Mintz and McNeil, 2013). Fortunately, this tumultuous history resulted in freedom of speech being upheld and applied to a newly developed medium, paving the way for future mediums, such as video games, to be granted legal protection (Barbas, 2012, p. 667). Because free speech is malleable, artists and storytellers can openly express their opinions through all media and have their messages protected, even if their opinions are unpopular.
Speech as Security
Freedom of speech empowers content producers to explore taboo subject matter without fear of government prosecution. While there are obvious limits to what content can be legally produced, media messages cannot be legally censored by the government based solely on the message itself. Because free...