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Minneapolis Vice Commission Report

July 15, 2011

BEMIDJI DAILY PIONEER (15 July 1911): 2.

100 years ago today, Bemidji, Minnesota considered implementing the advice of the Minneapolis Vice Commission Report, in order to eliminate “the social evil” (aka prostitution) in their city. Among the recommended steps included “censorship of moving picture shows” and “elimination of girls as ushers in theaters.” Another part of the report’s recommendation, not mentioned in this article, is the “lightening of moving picture theaters” (114), as it was the darkness of the theater itself that posed the biggest problem (130).

As to the content of the films which should be censored, the report was less clear, stating merely that it was important “to protect patrons from that which appeals merely to the lower instincts” (130). Ostensibly films that do so put young men in a position more likely to become “entangled in her [the prostitute’s] snare” (110).

The vice commission didn’t recommend outright censorship, instead, they hoped that educational institutions would get in on the movie-making game to provide wholesome alternatives. A couple of years later, some enterprising filmmakers would exploit both those “lower instincts” of the average patron with the so-called “white slave” film, all under the guise of educational interests. Traffic in Souls (1913) is one of the more famous examples of this type of film.

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