In 1965, the Hearst newspapers in San Francisco refused to print movie advertisements containing the words “cuties, flesh-a-scope, girlie, homosexual, immorality, lesbian, lust, naked, nothing on, nudies, nudist camp, nymphs, pervert, professional girls, prostitute, rape, scanty panties, seduce, skin-a-scope, sex, […] sex rituals, sexpot, sexsational, strippers, and third sex.” (This is quoted from an essay by the film historian Eric Schaefer, which you can find in this book right here. The list of terms was originally published in Variety.)
Okay: really, Hearst newspapers? I mean, really? You’re going to go with “flesh-a-scope” on this one? REALLY? Has that ever been used to advertise a movie? But actually, the main thing that this list of banned words tells us is that EVERY ONE OF THEM has been used to advertise a movie at some point. Still, putting “flesh-a-scope” into google image search yields zero results, and a regular google search just leads back to another quote from Variety. (FYI: A google image search for “scanty panties” yields 116 hits, and while some of these are pretty much what you’d expect, you also get… this image, and this one, and a cyrillic-alphabet poster for the Rowan Atkinson vehicle “Agent Johnny English,” and a closeup of the Maryland state flag, and a picture of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad pointing at his own eye, and just, just… what?!)*
Anyway, my point is this: ad copy for movies evidently used to be a lot more interesting than it is today. Here, for instance, is a tagline actually used on some ads for Brokeback Mountain.
“The New Film From Director Ang Lee.”
And here is a hypothetical tagline that the Hearst newspapers would have refused to run in San Francisco, 1965.
“Academy Award nominee Ang Lee brings you the tale of naked homosexual lust that THEY didn’t want you to see! It was supposed to be a simple sheep-herding job for Ennis and Jake… but these cowboy cuties turned their bunkhouse into a den of sexsational immorality! Filmed in breathtaking skin-a-scope by Rodrigo Prietro.”**
To be fair: Brokeback Mountain is a very serious movie, and furthermore one that wears its seriousness on its sleeve. Obviously it’s not going to be marketed as “sexsational.” Modern ads do get more flamboyant than “the new film from Ang Lee.” Heck, Lust Caution was billed as a “potently erotic” thriller. Still. It’s a long way from “potently erotic” to “naked nudist camp nymphs with nothing on,” get me?
* Note: while I cannot in good conscience recommend doing a GIS for “scanty panties” on your work computer, rest assured that the images linked in this paragraph are entirely, deeply, almost distressingly SFW.
** Prietro received a well-deserved oscar nomination for his skinematography.