The Obscene Moving Image: An Analysis of Film Censorship, 1913-1955 is a historical analysis of the Ohio Board of Film Censorship. Using digital text analysis tools, this study examines the Board's requested eliminations from films submitted to determine the major censored topics. By highlighting the experience of this one state and tracing the evolution of the content censored, this research is a case study within the scholarship of the history of film and the cultural history of the U.S. in the twentieth century. This study expands on our understanding what motivated the censors and what content they focused upon, realizing that in addition to crime (the most commonly cited content in secondary scholarship about censorship), there was a significant censorship of sexual content. The primary documents being examined are called bulletins, a weekly collection of all the eliminations requested of films. The available bulletins are for the following dates: September 1915 to February 1916 (grouped monthly), and 1924-1954 (grouped yearly). For this project, a sampling of bulletins was collected, processed, and analyzed to understand what film content was censored over the course of time by the Ohio Board.

The project is divided into two fundamental parts that feed into each other. The first part of the project is the Bulletins, the best source of information on the exact material that was censored from the films. The examination of the bulletins is divided into three categories: 1915-1916 Close Reading, the Censorship Topics, and Specific Examples. The first section is a close reading of the six months of bulletins from September 1915 to February 1916. This early period contains some of the highest volume of censorship and directly follows one of the major Supreme Court cases in the battle over the legality of censorship. A close reading of this period provides a framework for analyzing the major topics of film censorship in the larger corpus. The censored topics section is the main examination of the major categories of the Board's censorship, identifying them and analyzing their development over time. Lastly, the specific examples section drills down into a few interesting examples of censorship that focus on popular films and/or look at topics that, while there is not a substantial amount of them censored, are still an important for characterizing the Board's censorship.

The second part of the project is the Case Studies of several films that were censored. The first one is a silent film, Shanghaied, that was "approved with eliminations" and still images of the censored elements are examined in comparison to the eliminations ordered in the bulletin. The two other films: The Outlaw and M were rejected by the censors during the final years of the Board's existence. The censorship of these films is studied in through the reasons for rejection, legal documents, correspondence with studios, distributors, and other censorship boards. Combined with the study of the bulletins, these case studies shed light on the process and motivation of the Board.

Start exploring the history of the Ohio Board of Film Censorship however you wish. The Overview contains a narrative of the history of the board and the historical context, with a sub page on the Nomenclature of the research. The Bulletins and Case Studies section have been explained above, the Sources page contains the primary and secondary sources as well as the visualizations. Lastly, the About page notes the process, methodology, and acknowledgements. However you choose to begin, understand that just because there is no longer state and local board of censors for films does not mean this a relic of the past. Without the censors, and the legal battles surrounding them, films would not be protected under the First Amendment and there would be no MPPA rating system of films. Discussion of the age-based rating system currently used by Hollywood and theaters first emerged from New York Chief Censor Hugh Flick in the 1950s, when the end of government film censorship was near (Wittern-Keller 167). For all their virtues and foibles, the censors did accomplish their goal in part by forcing the studios to censor themselves.