Amandala, From The Publisher
A few days ago I was flipping through television channels and realized that I was watching a movie called “Peyton Place.” I remembered that this was a movie which had created a sensation in Belize when I was young.
Back then Belize had a “censor board” which watched private showings of all movies before the public was allowed to see the films in movie theaters. In my time, the censor board was comprised of old Belizean ladies chosen by the all-powerful leadership of the ruling PUP. Usually it would be a question of their deciding whether a movie could be seen by the general public, or whether it would be classified as “For Adults Only.”
I’m saying to myself this week, “Peyton Place” must have been banned altogether. If it were just given an “adults only” label, why would I remember the happenings involving that movie as sensational?
Sometimes the censor board would just take a scene or two out of a movie, as far as I can figure out. Sometimes they would get into politics, such as when somebody decided to ban the movie “Burn” (“Quemada” in Spanish), which starred Marlon Brando but dramatized a black rebellion in a Caribbean island. There was no sex problem in “Burn,” but this was in 1969, just a few months after UBAD exploded on the Belizean scene. It couldn’t have been the censor board, come to think of it, because they had sent it through the process. “Burn” showed just once in Belize, at the Palace, and was never seen again. (A few years ago, George Gonzalez gave KREM TV a dvd with this “Burn”, and it shows on KREM every now and then.) Modern viewers would see “Burn” as harmless, really, but someone in the PUP hierarchy in 1969 must have panicked, and intervened.
Anyway, I decided to watch some of this “Peyton Place” to see what all the fuss was about back then. I soon got bored. There was nothing compared to what goes on nowadays on cable television in all of our homes on a daily basis.
I decided to Google “Peyton Place.” It was originally a novel written by one Grace Metalious and published in 1956. Wikipedia says the book sold 60,000 copies within the first ten days of its release and remained on The New York Times best seller list for 59 weeks.
The book was made into a movie in 1957, and that movie would have reached British Honduras three or four years later. Nowadays new movies reach Belize on pirated dvd’s before they are even released in the United States. Real. Anyway, Wikipedia says the film exposes “scandal, homicide, suicide, incest and moral hypocrisy in the lives and loves of the residents of a small New England mill town.”
Compared to the daily fare on Belize’s cable television nowadays, however, “Peyton Place” is tame. The point is that our moral guidelines in this little country have been blown away in the last half century, and especially since television thirty years ago. It must be really dangerous to be a child growing into puberty and then adulthood in modern Belize.
You know, back then Hurricane Hattie opened up things somewhat for my Belize Baby Boomer generation. There were no lights in the city for months after the hurricane, and things became a little more frisky. As boys, we were chasing girls and trying to see how far we could get them to go. There was the double standard, of course. Society expects girls to defend. Overall, compared to the young people of today, we were naïve.
I think birth control pills had entered the picture around the time we were growing up, so there was more sexual freedom than before. But, again, compared to now, Belize was prudish. Still, when you think about it, so was America. Because “Peyton Place,” novel and film, created big excitement in America itself, it appears.
Anyhow, I can remember going to Palace Theater one morning to see the late Mr. Cyril Gibson in connection with a variety show UBAD was going to promote at the theater. This would be 1969, 1970 thereabouts. Looking for Mr. Gibson, I wandered up the stairs to the reserved section and ran into the old ladies of the censor board watching the screening of a movie. For what it was worth, they were the guardians of our morals. Not all of them could see that well, but they could see well enough to decide that “Peyton Place” was trouble. Nowadays, no one cares. Geez, how times have changed!