Utterly without redeeming social importance  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Redeeming social value or redeeming social importance is a phrase coined in the landmark trial Roth v. United States (1957) concerning moral censorship and further refined in Memoirs v. Massachusetts (1965-66). While Roth v. United States presumed "obscenity" to be "utterly without redeeming social importance," Memoirs v. Massachusetts required that to prove obscenity it must be affirmatively established that the material is "utterly without redeeming social value".

In 1965, Samuel Putnam published John Cleland's 1750 novel Fanny Hill. This was the turning point, because Charles Rembar appealed a restraining order against it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and won. In Memoirs v. Massachusetts (1966) the court ruled that sex was "a great and mysterious motive force in human life," and that its expression in literature was protected by the First Amendment. Only books primarily appealing to "prurient interest" could be banned. In a famous phrase, the court said that obscenity is "utterly without redeeming social importance" — meaning that, conversely, any work with redeeming social importance was not obscene, even if it contained isolated passages that could "deprave and corrupt" some readers.

This decision was especially significant, because, of the three books mentioned, Fanny Hill has by far the largest measure of content that seems to appeal to prurient interest, and the smallest measures of literary merit and "redeeming social importance". Whereas an expurgated version of Lady Chatterley's Lover had actually once been published, no expurgated version of Fanny Hill has ever been (and it is difficult even to imagine what such a work could possibly consist of). By permitting the publication of Fanny Hill, the Supreme Court set the bar for any ban so high that Rembar himself called the 1966 decision "the end of obscenity."

The Charles Hirsch film Utterly Without Redeeming Social Value (1969) is a play of words on that phrase.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Utterly without redeeming social importance" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.





Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Utterly without redeeming social importance" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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