The fact that Lady Chatterley’s Lover has landed on Netflix, a main line of pop culture, would have shocked audiences in 1960. English author DH Lawrence’s novel tells the story of a young married woman (Connie Chatterly), the gamekeeper of her husband (Oliver Mellors), and the forbidden love between them. The book was first published privately in 1928, but it was not until 1959 that the ban on the book was lifted in the US and 1960 that an uncensored version was published in the UK.
Lawrence’s novel was also banned for obscenity in Canada, Australia, India, and Japan. He soon became famous for his explicit descriptions of sex, the use of four-letter words, and the depiction of a relationship between an upper-class woman and a working-class man. Perhaps most scandalous at the time, however, was the author’s depiction of female sexual pleasure.
“Her statement is still so vivid. We are going through times today with Roe vs. Wade, the revolution in Iran, where the female body is the subject of political tensions,” Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre, director of the new film, told W Magazine. “That, to me, was what I really wanted to express with this version.”
Read More: Netflix’s Steamy Lady Chatterley Lover Breathes New Life Into A Once Banned Novel
Why was Lady Chatterley’s Lover censored?
DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover was apparently censored for being indecent and immoral: in the US, it was banned under obscenity laws, and in England, it was blocked under the Obscene Publications Act.
The novel initially had two small private publications, one in Italy in 1928 and one in France a year later, as Lawrence was unable to obtain commercial publication of the book without censorship in either England or the US. However, in 1932 , two years after Lawrence’s death. , heavily censored editions were published in both countries. Until 1959, strict obscenity laws in England prohibited any “purple passage” that could corrupt immaculate minds.
Passed in 1959, the Obscene Publications Act was intended to “provide for the protection of literature and strengthen the law relating to pornography”. Just a year later, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, finally published in its entirety by Penguin Books, became a test case for the law.
In an article for The Guardian in 2010, lawyer and academic Geoffrey Robertson explained that Penguin was selling the book at a price accessible to women and the working class, and that this was the key factor in the decision to sue. That was what “upper-middle-class male lawyers and politicians at the time refused to tolerate,” he wrote.
In 1959, the publisher of Grove Press sued the US Post Office for confiscating uncensored versions of the novel in the mail. Court of Appeal judge Frederick van Pelt Bryan held that the novel had significant literary merit, ruling that excluding Lady Chatterley’s Lover from being mailed for obscenity “would formulate a rule that could apply to a substantial part of it.” the classics of our country”. literature” and that “such a rule would be the enemy of a free society”.
PEN America, a nonprofit organization that aims to defend free speech, includes an op-ed about the work on its website. It wasn’t just Connie’s adultery that was so scandalous at the time, he posits, but also her choice of partner, and the author’s failure to condemn the relationship.
“And for this partnership, because that is what it is, as opposed to the vassal/lord relationship between her and her husband, to continue and triumph in the end,” the op-ed continues, “is unbearable to those who care about it.” like your marriage. traditional, its meek women and its defended ruling class”.
Corrin with Jack O’Connell
What it meant to annul censorship for culture
Poet Philip Larkin wrote a wry joke about Lady Chatterley’s lover in his 1967 poem, “Annus Mirabilis.”
They started sexual intercourse
In nineteen sixty three
(Which was quite late for me) –
Between the end of Chatterley’s ban
And the first Beatles LP.
Some have argued that the sexual revolution of the 1960s was heralded by these two milestones. And indeed, Lady Chatterley’s Lover was the first of three erotic novels not to be banned in the US between 1959 and 1966 (the others being Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer and John Cleland’s Fanny Hill).
“For many decades, the courts upheld racial segregation; then all of a sudden they didn’t,” wrote Fred Kaplan for the New York Times. “For many decades, the courts allowed the Post Office to decide what books people could read; then suddenly they didn’t. In both cases, and in many others that could be cited, the laws had not changed; society did. And the courts responded accordingly.
Grove Press’s success in court effectively struck down America’s obscenity laws, or at least knocked over the first domino. It also gave the public access to art about female sexual pleasure. The author defended the idea that true passion needs both a physical and a mental connection.
“Obscenity only appears when the mind despises and fears the body,” he writes in the book, “and the body hates and resists the mind.”
Corrin as Lady Constance and Matthew Duckett as Clifford
The new adaptation of Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre on Netflix
The director, known for the 2019 drama The Mustang, received the film’s script in March 2020, just as the pandemic was starting. The need for human connection drew her to the film, especially when loneliness felt magnified.
“I felt like I needed to bring this in as well, but as a revitalization of a human being, as something that heals,” Clermont-Tonnerre told W Magazine. “Especially the scene where they run naked in the rain, there’s something so erotic and so liberating.”
Connie Chatterley (Emma Corrin) and Oliver Mellors (Jack O’Connell), the ranger on her husband’s estate, come from drastically different social classes, a fact Lawrence pointed out very pointedly. Lady Chatterley’s husband, Clifford Chatterley (Matthew Duckett), is a baron bent on “fixing” the Tevershall coal mines, which he owns. In Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre’s film, the husband and wife discuss working conditions in the mines.
During a conversation, Clifford smugly tells Connie that “most of those men have been ruled since time began”, to which she incredulously replies “And you can rule them?” Clifford explains that he has been raised and trained for this role, and when she asks him if he believes they and the miners share some humanity, he replies, “We all need to eat and breathe, but beyond that, no.” .
Connie and Mellors “have very similar personalities and beyond class and status, there’s something that connects right away,” Clermont-Tonnerre said. “These emotions lead to a physical expression, which defines their relationship as a celebration. First it is an emotional love story about two lonely people who feel the need to connect to exist.
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