Fact Check

Did Tennessee Ban the Classic Movie 'Some Like It Hot'?

The state recently passed a ban on so-called "adult cabaret performances" that feature male or female impersonators.

Published March 9, 2023

 (Donaldson Collection/Contributor, Getty Images)
Image courtesy of Donaldson Collection/Contributor, Getty Images
Claim:
The 1959 movie "Some Like It Hot" was banned in Tennessee in March 2023 as a result of a new state law banning "adult cabaret performances" that feature male or female impersonators.

On March 7, 2023, a Facebook post claimed that the movie "Some Like It Hot" was banned in Tennessee. When Snopes readers emailed us about the claim, we looked into it and found insufficient evidence to rate it true or false, so we have rated the claim "Unproven" for now.

"Banned in Tennessee: Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot (1959)," The Other 98%, a organization dedicated to winning the "battle of the story" using viral original political content, posted on its Facebook page. "Some Like It Hot" is a 1959 classic movie about two men who disguise themselves as part of an all-female jazz band to escape the mob.

When we reached out to The Other 98% for comment, the organization defended its post.

"Our post about the film, 'Some Like It Hot' being banned in Tennessee' is social commentary and criticism following the passage of the Tennessee law which criminalizes drag shows, public drag displays," page manager Mark Provost wrote. "We believe a reasonable interpretation of the law applies to public filming of shows or films where drag is presented, especially when children are present."

We found the same claim repeated a number of times on Twitter, as well as on Instagram. However, it's unclear whether legislation recently passed in Tennessee would result in that film, or others like it, like "Mrs. Doubtfire," being banned. 

Tennessee passed legislation on March 2 that banned gender-affirming care for transgender minors. On the same day, the bill restricting "adult cabaret performances" in public or in the presence of children was passed. 

That bill defined "adult cabaret performances" as:

SECTION 1. Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 7-51-1401, is amended by adding the following language as a new subdivision:"Adult cabaret performance" means a performance in a location other than an adult cabaret that features topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers, strippers, male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest, or similar entertainers, regardless of whether or not performed for consideration.

SECTION 2. Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 7-51-1407, is amended by adding the following language as a new subsection: It is an offense for a person to engage in an adult cabaret performance: (A) On public property; or (B) In a location where the adult cabaret performance could be viewed by a person who is not an adult.

The law goes into effect on July 1, 2023. Violating it once will carry a misdemeanor charge punishable of $2,500 and/or up to a year in jail. For every violation afterwards, it would be a felony charge that could be punishable with up to six years in prison.

The phrase "appeals to a prurient interest" came from a 1973 Supreme Court case about obscenity, Miller v. California. The case ruled one of the guidelines for jurors ruling on obscenity cases should be whether the average person applying community standards would find the work had a morbid, degrading, and unhealthy interest in sex. 

While analyzing the impact the legislation could have, the Tennessean wrote, "So while one governing body might believe drag performances aren't obscene or harmful to minors, another might believe differently based on "contemporary community standards." 

Based on the context, "adult cabaret performances" might be interpreted to mean "live performances" only. It can also be argued popular mainstream films like "Some Like It Hot" or "Mrs. Doubtfire" do not "appeal to the prurient interest."

When Snopes reached out to the main sponsors of the legislation, Rep. Chris Todd and Sen. Jack Johnson, for clarification on the status of such films, we did not receive response in time for publication.

Sources

APA Dictionary of Psychology. https://dictionary.apa.org/. Accessed 9 Mar. 2023.

Brathwaite, Les Fabian. "Hays'd: Decoding the Classics — 'Some Like It Hot.'" IndieWire, 6 Mar. 2014, https://www.indiewire.com/2014/03/haysd-decoding-the-classics-some-like-it-hot-214585/.

Fiscus, Kirsten. "Tennessee Drag Show Bill: Will Drag Performances Be Banned? What We Know." The Tennessean, https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2023/03/01/tennessee-drag-bill-will-drag-shows-and-performances-be-banned/69949236007/. Accessed 9 Mar. 2023.

Johnson, Jack. AN ACT to Amend Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 7, Chapter 51, Part 14, Relative to Adult-Oriented Performances. SB 0003, https://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bills/113/Bill/SB0003.pdf.

Jr, David L. Hudson. Miller Test. https://www.mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/1585/miller-test. Accessed 9 Mar. 2023.

Lytvynenko, Jane & Silverman, Craig. "The Money Is Rolling In For Liberal Hyperpartisan Sites And It's Tearing Some Of Them Apart." BuzzFeed News, 5 May 2017, https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/janelytvynenko/the-money-is-rolling-in-for-liberal-hyperpartisan-sites-and.

Restrepo, Manuela López. "The Anti-Drag Bills Sweeping the U.S. Are Straight from History's Playbook." NPR, 6 Mar. 2023. NPR, https://www.npr.org/2023/03/06/1161452175/anti-drag-show-bill-tennessee-trans-rights-minor-care-anti-lgbtq-laws.

Izz Scott LaMagdeleine is a fact-checker for Snopes.