Apparently it was OK for Fantasia's harpies to swoop into your face topless, and for various she-centaurs and fairies to have exposed boobs (sans nipples and mostly covered up afterward with halter tops, but yeah), and for baby cherubs to fly around bare-assed. What was up? Wasn't this the Hays Code era of draconian film censorship?
Well, here's the list of things prohibited by the Hays Code:
- Pointed profanity – by either title or lip – this includes the words "God," "Lord," "Jesus," "Christ" (unless they be used reverently in connection with proper religious ceremonies), "hell," "damn," "Gawd," and every other profane and vulgar expression however it may be spelled;
- Any licentious or suggestive nudity-in fact or in silhouette; and any lecherous or licentious notice thereof by other characters in the picture;
- The illegal traffic in drugs;
- Any inference of sex perversion;
- White slavery;
- Miscegenation (sex relationships between the white and black races);
- Sex hygiene and venereal diseases;
- Scenes of actual childbirth – in fact or in silhouette;
- Children's sex organs;
- Ridicule of the clergy;
- Willful offense to any nation, race or creed
Absurdities aside, what's remarkable is how hedged around with qualifiers the nudity language is. It almost seems like it's making room for artistic, innocent, and high-minded nudity; making room for children's butts, as long as they don't turn around.
And indeed, censorship has for a long time tussled with the artistic exception - Christian body shame against Renaissance glorification of the nude, played out in a myriad different arenas from the Sistine Chapel's "breeches makers," to Comstock's crusade against the New York Artistic League, to the final bursting of the dam in the 1960s. As much as prudes read salacious interest into high art, high art was itself used as a stalking-horse for titillation; like the high-minded, body-stockinged "tableaux" deployed for the entertainment of gentlemen in the music-hall era.
It's against this backdrop, still within living memory in the 1970's, that we have to consider the much-commented nudity in early gaming materials. Like this harpy: