Embracing Censorship?

24 Sep

If you follow me at all on FB, you’ve probably noticed that I’m a proponent of freedom of speech. I’ll spare you the rant, in essence I shouldn’t be able to force you to listen and you have the right to self-censor (you don’t like this, you either bleep out what you don’t like or read something else). You may say to yourself: Hey, the world’s a rough place and I believe in being real and honest and…

…and I agree, but there’s times when I don’t know if something is okay for a kid, so I’ll watch it before I show it to them. There’s a time and place for expectations of rough and vulgar. Sometimes I want the brutality of Spartacus: Blood and Sand or Game of Thrones; other times Narnia is in order.

As for my work, I think no one is buying a porno for the plot so changing the odd curse word might sound funny, but it’s really not changing the content of the story wholesale. But just because I’m okay with it, doesn’t mean it would sit well with others. It’s something I can respect, as I think ultimately that the author has to feel comfortable that those are indeed their words.

I was chatting with several other authors about the Clean App controversy from a few years ago, and got their opinions. In a nutshell, instead of F—, the app would change it to “curse” or “fudge” or whatever. The two I spoke with yesterday said they weren’t 100% okay with it, even though they would consider some changes if they were okay’d ahead of time. I thought of Beatrice Mosionier’s April Raintree vs In Search of April Raintree.  I read the former in High School, the latter in University. The subject matter dealt with Aboriginal sisters abused in the Manitoba Foster system as they dealt with a legacy of alcoholism. It’s been a few years since I’ve read either title, the main toning down was a rape scene, although there were some other changes (references to genitals, etc.) I’m not sure if the author was upset with the changes or not, but at the time I understood why. We could still discuss the subject matter, and for a more mature audience, they could handle some of the things a 15 shouldn’t necessarily know about.

One of the issues I find is that when I’m writing drafts, I go into more depth and I end up scaling it back. I’m not trying to belittle violence, I’m trying to not write torture-porn. It’s important for me to understand what’s going on. And then, depending on the tone of the novel or even that scene, I’ll typically try to make it more consistent with the work as a whole. The question ultimately becomes: Is it too much, or not enough? My issue is being true to the matter without trying to sensationalize it.

A film that deals with the fine balancing act that I thought handled it very well was Paul: Apostle of Christ.

Say what you want about Affirm Films, but in general Christian Audiences are the ones who are for modesty and clean language. How then do you tell a story about martyrdom? You don’t want to gloss over it. I skipped ahead to the two minute mark. Luke keeps walking and you’ll see Roman Candles.

The film showcases the horror of not only is happening in current day, but what happened prior to Paul’s imprisonment. He persecuted and had many followers of Jesus executed. While the story focuses on letting go of personal pain and revenge, it doesn’t shy away from the reality: People were killed, some in horrific ways. The tone sets us up so we don’t focus on people lingering in anguish for long. There’s mockery while the centurions are dousing people in oil. Shots pan away as weapons are raised and sound is used, and blood is used sparingly.  Because it’s used at crucial times, every time there’s a death scene, even if we don’t see it, the tone suggests we know the gravity of what just occurred.

Am I saying I’m loaning this film to my grandparents? Probably not; unless they ask. But does it handle the subject matter to impress both someone who wants the historical accuracy as well as catering to an audience who tends to be stereotyped into wholesomeness? I say it’s creative and honest, so we’re not glossing over what it is people who have been killed for their faith have gone through.

I’ll chat more about this film in my next blog post. What are your thoughts of censorship? Not from a government-ordained, “you ain’t allowed to say that” but in terms of marketing to your audience.

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