Archive for December, 2012

On Censorship

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

We began watching Homeland the other day, and I’ll admit that I had a really bad reaction to one aspect of it. I have a really hard time watching movies about people with mood disorders, it makes me feel so profoundly sad and horrible. In the pilot when Claire Danes went ripping through her closet trying on different shirts, I found myself falling down a hole in the middle of my own chest and I began to feel like I’d rather be doing anything than watching this show.

Which led me to a second feeling that I get quite often – when writers use shortcuts to add depth or pathos to a character and, in doing so, hurt me specifically. Because of the life I’ve led, when I watch abandoned children, or a person with a severe mood disorder or drug addiction, I immediately start questioning *the writer’s* motives. Couldn’t really figure out how to give this guy depth, right? So you gave him a dead son, and you think that’s *okay*, don’t you? It’s okay for you to kick me in the ribs because you aren’t willing to do any *work*, right?

Except, of course, that I am totally and without a doubt WRONG about all of this.

I’m particularly sensitive to some of these things, but I’m in a very, very small minority. It isn’t offensive to talk about mood disorders… in fact it’s probably *helpful* for TV shows to fetishize them. And more than likely, people who write about kids, have kids of their own. They’re just exploring the worst situations they can imagine… or they’re talking about something that actually happened to them and by talking about it, they’re healing.

But I can still hate it. Sure! I will hate it on my own, and when I bitch about it, most people will just shrug and say, “yeah, I get that you hate it, but it doesn’t bother me.” Bitching about it, from my end, doesn’t mean I’m trying to *censor* anyone, it just means that these situations where I’m uncomfortable will lead you to losing my viewership. One asshole in a sea of assholes doesn’t like what you’re doing, while countless millions believe you’re making the best show on TV, I don’t expect my opinion to matter much.

The same is true if you make a rape joke. The only difference is the numbers. I don’t find rape jokes funny, just as a regular reaction, so if you make light of rape you’ll lose my viewership. Me and countless millions of other people who don’t think it’s funny. And if countless millions think you’re not funny, then several thousand will probably say something, and you’ll feel pretty frustrated. You thought it was funny, and we’ve all laughed at a lot of your *other* jokes, and you’ll think it’s unfair.

All of this is fine, but none of this is *censorship*.

We live in a world now where advocacy is a lot easier than it has been in the past. I don’t pretend that this blog is read by a lot of people (quite frankly, when I write it, I *pretend* that it’s read by my kids when they’re in their twenties) but it’s really easy for me to hold forth on things I think are important in long-form monologue, not unlike everyone with their own twitter handle or Times Op-Ed. We stand up for one another better now than we have in the past, so it’s much harder to be an insulated blowhard making not funny jokes about your own privilege.

“Wait, I stopped saying ‘nigger’, and then you took ‘faggot’ away from me, and then I couldn’t even say ‘gay’, and now you’re saying I can’t say ‘retard’? But OF COURSE, you can say ‘Jesus Christ’ as much as you want…”

No, actually, you can say all those words as much as you want. Look, right there, see that? I just wrote all those words in my blog. And I don’t say ‘Jesus Christ’ in front of most people. Just my wife. And my kids…

Nobody is *silencing* you and there’s no police, it’s just the invisible hand of cultural movement. The world has been run by one kind of person for thousands of years, and that has led to people in that group assuming that the concerns of any disenfranchised group can be mocked. What the disenfranchised groups, and those who believe the old system is inequitable and bound to fail, are saying is, “you will lose our viewership if you speak like this. You won’t get our attention, your employers won’t get our money and you will get no traction in the ongoing cultural discussion.”

For the record – “censorship” is when a governmental body restricts what you are allowed to say, and in America our governing body is comprised of people we elected and the restrictions put on, say, prime time television reflect a majority of what the American people want. If you think that sexual penetration should be show on prime time TV, you’re allowed to express that view but you’ll be sitting in the cheap seats with me, complaining about the use of mood disorders as a crutch.

*One last word on censorship – When I was a kid and started developing a foul mouth, my mom (no slouch in the foul mouth territory herself) explained it to me this way – If you find yourself using words that make the people around you uncomfortable, it’s an indication that you are either too lazy or too stupid to come up with a more interesting way of saying what you want to say. Point being, I don’t care what your definition of “gay” or “retarded” is, once these words have been put in the box of “words that make people miserable” then you’re gonna have to do a little bit more work, or be a little bit smarter, if you want to be understood.