And it’s rated “12A” in the UK for ‘bleeped strong language’. Thank heavens that these idiots only censor films….
Although this is an article about writing and art, I’m going to have to start by rambling about film censorship for quite a bit – for the simple reason that this is probably one of the most prominent and well-documented types of censorship in the world. So, there are a lot more examples to draw on. Plus, I’m something of a film censorship geek too.
Anyway, a few weeks ago, I was kind of bored and I ended up reading lots of online articles about the bizarre world of American film censorship.
Apparently, in America, most major studios aim to produce as many films as possible that have a “PG-13” certificate, since these films make the most money.
This isn’t really too surprising and the same thing happens in the UK, to a lesser degree, with “12A”-rated films. This can sometimes lead to more violent American “PG-13” films (like “The Hunger Games”) being censored here in order to get a “12A” cinema rating.
Anyway, the reason why I’m talking about this stuff is because – according to everything that I’ve read online (and from some of the modern American movies that I’ve seen) – the “PG-13” rating in America is absolutely ruining the quality of film-making over there.
Why? Because, in order for a film to get this rating- it has to be at least slightly unrealistic.
When I say “unrealistic”, I’m not talking about whether a film is set somewhere interestingly imaginative or whether it’s set in the drearily dull real world (that we watch movies and TV shows to escape from), I’m talking about how reality itself is depicted.
Only a bizarrely distorted version of reality is allowed to be shown in popular American “PG-13” films.
Allow me to explain. American “PG-13” films can be as violent as they want to be – as long as the violence is eerily bloodless and slightly cool-looking.
American “PG-13” films can’t show naked people, despite the fact that we all see ourselves naked whenever we take a shower (and it really shouldn’t be anything shocking).
American “PG-13” films can only usually show straight people falling in love with each other, which is also blatantly unrealistic (as millions of couples across the world [and *gasp* in America too] can attest).
Most amusingly of all, anyone saying the word “f**k” is always an outstandingly melodramatic moment in American “PG-13” films, because film-makers are only usually allowed to use the word once in the entire film. So, it’s almost always used for childish shock value rather than (more realistically) as an ordinary part of modern informal speech.
So, yes, American film censorship creates a bizarrely unrealistic portrayal of reality – where nobody has any blood, no-one is ever naked, only straight people exist and everyone is surprisingly polite almost all of the time.
Although I’ve singled out the American film censors, I’d argue that all forms of censorship do this to some level or another.
Censorship is, at it’s core, an attempt by those in authority to control reality itself. To control which aspects of reality creative people can show in their works and what reality itself looks like in the public imagination.
Censorship tries to subtly define which aspects of reality “should” and “shouldn’t” be thought about, or even how certain aspects of reality “should” be thought about. Yes, it’s a form of thought control. Thankfully, it’s a fairly ineffective one these days, but it’s still thought control nonetheless.
Now, you might argue that this should be great for people’s imaginations. After all, if people can’t just lazily look at things that the censors dislike, then they’ll have to imagine them for themselves. And, although there is some merit to this argument – I’d argue that censorship is still bad for our imaginations.
Why? Because our imaginations don’t exist in a vacuum. Because the things that we watch, the things that we read and the games that we play all add something to our imaginations. They subtly shape the kinds of stories that we tell and the kind of art that we make.
If you don’t believe me, then take a look at something you’ve made and ask yourself if it was inspired by anything else in any way. I can almost guarantee that the answer to that question will be “yes”.
The inspiration may have been subtle or it might have even been negative (eg: trying to make sure that your vampire romance story is nothing like “Twilight”) etc…, but it will be there.
When you think about it this way, censorship is terrible for our imaginations because it limits what we can be inspired by and it limits what we think is “appropriate” to tell stories about and make art about.
It limits how realistic or unrealistic our imaginations can be, it limits the emotions that we can evoke in our audiences and it limits the kind of characters we can create.
So, yes, censorship is the enemy of imagination.
Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂