Censorship, Time And Mediums – A Ramble

2016 Artwork Censorship Formats and time

Although I’m opposed to censorship, it always remains an absolutely fascinating subject to study. After watching several Youtube videos about the history of computer games (and the heavier censorship they often faced in the 1990s), I couldn’t help but be reminded of the fact that newer creative mediums are usually subject to more censorship than older ones.

I mean, up until a couple of decades ago, there was still some degree of formal censorship of comics – most of this was due to the old Comics Code rules in America that affected imported American comics in the UK. But, theoretically, there was (and still is) actually legal comics censorship in the UK, although this is thankfully no longer enforced. Most of the comics censorship in the UK was just second-hand censorship from America.

However, despite not being that more recent or old than comics, the medium of film is still subject to mandatory official censorship in the UK. Likewise, despite radio being older than television, radio stations in the UK still face far more onerous censorship rules than TV stations do.

One interesting fact to note is that, as seen in American TV shows released on DVD and broadcast over here, many American TV stations still face some fairly restrictive – albeit hilariously inconsistent – censorship rules. Nowhere can this be better seen than in shows like “24”, where, after a brutal gun-fight or fist-fight, the characters can use no four-letter words other than “damn” to express their feelings.

Music, thankfully, isn’t really subject to any kind of official censorship in the UK. With the exception of some voluntarily-rated music videos and the American “parental advisory” stickers that still appear on some albums in the UK. Although this is another case of second-hand censorship, these stickers carry no legal weight whatsoever in the UK (just like in the US).

Then again, music has – and still is – sometimes the target for unofficial censorship. This can be seen by British student unions (once bastions of liberalism) banning songs that they disapprove of. Yes, the pop song in question might have some potentially disturbing lyrics (and it isn’t really my kind of music) but it’s a sad state of affairs when even student unions want to censor controversial songs.

However, the only medium which has really escaped any kind of formal censorship by virtue of age is literature. Although there have apparently been a couple of isolated cases where books have been briefly banned in the UK (eg: Peter Wright’s “Spycatcher”), ever since the “Lady Chatterley” trial, those in power have taken a much more mature and sensible view of literature. Banning or restricting books is, quite rightly, considered to be either laughably archaic or a dangerous warning sign of totalitarianism.

It used to be the case that traditional art also escaped censorship by virtue of age – nude photography used to be considered risque or obscene, but nudity in a painting or statue was (and is) a work of art that only an iconoclast or a philistine would dare to censor.

However, thanks to the internet, there have been many cases where well-renowned historic nude paintings have been wrongly censored by social media websites that operate on badly-written, ambiguously-written and/or puritanical content rules. Still, this is often self-correcting for the simple reason that – if it makes the news- the censorship is quickly reversed.

The interesting thing is that, eventually, all of the other mediums I’ve mentioned will become old enough to break free of censorship. There will come a time when the idea that anyone censored or restricted films will be seen as being as laughably abhorrent as book bannings are today. In time, all of these new mediums will be taken seriously enough that they will be seen as a public good. They will be seen, quite rightly, as things that are good for our culture and which should never be restricted in any way.

Then again, in this hypothetical future, there will probably still be regular controversies about virtual reality or implanted memories or whatever the latest new artistic medium happens to be. It’s a strange cyclical thing that people never really seem to learn from.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

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