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There Are Alternatives to Censorship

26 Apr, 2005 By: Jessica Wolf

I grew up in a fairly conservative household, especially when it came to entertainment programming, the rules primarily handed down by my staunchly conservative censor mother.

Among the verboten TV shows were “Three's Company” (too much sex), “Golden Girls” (too much sex), any and all soap operas (too much sex), “Married With Children” (too crude, disrespectful and too much sex). By the time she tried to pull her censorship routine with “The Simpsons,” my dad already loved the show, and we were a little bit older so we pretty much told her to cram it.

The same practice held for movies. We would get the drill when we told our parents we were going to a movie: “What's it rated?” followed often by a “Nope, you're not, sorry.”

Still, before I had even hit junior high school, I had seen, with full parental approval, Clash of the Titans, Roman Polanski's quite gory Macbeth and The Exorcist. Guess my parents were more worried about sensual body parts than severed ones.

My point is, my parents knew what they did and did not want their kids exposed to and took great pains to see that we were not, until we were old enough to be basically uncontrollable in that respect.

They wouldn't have worried about cutting out the “sex part” of Titanic, instead they probably would have vetoed the movie as accepted viewing wholesale, or watched it with us and given us a long lecture afterward (another favorite tactic).

My parents educated themselves as to which movies they felt deserved such wholesale censorship or spin control.

More importantly, they did not need or seek out Congressional backup for their choices.

What happened to this mentality? I have much less of a problem with this than with The Family Entertainment and Copyright Act that passed recently, allowing companies like ClearPlay to tamper with intellectual property that is not their own.

A disappointed caller on a radio show last week called it “baby proofing the world,” and I have to agree.

Not only is that philosophy impossibly unrealistic, it's also not the government or even a private corporation's job as far as I'm concerned. If you are going to go through the trouble to get pregnant and birth children, see the process through, for Pete's sake. Don't try to influence my sensibilities while you're at it, or the sensibilities of the creative community at large.

And, if you, perchance, are an adult who doesn't want to see or hear certain things in films — here's a novel idea: Don't buy it, don't rent it, don't pick up the box and look at it, if it's on TV change the flipping channel. Not too difficult if you ask me.

I do it. I didn't avoid The Passion of the Christ because I'm not a Christian. I didn't see it because I am not interested in watching a human get the crap beat out of him to that extent and for that long.

I also do not watch gory, scary movies (anymore). I do not like the visual images that stay with me. I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything, and I certainly don't consider a ClearPlay-edited version of The Amityville Horror a necessary alternative. I'll just live without it, thanks.

I also have another theory, one that at least held true during my childhood. The more taboo you make something as a parent, the more enticing it seems to the kid.

Now, any normal kid watching a ClearPlay edited movie, in my mind, is going to be more interested, more titillated by those “left-out” bits than they would be had they never seen the movie at all, even if they simply hear about it from their friends. And make no mistake, as much as you try to guard your children from anything, they are very likely to hear about it anyway from other kids whose parents aren't quite as uptight (I mean vigilant).

Maybe companies like ClearPlay have a right to be in business, maybe they have a moral point. They certainly have a consumer base. I personally believe it is infringement, and that there are better ways to “protect” children or sensitive adults.

Find alternatives. For every “questionable” movie out there, there has to be a viable, acceptable entertainment alternative for you and your family.

Here's an even better thought, shut the damn TV off and shove a book in your kids' hands.

My parents did that, too, and it's the one thing for which I will always thank them.

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