By Isaac Mathewson
Most children at some point in their lives have been told that they cannot watch an R-rated movie or read a controversial book because of its risqué material.
These laws, however, apply to more than just children who are too young to understand the material. There are some images that the public refuses to present in fear of offense to others or even physical harm.
In just about every art form, whether it be film, or literature, there are rules to what people can and cannot show. Although it is good that people take note to these images, some have taken these laws too far and many believe that these laws interfere with free speech. I am going to explain the problems of censorship and how it affects our rights as Americans, but mostly in terms of art.
For thousands of years, artists have depicted images that feature adult or inappropriate material. These include depictions of violence, nudity/sexuality, racial slurs, and drug use. These images are often strictly for adults and are not to be seen by children, at least not without adult supervision. In the early days of cinema, the Motion Picture Production Code forbade gratuitous violence, language, and nudity in film with few exceptions. In 1967, with the release of Bonnie and Clyde and the beginning of the “New Hollywood” era, the Motion Picture Association of America created the ratings system that rates a film’s suitability for audiences.
Many films, books and other art forms have been banned from the public for numerous reasons. In 1915, D.W. Griffith’s controversial film The Birth of a Nation was banned from many theaters and to this day many cities in the United States continue to ban the film from release. The same can be said for J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, which was banned from many schools for a time.
While the latter was banned mostly due to adult themes and language, The Birth of a Nation was banned because it apparently glorified the Ku Klux Klan. Whether that is true or not, it does not seem fair to ban such a film simply because the director is displaying his beliefs. It is also unfair to ban a book or any other art form simply because it has adult themes.
This brings me to my next point. There are many groups of activists that want art to be family oriented and nothing more. The most famous of these groups is the Parent Television Council, a Christian, conservative activist group whose goal is to ban everything on T.V. that is “harmful” to children. Many big-named adult sitcom writers such as Seth Macfarlane, Trey Parker, and Matt Stone have been the targets of the PTC. Macfarlane once stated that the PTC is like Hitler and are only doing this to spread their religious beliefs.
Religion is another major issue when it comes to censorship. Whenever a T.V. show such as South Park or Family Guy satirizes a religion, it is almost always the target of controversy. Perhaps the most controversial subject of them all when it comes to censorship and religion is the portrayal of Muhammad, the prophet of the Islamic faith. Muslim extremists will not allow anyone to feature Muhammad in any art form and death threaten anyone who does. What is interesting is that the South Park episode “Super Best Friends” featured Muhammad but did not receive very much controversy, but when the episodes “200” and “201” were released, there was an uproar from Muslim extremists that resulted in the episodes being pulled off the air for good.
The main point that I am trying to make is that censorship is overdone and activists are hypocrites and they interfere with free speech. Parents like to think about their children and what they watch mostly because they believe that it is their main source of education and communication. They believe that T.V. shows like Family Guy are giving them the wrong ideas about society and that they “rot their brain.” The truth is very few children ever do anything wrong because they saw it on T.V. and if they did, they probably were crazy to begin with.
It is good that we take censorship seriously and that we take responsibility of what our children watch. Nevertheless, there are still activists who take it too far and they hide their kids from the truth about adult material without explanation besides the fact that it is “bad.” If we do not tell our children the truth, they will never understand the world and they will never respect art. So I say this to all parents; if your child ever asks questions about violence or nudity in art or even real life, please tell them the truth, they are just curious.