Censorship and Prudishness, Part 2: When the Pendulum Swings the Other Way

30 Jan

Ever unintentionally teach a kid something and you didn’t pull the parallels together until they point-blank told you? Kids – especially tiny ones – don’t like being seen as little, but being seen as big. They want to do things they associate with kids and adults they admire.

One thing that stands out for me was my nephew Donny and apples. I could tell you stories about that kid, but if you know me I like my fruit, and apples are available year round so it’s an easy snack. But when he was little, I’d cut up an apple for him, and probably munch on a whole one myself, unless I was having it with some almond butter or cheese, or needed to share.

I don’t remember his age. The kid’s walking, talking, and probably barely potty trained, and he wants an apple. I wash it and go to cut it. “NOOOO!” “What’s your problem?” “I’m not a baby! Gimme the whole thing!” Me on the other hand, has just started an EMS career, and small kid choking calls are some of the scariest ones. You watch a kid you know like a hawk after you help a child in distress. I give him the apple, and… keep an eye on him. He’s never choked on my watch and, let’s say the days of him asking me for apples are over.

The days of me questioning whether or not he’s old enough for this and that ain’t.

I can’t protect kids from the world forever. I’m a believer of, age appropriate, pushing a kid into a pool and making sure they can bob to the surface, and I’m a huge proponent of letting minors drink in safe places so they aren’t getting pass-out drunk among predatory strangers and acquaintances.

I think it’s dangerous to keep people from the world, because it seems exotic and exciting, and really, do I want them to start hiding the fact that they’re accessing certain media from me? I’d rather they ask questions and I try to answer. Can’t say I know everything, or am even remotely aware in what happens in their tv shows, but I have to be logically consistent if I oppose something they’re watching.

The statistic that scares me is that porn use usually starts by the age of ten and, what popular media shows to get those hits.

One answer to not worrying about what songs and movies are going to offend is by going to religious or cultural stations or media providers. I have a Pureflix account, and I like to watch historical movies, especially ones based on real events because they help me think through how they adapted a narrative for the screen. The biblical film Esther was obviously shot on a budget, making the mighty Persian Empire seem like a tiny little place and, while obviously toning things down, it also catered to the audience, to the point in my opinion of hurting the film.

In accordance to the biblical narrative, Xerxes exiled his wife because she wouldn’t obey his command and dance before his guests at a gigantic feast. There’s some argument as to whether or not Vashdi had leprosy or was repulsed at being treated like a dancing girl, but basically it was a pretense of ‘if the queen can defy her king, all women will act the same in their own homes’ and Xerxes first order of business was replacing her. In choosing a new queen, he ordered the maidens from his empire brought to his palace, they went through an extensive beautification ritual, and once this was done they were called, one by one, to please the king for an evening. She could potentially get called again, but most women had one night to impress the king and, given the prize is a crown, I’m guessing the king wasn’t challenging them to a game of chess.

In this adaptation of the story, it’s implied that Queen Vashti disobeyed the order because of her arrogance and haughtiness, a reiteration of the theme that good people need to be humble and obey not only the Laws of God, but also the laws of the land. A more limited number of candidates were brought before the king, and he selected two to be put aside, Esther and the main villain’s daughter, and Xerxes overheard the pair talking and made the selection of Esther based on her character, although he was clearly smitten with her even while he was still married to Vashti.

They then had their first conversation of betrotheds in private where he asked her to be obedient and she asked him to be faithful. Xerxes suggested they could skip right to their honeymoon, and Esther puts him off, saying she’s all his once they’re legally wed. Reiteration of theme: Obedience to your morals before even the King himself, even if it costs you dearly, plus the folks with pureflix accounts are probably more comfortable with Esther ‘saving herself for marriage’ as opposed to the much more likely scenario. To me, this almost works against theme, because Xerxes explicitly stated he wanted was obedience in his bride, and she sort of words it that she is being obedient to their laws of marriage, ergo something higher than him. Pretty sure Xerxes didn’t have her worldview, but it’s a pureflix movie: try not to think about it too much.

Clearly, weddings were a little different back in the day. Heck, watch Last Kingdom in season one, and Uhtred doesn’t even get to see the face of the woman he’s agreed to marry until after the ceremony, and while I’ve only seen season one, there’s a show that doesn’t mind showing sex and violence.

I get it when you’re adapting a story, and you don’t necessarily want to get down to the gross. Having highland adventures with your 13th century kilted fantasy hero sounds a lot better when you assume he’s got full access to modern plumbing and dentistry.

Back to my dad, he would always put a damper on the ‘adventure’ when I was writing my silly shorts and he tried to explain the messiness of war, the realities of being on the road on a quest, etc. It’s a bit of a downer, and as a kid, you want the Narnia or Star Wars version of events: Idealistic, like a version of your imagination you know can’t exist but would visit in a heartbeat. Maybe that’s why so many people were repulsed by The Last Jedi, with it’s Roshoman and ‘Don’t meet your Heroes’ tone. We want our mythos to go a certain way, and I’m not the only one who thinks Star Wars has filled a void left by religion, at least on a cultural level.

When you’re entering into adolescence, I think it’s normal to starting to distance yourself from your childish stories, you start to see idealistic stories as dumb. You think you’re a grown up because you think you see the world for what it is: you want the gritty; you want the whole apple as opposed to someone cutting it into just the good parts. You think you’re a real adult because the movie’s in the adult section.

I think back to this quote by C.S. Lewis:



When you really grow up, you see the meaning behind the story. Not in a Book Report Theme, what it means on a visceral level. You realize it’s not about how hard core you are – that you can do more push ups than the guy beside you, but the moral code and character of the story, the world view it espouses. We’re a story telling species, and we need – not want, need – stories to fulfill truth. In our post modern world view, that can be a scary place with multiple truths, but I’m reminded of the moral argument; those who espouse beyond good and evil need only have injustice brought upon them for them to quickly reneg on the subjective morality world view. But I’m getting off topic.

Ultimately, censorship’s not about the nudity per say, but: how is it presented? Django Unchained showed attractive people with fan disservice – in other words, made you repulsed to see attractive people being mistreated, and you’re repulsed. I can take the beautiful and make it grotesque, but that’s another topic for another day.

And to repeat what I said in Part One: I don’t think the answer is cutting ourselves off from media, but talking about it critically, and voting with our wallets where moral lines have been crossed. I think too often we become complacent and consumers in media. Blogging, reviewing, writing our own stories in response to that which comes before us, is healthy. Maybe I’m wrong and it’s shouting into a storm but, fanfiction and fanworks have their place in the science fiction and fantasy community. We don’t have to agree, but we do need to have conversations that might make us reflect not only on what we say, but how what we said is seen and interpreted.

We’re a story telling species. My words might be written down and published, but if there’s something that reflects any higher, people will reiterate elements at the pub, around the campfire, when they create new media and, if they’ve any sense, will tell the story appropriately for their audience.


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