Censorship- method in madness?

Ok, I’ll try and post something at least every Monday, and if for some reason I don’t have time I have a pretty large backlog of stuff I can pull up. Anyway to the topic at hand- censorship.

For the longest of times censorship has been an annoying and schizophrenic beast, especially in the mediums of film and video games (why are games called “video” games anymore anyway? Do I call a 2008 Toyota a carriage?). Now I think I have some sort of semblance of reason to the way censorship works the way it does, its quite ethereal and even more art-student based but if you don’t want to read it you know what to do- read it, then give me a comment on how bad the concept is.

Ok, first off I want to get a few points clear:

– I don’t agree with the censorship currently in place, and I especially disagree with censorship for anyone over 18, this is just a potential explanation for the system.

– I would be a fool not to appreciate other factors in censorship, such as bribery, politics, ignoring of some scenes for big blockblusters (Dark Knight being a PG in places is absolutely nuts) and public outrage at certain things.

– From what I can see there are few exceptions to this concept I will present.

My argument is this: censorship is based upon a role of cultural expectancy and propensity for the viewer to actually commit the act in the real world with a degree of reprisal or cultural effect (in a sense, how likely the viewer will try what is depicted). I’ll explain by use of example, but what it is NOT is what repercussions it has on society or how dangerous a particular act is.

Ok let’s now break down the types of censorship, and from there we’ll take a look at each in turn. The big ones are: violence, sex (with a sub group of uncommon sex acts), language and drug use/references.


You would agree violence is by far the least censored. Action films are literally centered around the portrayal of illegal acts of violence and this usually includes other illegal acts such as stealing, with violence as a way to steal. Violence in other films is almost guaranteed- I’d be hard pressed to see a film without at least some physicality involved. Lets look at what deters a viewer from committing acts of violence. For one, there are standard and very explicit laws saying that violence will not be tolerated. Culturally speaking, violence is rarely encouraged except in mob like circumstances and perhaps most importantly- it hurts! A typical viewer would not walk around committing acts of violence with a reprisal like that. Violence is viewable, physically enduring and by extension difficult to conceal.


Sex(and uncommon sexual acts)

Sex is strongly censored. Rare is the time you’ll see any sexual interaction with an M, anything meaningful with an MA and its usually delegated to R or in the case of sexually-orientated films, an X (I did see bewbs on a PG film once in the most unsexual based place ever- a really, really cold lake in the middle of the Rocky Mountains). Sex is waaaay more censored than Violence. GTAIII, a game where you can happily blast away police officers was held up in customs because it had a vague suggestion of sex and don’t get me started on the ludicrous uproar over GTA: San Andreas’ “hot coffee” mod. Let’s add my theory to this subject. Sex is by and large, an act between two people behind closed doors, meaning there is a real ability for viewers to be undetected by law or culture. Secondly, unlike violence, there is no inbuilt natural aversion- in fact, so I hear, its quite pleasurable which will incline the viewer to actively search for it. Uncommon sexual acts such as homosexuality, fetishes etc. can be percieved as intriguing to the viewer and are also summarily discouraged. I mean, we live in a world where homosexuality is essentially accepted yet we have great difficulty showing it in film in any appreciable context. One could even argue the celebrated Brokeback Mountain indicated homoeroticism with sadness, aggressiveness in the act itself and a familial breakdown (and the amount of love between the two was so pronounced as to leave the physical act as a bi-product and not the feature). Comparably, heterosexual intercourse in film may be hidden as to not show the viewer what to do, but it can have a non-loving couple in plenty of positions.



Drugs is a huge no-no to censorship for a variety of reasons, but I’ll analyze it for the purposes of my theory. Drugs are concealable, enjoyable and difficult to detect, making them prime candidates for the purposes of a viewer using them. If one considers the drug films on offer, nearly every single film with drugs involved also shows drug users and drugs in a hyper negative spotlight- to discourage the viewer and thus get through censorship a little easier. Even stoner films portray stoners as dumb, incompetant and liable to get involved in close calls and bad situations. Tell me a stoner film where the stoner has consistently excellent stuff happen to them (Bill and Ted DO NOT COUNT). can you think of a PG film with even a marijuana reference in it? I can. Clueless had “loser loadies” whose entire basis in the film was that of being hyperactive idiots which “no self respecting girl would be seen with”. The big issue with drugs of course is that it can at times be culturally positive. It is group-making and social behaviour which makes it even more encouraging to the viewer. I’ll end with the scary thought that Pulp Fiction, if it released today, would be banned (no, really).


Another nuttily censored concept. Words, that’s right, words, have more censorship attached to them then violence. Take Alien versus Predator – one swear word (to having to literally cut out a trademark line) in an M film while gallons of blood and tens of people are dismembered, disembowled and destroyed. Naughty language is socially occasionally desirable but highly inclined to make the viewer attempt it, hence the censorship.

Well there you have it. Another rushed post I admit but I’ll try to improve, maybe I’ll even edit this post later on. Ok see you next time.


~ by freeze43 on September 8, 2008.

One Response to “Censorship- method in madness?”

  1. Hey freeze43 (clap clap). Societies have always had ways of signaling class and status, and in many western societies these involved showing oneself to be sensitive to ‘crudities’ such as recreational drugs, swearing, open sexuality and violence. This is not to say that the upper classes didn’t find their own ways to enjoy these titillations, but that status symbols often consist of behaviors within these categories. Fine wine is consumed by the elite, while weed – often just as expensive – is consumed by the losers. Through moral panics and through competition to appear more sensitive, these symbols work their way into morality and law. Society may have moved far beyond open sexuality being a sign of poor birth, but the legal and cultural hangover remains.

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