The truth behind fiction: Censorship

What would you think if I said that tomorrow you won’t be free to say or do whatever you’d like? I know what you are thinking: censorship is still, to a lesser extent, something ordinary in our world, especially in those countries in which political and social regime or the religious belief represent one of the most important features of the country itself. Believe me or not but in the past things were a little bit worse.

News from the past

Let’s pretend to have a time machine and to go back in time, more specifically in the XV century, period better known as the press century. In that period, thanks to the private companies, books became cheaper due to the use of the first press machines which reduced the production costs and times. Anyone, in this way, could buy a book at a reasonable price, increasing the literacy rate and thereby favouring a better diffusion of the culture.

A book in jailThings changed when in the XVI century Luther’s Reform spread throughout the Europe thanks to the diffusion of the press; that’s how press after years of recognition as one of the most useful and important inventions of all times, suddenly became a dangerous arm to be monitored by political and religious forces. Even if people disagreed with censorship applied by monarchs and religious institutions, we shall wait till the end of the XVIII century to look at something new: after years of cultural imprisonment, in 1760, in one of his famous work, Lettre à un premier commis, the writer and philosopher Voltaire explicitly talks about the importance of press freedom. This work, according to the changes in the cultural landscape, generated a lot of debates about the importance of the freedom of speech and thought; press freedom became, in this way, the medium for educating the population and for letting it gain its own sovereignty.

And now?

Even if from the past things have changed, censorship is still, unfortunately, part of our life. How many times have you heard about a book, a movie or even a cartoon which has been censured, or worse, banned because its contents were too explicit or too dangerous to be widespread? Censorship is not always related to religious belief or political regimes, but often, even in those open-mind and modern countries, censorship is still applied to conceal the truth. Let’s focus on these dangerous weapons and discover why they are so dangerous for nowadays society.

Books:

  1. Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell: Better known for its movie version, this masterpiece follows the life of the spoiled daughter of a southern plantation owner just before and then after the fall of the Confederacy and decline of the South in the aftermath of the Civil War. Even if it has been more and more times praised for its realistic depiction of ante- and postbellum life in the south of America, in the USA it has also been banned for more or less the same reasons.
  2. Harry Potter (series), J.K. Rowling: This series made up of 7 books, is about the magical adventure of a wizard, Harry Potter, who discovers that he is a wizard at the age of 11. Followed by his two friends, Harry discovers the importance of friendship through the magical events which take place in the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry of Hogwarts. This series has been criticized throughout the years for its violence, by several countries and by the Roman catholic church too because of its wizardry and magic content.
  3. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown: This mystery-detective novel follows symbologist Robert Langdon and cryptologist Sophie Neveu after a murder in the Louvre, when they become involved in a battle between the Priory of Sion and Opus Dei over the possibility of Jesus having been a companion to Mary Magdalene. This novel has been banned by the Vatican, India, Lebanon and Manila for its blasphemous material.

Movies:

  1. A Clockwork Orange, Stanley Kubrick: This movie is about the story of the charismatic and antisocial delinquent Alex, whose interests include classic music, rape and violence. After British authorities approved the film for public audiences, Kubrick himself instituted a ban in England in 1973, following various copycat crimes
    Brokeback Mountain
  2. Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee: This film depicts the complex and homosexual relationship between Ennis and Jack in the American West from 1963 to 1983. In Middle Eastern countries, Israel was the only one to show an unedited version. A Utah cinema owner also refused to screen Brokeback. In Italy, the movie has been screened late in the evening avoiding to show the most explicit scenes.
  3. Borat! Cultural Learning of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, Larry Charles: Written, produced and played by the British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, this movie, simply known as Borat, is about a journalist, Borat Sagdiyev, travelling through the USA recording real-life interactions with Americans. Because of its realism, it has been banned in Russia, Kazakhstan and every Arab nation except Lebannon.

Cartoons:

  1. Pokémon, “Electric Soldier Porygon”: This is one of the most famous censorships in Pokémon series. The plot, which involves Ash and his friends going inside a computer to figure out what’s causing the digital Pokémon transfer system to malfunction, was not the reason why this episode has been deleted from the first series. The problem was an effect in the show involving rapidly flashing red and blue light, causing serious eyes injuries to thousands Japanese viewers.
  2. Alice in Wonderland: The Walt Disney company is part of the dark world of censorship too. During the Mad Tea party, in this 1951 famous cartoon, the Mad Hatter tries to repair the White Rabbit’s giant Alice in Wonderlandwatch putting in the cogs butter, tea, mustard and strawberry marmalade. Instead of repairing it, the Mad Hatter drives the watch crazy and at the very end of the scene he is forced to destroy it with a hammer. This scene is in black and white to reduce the violence and avoid kids to mistake marmalade with blood.
  3. Cardcaptor Sakura: This 80s japanese cartoon has been censored in several countries, because of its homosexuality and pedophilia references. Sakura is an 8 year old who discovers a magical book in the library of her house. This book is full of magical cards whose spirits can destroy the whole world. Sakura becomes a cardcaptor to catch all the cards she made fly away when she opened the book. If in Italy the relationship between Sakura’s brother, Toya, with his friend Yukito and love Sakura’s best friend, Tomoyo, feels for her have been censored, in the USA the plot was changed completely, making Lee Xiaoleng, Sakura’s future boyfriend, the main character of the cartoon.

These were just a few examples of how people tried in the past and, stil try today, to hide the truth showing us a reality different from how it has been conceived. In my opinion people should never hide from the truth but, on the contrary, should embrace it discovering and making reality their own. If limiting the violence is a good thing, on the contrary, concealing it or hiding everyday topics should just leave people unaware of it, making them scared of what they could run into one day. Echoing what Socrate said in the past ,“Knowledge is the only good, while ignorance is the only evil”, do you still think censorship is a good thing or would you prefer to escape from the golden cage to enjoy the truth as it really is?

by Alessio Aino

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “The truth behind fiction: Censorship

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s