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Censorship of art and film has been a rather controversial and debated issue in these past years and is yet to be resolved. While there are certain laws in different countries that permit artists to express themselves freely, there are many who still oppose these laws and feel the need for restrictions to be imposed, as the content created may not be appropriate to society. Yet, the question remains who is to decide what is what is acceptable and appropriate to society? This then brings me on to the main topic, ‘Should there be censorship on arts and film?’
This presentation is based on the issue of freedom in the expression of art and film that has been discussed in Document 8 regarding Art History and Film.
This research attempts to evaluate whether there should censorship in the expression of arts to avoid misdirection in society. In the modern world with strict censorship in film, directors cannot fully express their vision of an adaptation. At the same time there are false interpretations and portrayals of history in film leading to misconceptions in history, especially in the eyes of the youth. Many may not see in unison with censoring art and film, especially those who believe in freedom of expression. This presentation also focuses on evaluating the reasons for and against censorship on art and film and also to provide its global impact.
Before moving ahead I would like to define some key words to ensure clarity throughout the presentation.
Freedom of expression:
Freedom to communicate ideas without restraint, whether orally or in print or by other means of communication.
“Supervision and control of the information and ideas that are circulated among the people within a society. In modern times, censorship refers to the examination of books, periodicals, plays, films, television and radio programs, news reports, and other communication media for the purpose of altering or suppressing parts thought to be objectionable or offensive.”
Â The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.
In this slide I will use the USA as an example to discuss the types of censorship.
This form of censorship is whereÂ regulatoryÂ bodiesÂ monitor obscene wordsÂ and pictures on the Internet and public domains. ThisÂ typeÂ of censorship tries to draw levelness between free speech and the right to privacy. In the USA, regulatory bodies such as the Federal Communication Commission scan airwaves forÂ obsceneÂ content.
This type of censorship is when a community agrees on rules regarding theÂ acceptability and decency of content. Censorship is applied when a group imposesÂ disapproval, isolation and banishment from the community.
‘Speak Your Mind, but Pay the Price’
Â This is a form of censorship in the USA This is when you ‘pay the price’ when speaking your mind at the wrong place. For example,Â expressingÂ thoughtÂ about a court judge when in court.
Motion Picture Rating System:
This type of censorship is for movies, and restricts the audiences for films in accordance with the content of the film such as violence, mature content and profanity.
Censorship aroundÂ the World analysis:
This slide shows levels of censorshipÂ around the world. In this map, it is evident that China and the Middle East have pervasive censorship, in other words, extensive and extreme censorship. This is due to strict government regimes. North and South America have almost no censorship and this is due to the democratic ideology.Â
It is often argued that censorship is necessary in today’s world not only because of our influential youth but also, as various art forms become increasingly popular, people are subject to their meanings and this could be potentially harmful. Firstly, it can be stated that censorship allows the preservation of the moral values of a nation or society.
Art forms, which go against the values held by society, can result in heated arguments and very controversial protests. For example, the caricature of Prophet Mohammad by a Danish cartoonist caused massive uproars amongst Islamic groups worldwide resulting in an approximate of 100 deaths. Censorship would have resulted in this piece of art not to be released thus not causing destruction. Sometimes, censoring of art is required for the betterment of the parties involves. In the case of Arundhathi Roy a Booker Prize-winning Indian novelist, her portrayals of the Indian Government as being anti-people and ‘containing the potential to influence the youth’ has led the Indian government to take action. Thus literary works such as this can potentially destabilize a country causing havoc and controversy. The censoring of arts can also be approached from a psychological point of view. Plato, the writer of The Republic states that arts, specifically painting and poetry, should be censored the reason being that these are imitations and pertains to the truth. Due to this being a representation of the truth it appeals to the irrational part of our brain. Therefore art can corrupt character by influencing undesirable emotions and should indeed be censored.
As time progresses, films are becoming more realistic and this can allow for mis-interpretation of film; making them more influential to the public. Films have the ability to cause controversy and chaos, therefore censoring films can avoid this to a certain extent. Â The Roman Catholic Church criticized the movie, ‘The Da Vinci Code’ and several bishops asked members to boycott the film. When it comes down to religion, censorship can help to a great extent to avoid conflict such as in this case, where there were massive protestsÂ againstÂ the writer of the script and book, Dan Brown. SometimesÂ some government intervention is also needed in the film industry. As stated in Document 8, the movie Mangal Pandey exhibited a false rewrite of history, and this could be potentially dangerous as could scholarsÂ misconceiveÂ this directors interpretation of the events in contrast to the actualÂ occurrences.Â GovernmentÂ intervention or and sort of credible censoring is needed to check the historical accuracy of films and to draw the fine line between truth and entertainment.Â
The first amendment protects the rights of freedom of expression from any government intervention. Hence it can be inferred that the First Amendment shouldÂ protect the creative process of an artist and the works produced as art is assumed to be a form of freedom of expression. Censorship would violate this human right and may prove unlawful. Also, artists describe censorship are a ‘strangling’ to creativity. With a vice-like grip, censorship forbids artists from fully expressing their creativity and ideas and can be considered to be an injustice. According to basic human standards, everyone has the right to know. Yet, censorship can prevent this dis-allowing people from gaining access to knowledge that should not really be restricted or kept hidden. Censorship assumes that the audience of this material is ‘immature’ or incapable of understanding the full extent of the censored material. This does not necessarily respect us and asserts that we are not capable of mature responses to the censored material. Censorship allows ‘good’ art and suppresses ‘bad’ art. Who can really define what is good and bad art as art can mean different things to different people. As U.S. Supreme Court Justice John M. Harlan II quotes “One man’s vulgarity is another man’s lyric.” Censorship can be viewed from an economic angle as well. When films are censored, this limits the audience to the film, therefore restricting the revenue made from the production of the film. If censoring were to be banned, more revenue would be returned to the government as tax, in turn helping the people of the country, considering the filming industry is huge and the revenue earned is immense. This would also allow people to choose what they want to view using their value judgments, resulting in more independence of choice. When films released in theatres are censored, it encourages piracy, as people would want to know what has been censored, resulting in an increase in piracy. Also underage viewers are encouraged to illegally obtain these films through the Internet as ‘what is banned is desired’.
In China, there is no film rating system as in the UK or the USA. For films to go into production, they must be deemed suitable for all audiences. According to award winningÂ Chinese director Xie Fei, he claims that censorship is killingÂ artistÂ expression in China. Also many Western films are cut in order to be appropriate for audiences compromising the quality of the film. There is also a quota on the number of foreign films that can be displayed in China. Yet after 30 years of reforms in China after Communism, censorship is the least changed facet of the State’s rule. As a result artists and writers are forced to navigate the allowances of the party and their freedom of expression.Â Â
Books too art considered to be a form of art. This map shows the number of book banned in curricula, school libraries and public libraries in the USA from the period of December 2006 to May 2009. A total of 250 books were censored or banned in this two and a half year period because they were deemed unsuitable for students. From this, it is evident that censorship is increasing at a rapid rate, in the USA, a country that is very liberal in terms of censorship.
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