Friday 29 October 2010

Censorship: Kill me but no sex please

In 1972 an American comedian by the name of George Carlin released a landmark album called Class Clown. On this album was the earth-shattering track Seven Words You Can't Say on Television. In this monologue, Mr. Carlin spoke of how these words were curiously deemed unfit for human consumption and explored just why our censors felt compelled to protect us from their evil influence.

During this "bit", Carlin touched on how society and our censorship looks unkindly at things sexual but seems to have no problem with violence.

I think the word F**k is a very important word. It is the beginning of life, yet it is a word we use to hurt one another quite often. People much wiser than I am said, "I'd rather have my son watch a film with 2 people making love than 2 people trying to kill one another. I, of course, can agree. It is a great sentence. I wish I knew who said it first. I agree with that but I like to take it a step further. I'd like to substitute the word F**k for the word Kill in all of those movie clich├ęs we grew up with. [Carlin speaks in a low menacing voice like the bad guy talking to the good guy] "Okay, Sheriff, we're gonna F**k you now, but we're gonna F**k you slow."

Of course the audience breaks out in riotous laughter at this absurd juxtaposition of the profane with the pedestrian. Nevertheless, after the laughter has died down, after we've all gone home, when we do have a quiet moment to reflect, can we think about just why in our society we permit television shows which involve violence between human beings but severely limit anything relating to sex?

I'm sure if I asked this question anyone would immediately respond with a resounding, "It's sex!" as if somehow the issue of sex itself would innately explain to the most blind or stupid of us the absurdity of the question and the obviousness of sex having to be struck from the public airwaves.

But why? Carlin has hit upon something in his routine; quite comically of course but he has hit upon something. In regards to our censorship, the bad guy is deemed to be doing something worse if he f**ks the good guy but we seem to have no objection if the bad guy kills the good guy. In one of his live takes, Carlin mentions the expression "Make love, not war" and how this seems preferable and then adds his variation on the expression with "make f**k, not kill". Carlin does recognize, of course, that we ourselves have imbued these words with a great deal of hostility so the use of the word and its subsequent censuring is not just strictly due to its sexual nature but to also its allusion to violence.

Sex vs. Violence
Norman Herr, Professor of Science Education at the California State University states using data from A. C. Neilson:

The average child will watch 8,000 murders on TV before finishing elementary school. By age eighteen, the average American has seen 200,000 acts of violence on TV, including 40,000 murders.

Excuse me? The censor can tell me that seeing 2 people making love is immoral and will corrupt us, will corrupt a child but the violence is acceptable? Ah come on, something is just not right here.

Exposure to TV violence leads violent tendencies later in life
The briefest of searches on the Internet leads to scores of sources which all support this claim. The American Medical Association and the Surgeon General are but two.

The American Medical Association talks of the study Early Exposure to TV Violence Predicts Aggression in Adulthood (2003) the results of which showed that early childhood exposure to TV violence predicted aggressive behavior for both males and females in adulthood. Additionally, identification with same sex aggressive TV characters, as well as participants’ ratings of perceived realism of TV violence, also predicted adult aggression in both males and females.

The Surgeon General in discussing risk factors for youth violence, details study data in Media Violence: Exposure and Content.

Several content analyses over the last 30 years have systematically examined violence on television. The largest and most recent of these was the National Television Violence Survey (NTVS), which examined the amount and content of violence2 on American television for three consecutive years, as well as contextual variables that may make it more likely for aggression and violence to be accepted, learned, and imitated. Smith and Donnerstein (1998) report the following NTVS findings:
  • 61 percent of television programs contain some violence, and only 4 percent of television programs with violent content feature an "antiviolence" theme.
  • 44 percent of the violent interactions on television involve perpetrators who have some attractive qualities worthy of emulation.
  • 43 percent of violent scenes involve humor either directed at the violence or used by characters involved with violence.
  • Nearly 75 percent of violent scenes on television feature no immediate punishment for or condemnation of violence.
  • 40 percent of programs feature "bad" characters who are never or rarely punished for their aggressive actions.
The NTVS report notes that many television programs fail to depict the harmful consequences of violence. Specifically, it finds that of all violent behavioral interactions on television, 58 percent depict no pain, 47 percent depict no harm, and 40 percent depict harm unrealistically. Of all violent scenes on television, 86 percent feature no blood or gore. Only 16 percent of violent programs feature the long-term, realistic consequences of violence.

This page cites various studies which conclude that yes, there is a correlation but tempers that conclusion by saying there are other factors which come into play which affect to what degree aggression will manifest itself later in life.

We come back to the oddity of how sexual content seems to be very controlled - You can't say those seven words on TV! - while the control of violence seems less so. Just how far off was George Carlin when he joking replaced the word kill with the F word?

A TV network censored a sequence of John Steinbeck's The Red Pony, which showed a mare giving birth, but broadcast the rather hideous sequence from The Godfather showing a beheaded horse.
- Youth, Sex and the Media, CyberCollege

The power of imitation
In the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Brandon Centerwall writes of television and violence focusing on our capacity to imitate what we see. In part of his study, he compares data from the United States, Canada and South Africa. What's interesting is that television in South Africa was banned prior to 1976 (a story unto itself). Consequently comparative data shows the rates of violence with and without television. The doctor subsequently compared data from South Africa after 1975 when TV was available. His conclusion is that

if, hypothetically, television technology had never been developed, there would today be 10,000 fewer homicides each year in the United States, 70,000 fewer rapes, and 700,000 fewer injurious assaults.

Holy... I'm not sure what word could possibly fit here after a statement like that.

Final Word
So, to all of you who still worry about the possible sexual nature of the content of both TV and film without the slightest worry about the flood of violence to which we are subjected, I would like to quote the character Eric from the television series That 70's Show who says in the episode "It's All Over Now" after listening to a George Carlin record (keep in mind that this was broadcast on TV):

"You sixing, sevening monkey fiver. You think your one don't stink, well, three off, you threein' three!"

You motherf**cking, t*tsing monkey c**ksucker. You think your s**t don't stink, well f**k off, you f**kin' f**k.


George Carlin: The Seven Words You Can Never Say On TV
eLyrics: complete text

Wikipedia: Censorship
Censorship is the suppression of speech or other public communication which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, politically incorrect or inconvenient as determined by a government, media outlet or other controlling body. ... It may or may not be legal.

Wikipedia: George Carlin
George Denis Patrick Carlin[1] (May 12, 1937 – June 22, 2008) was an American stand-up comedian, social critic, philosopher, satirist, actor, and writer/author who won five Grammy Awards for his comedy albums.

Norman Herr, Ph.D.; Professor of Science Education, California State University

American Psychological Association
Early Exposure to TV Violence Predicts Aggression in Adulthood (2003)

Surgeon General: Media Violence: Exposure and Content

Journal of the American Medical Association, June 10, 1992 Vol 267. No. 22
Television and Violence: The Scale of the Problem and Where to Go From Here
Brandon S. Centerwall, MD, MPH

Why South Africa’s Television is only Twenty Years Old
TV banned in South Africa before 1976


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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I dont know how i stumbled up on this , but this is something that have been bugging me a looong time.
I went to the US for the first time last year and I was shocked to see how they censor freely on tv and elsewhere. I am from Sweden and here... it´s the other way around.

A few things struck my mind as really odd....
I´ve seen the Simpsons movie in Sweden and in the US. And the US version is censored (the part where bart is skating down the street naked (there is a hole in the hedge)in the Swedish version you see his little cartoon "willy" in the US version it´s replaces with a censorship message ( saying only avalible in the european verion ))- what the hell is that....
I have also seen huck finn as a middle school play ( where they edited out his girlfriend and their kiss , but kept the killing, knife and guns in the graveyard).
Back to the future: where doc first reveals the car he says "now youre gonna see some seroius SHIT" , on US tv , he says STUFF....

And they all blame other countries to be opressed and censored , but i think that the US is the country with the larges "self"censoring-machine of htem all.
Both hiding important news from the public (that the networks dont dare to talk about) and from showing violence instead of boobs ( wich is somehow more inapropriate than blood and killings)