Final Blog Post: Censorship-Monster Showdown

When it comes to censorship, 65-year-old writer Salman Rushdie has been through the ringer. In 1988, upon publishing his controversial book, The Satanic Verses, Rushdie became a wanted man—wanted dead, that is. The book, deemed blasphemous due to its depiction of Muhammad, was banned in several predominantly Islamic countries and inspired acts of vicious protest all across the globe. In 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran notoriously issued a fatwā for Rushdie’s demise, forcing the writer to live for years in perpetual fear of his own assassination. To this day, the fatwā is technically still in place, though Rushdie seems to be more at ease. In fact, just last year Rushdie released a personal memoir, Joseph Anton, detailing his time in hiding (Wikipedia). For class we read and discussed his article “On Censorship”, which can certainly be classified as anti-censorship. Obviously, being an artist himself (and a highly censored one at that), Rushdie possesses some strong feelings towards censorship, calling it “…anti-creation, negative energy, uncreation…” among other things. He argues that contrary to what some people believe, constraints imposed by censorship are not helpful but harmful to art and artists in the grand scheme of things. He says that great art is a revolution, and that “original art is never created in the safe middle ground, but always at the edge”. He doesn’t believe that censorship should ever be justified for the mere sake of preventing any group from feeling offended. But most importantly (in my opinion) is Rushdie’s argument that it is necessary, at all times, for an artist to be free and feel confident that he/she will continue to be free in order for his/her artistic choices to be driven by talent and not coerced by fear.

Corpus Christi is an ambitious “passion play” written by good ol’ Terrence McNally in the late nineties. Since it first opened, the play has been a subject of controversy to say the very least, labeled as blasphemous, sacrilegious, irreverent, and so on and so forth. Set in Corpus Christi, Texas amidst the 1950’s, McNally boldly reimagines the Christian faith’s savior Jesus Christ as a gay man, gallivanting about and engaging in sexual acts with his homosexual disciples (particularly Judas). But this play, like many works of art, is intended to be more than just entertainment. Corpus Christi is a vehicle for social change, and its political/religious agenda lurks prominently between each page. In fact, towards the tail end of the play, Joshua (Jesus) gleefully condones same sex marriage between his two disciples, James and Bartholomew:

JAMES: Bartholomew and I had wanted our union blessed for a long time—some acknowledgement of what we were to each other.
BARTHOLOMEW: We asked, Josh. They said it was against the law and the priests said it was forbidden by scripture.
JAMES: “If a man lies with a man as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them.”
JOSHUA: Why would you memorize such a terrible passage? “And God saw everything that He had made, and behold it was very good”. I can quote scripture as well as the next man. God loves us most when we love each other. We accept you and bless you. Who’s got a ring? (P.48)

But just as Joshua/Jesus is sealing the deal on the two men’s marriage, he is interrupted by a disgruntled High Priest who informs him that he has “broken every commandment”, to which he replies, “You are hypocrites. You are liars. You have perverted My Father’s words to make them serve your ends. I despise you” (p.49) I feel that this particular section of the play is where the heart of McNally’s argument lies. Not only is he advocating for gay marriage, but in doing so he is imploring people to look at the bible in a new light and see that it’s not all black and white—that just because you identify as a Catholic/Christian does not mean that you have to hate homosexuality. However, many people have not gleaned any such message of poignancy, taking harsh offense to the entertainment of the idea that Jesus may have been gay and that he even had a sexual nature to speak of. Performances of the play have been protested, (sometimes violently) and McNally has allegedly received death threats over it (Wikipedia).

For real?

I personally do not think Corpus Christi is fabulously written, but I do think that it is conceptually unique, thought provoking, and well-intended (despite what Bill Donohue has to say).

Speaking of Bill Donohue…where do I even begin? He’s a real piece of work. William Anthony “Bill” Donohue is the current president of the Catholic league for religious and civil rights, a gig he’s held down since 93’. He has a PhD from NYU and is famous (or infamous rather) for his persistent trolling of various public figures, artists, comedians, musicians, and whatever and whoever he considers to be slanderous, even in the slightest, towards Catholicism. If he don’t approve, he wants to get it removed! As we saw in class, South Park did a rather hilarious parody of Donohue in their 2007 episode, “Fantastic Easter Special”, completely vilifying him (perhaps justifiably so). Surprisingly though, for Donohue, this South Park depiction proved to be a great source of pride. He thinks it’s swell (Wikipedia). But hey, I guess I’d be flattered too if South Park parodied me, even if the parody was an unflattering one.

Donohue also wrote the book Secular Sabotage: How Liberals Are Destroying Religion and Culture in America, from which we read the fourth chapter, “Artistic Sabotage” where he brings up a whole slew of “offensive” artists. One of his big things is that he believes the government should NOT be able to subsidize any kind of art, performance, or anything for that matter that he does not personally agree with, adding that the funding of such fraudulent works “Means the taxpayers were raped”, and later that, “This is pure unadulterated hate speech. And the government should not be involved in hate speech against my religion and anyone else’s.”
So when Donohue caught wind of Corpus Christi, he was on it like white on rice. Indeed, between litanies of “Another gay ex-catholic”, Donohue spends a decent chunk of the chapter candidly chronicling his epic protest of McNally’s play. Suffice to say that seeing Jesus as a gay man really ruffled his feathers. Another major argument he makes is that “The artistic community would never dream of offending gays, Jews, and blacks”. Donohue seems to feel that the Catholic Church has been victimized, made an easy target. He even claims on page 79 that “There is no other segment of the population that can be trashed with impunity by the artistic community and still receive the plaudits of playgoers and the cultural elites. Yet they persist in the fantasy that they are the tolerant ones”. Hmmm.

2.) I am going to be talking about the iconic and eccentric seeming pop sensation “Lady Gaga”, previously known as Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. With some research I quickly learned that Lady Gaga has been censored on several occasions, in several different countries, all within the last few years or so. However, I will be focusing my attention on just three instances in which the singer has experienced censorship:
Sometime in early 2011, Gaga’s so called “gay anthem” (Born this way) was censored on Malaysian radio stations in an attempt to distort its supportive message for the LBGQT community. Stations apparently blurred out the lyrics, “No matter gay, straight or bi, lesbian, transgendered life, I’m on the right track baby, I was born this way” from the hit song. Malaysia, as a country, is still very conservative in a social-religious sense, and homosexuality is widely condemned (Sean Michaels, the Guardian).
Again, in 2011, Lady Gaga’s music rocked the boat—but this time in Lebanon. Her album Born This Way was totally banned by Lebanon’s General Secretary Department, their vague justification being that it is offensive to religion. There has been speculation that the track “Judas” may have been the key offender. In the music video, Lady Gaga portrays Mary Magdalene, leather clad and in the middle of a biker gang love triangle of sorts with Jesus and Judas (Didymus). In other words, blasphemous! But it also possible that, similar to Malaysia, Lebanese officials banned the album due to its sanction of homosexuality (Blauvelt). Or perhaps it was both these things combined.

According to an article in The Telegraph, in 2012, Lady Gaga was met by some major riff raff when she went to perform a show in the Philippines. Approximately 500 conservative Christian protestors assembled in hopes of putting a stop to her performance, and particularly to the controversial songs “Judas” and “Born This Way”. Interestingly enough, many people were put up to the boycott by Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, a Catholic leader (sounds familiar, eh?) Lady Gaga did not appease the protestors and instead proceeded to perform without cutting either of the songs.

3.) Truth be told, I’ve never really been a big a fan of Lady Gaga myself. I think her music is a little lackluster (It’s just not my genre). However, I must say I admire her work as an activist. She uses her celebrity status to promote messages of equality to a mainstream audience on behalf of marginalized groups/people. She has really taken a stand for the LGBQT community and anyone who might be the victim of prejudice in society. The fact that she recognizes she has power and voice and gives it to those who do not, is pretty commendable. Her hit, Born This Way, seems to be particularly influential. The song argues that we are all born the way God intended us to be regardless of our skin color or sexuality. It refutes the old idea that we can change people to fit societal norms. In short, it’s about acceptance. In her own words, Gaga has said, “The point, with ‘Born This Way,’ is to fight for something that not everyone believes in”, and she personally believes that “Honesty and the truth is always what will set you free”.


I think that Lady Gaga and Salman Rushdie are connected because they are both artists who have had their work censored and branded “blasphemous”. But beyond that, they seem to have similar views on censorship, and clearly, neither one of them thinks it is a dandy thing. Rushdie and Gaga are in favor of absolute freedom, not just for some, but for all (even for individuals in the margins). In his article, Rushdie has this to say:

“The creative act requires not only freedom but also this assumption of freedom. If the creative artist worries if he will still be free tomorrow, then he will not be free today” and “When censorship intrudes on art, it becomes the subject; the art becomes “censored art”, and that is how the world sees and understands it”.

In an interview from a couple years back, Lady Gaga said:

“If the artist is constantly molding ourselves and changing and abridging what we do for the machine, then the artist becomes part of the machine. I don’t want to be part of the machine; I want the machine to be part of me”.

While Gaga and Rushdie may not be saying the same exact thing verbatim, I feel as if they are essentially getting at the same idea. They feel that thoughts of censorship negatively impact an artist’s conscience, and in turn, inevitably impact the work an artist produces in some way.

I believe there are quite a few parallels between Corpus Christi/Terrence McNally and Lady Gaga’s body of work. It would appear that they are both using their art to further a social/political/religious agenda. Both are advocating for the acceptance and love of all people, and both are privileging gays. While it would appear that McNally’s play has attracted more controversy overall, the grounds for censoring Gaga’s music video “Judas” are strikingly similar to the criticisms of Corpus Christi. Christians were offended by seeing Jesus and his disciples depicted as gay men on stage, and they were also offended by seeing Jesus, Judas and Mary Magdalene (Gaga) depicted as bikers dancing in risqué attire and taking suggestive baths together on MTV. Because of this “blasphemy”, Lady Gaga’s concert that featured “Judas” was protested in Manila just as Corpus Christi was protested at the Manhattan Theatre Club.

So how are Dirty Donohue and Lady Gaga connected? After reading various articles on cases of censorship against the pop diva’s empire, I was surprised to find no trace of Donohue on her trail. After all, she did manage to offend Catholic Archbishop Ramon Arguelles so greatly that he organized a boycott against her performance in the Philippines singlehandedly. I wonder why Donohue didn’t get in on the action?
On page 81 in the chapter Artistic Sabotage, Donohue openly brags about coercing NBC to pull a mock crucifixion scene from Madonna’s Thanksgiving Eve concert (2006) off the air, saying, “Indeed, we threatened a boycott of one of the show’s sponsors if it was included”. But even sketchier is what he adds afterwards:

“It would be one thing if this secular hate speech disguised as artistic liberty were confined to the margins of society. Unfortunately, it is often given a high profile, showing up in prestigious venues”.

I just find it interesting that he has blown the whistle at Lady Gaga’s predecessor (and admitted influence) Madonna, but not the “monster” herself. Perhaps she just hasn’t pushed the envelope far enough to catch his attention, or hasn’t specifically victimized Catholicism in his eyes.
I was able to make a connection between these two in terms of intent versus interpretation. Intent meaning what the artist claims to have been trying to do and/or not do with their art, and interpretation meaning how the audience and critics such as Donohue perceive said art. If you will recall, Bill Donohue’s closing statement of Artistic Sabotage was “All of it is deliberate and all of it is intended to offend” (referring to potentially irreverent works). Whereas Lady Gaga, in response to her “Judas” video being banned for offending Christians, allegedly said, “This video is not meant to be an attack on religion. I respect and love everyone’s beliefs. I’m a religious and spiritual person who’s obsessed with religious art” (Didymus). It sounds sincere, no?

How can we truly know if an artist intended to offend people or not? And does it matter?

5.) Links of Articles read or referenced:
Other sources consulted:

On Censorship, article by Salman Rushdie
Artistic Sabotage chapter by Donohue
Corpus Christi, by Terrence McNally
                                                              YouTube videos:


The Gruesome Tale of Channon Christian and Chris Newsome

This week I ultimately decided to write about something that is not a censored performance in and of itself. In this post, I will be discussing censorship as it relates to the way in which certain things are presented, as well as the strategic selection and/or omission of information.

On January of 2007 in Knoxville, TN, Channon Christian (21) and her boyfriend Chris Newsome (23) were grand theft autoed and kidnapped together, at gunpoint, by a group of five different assailants. The young couple was taken to a dilapidated house in a shady side of town where they were both tortured and raped in various fashions with allegedly various objects. Chris was then taken to a railroad track adjacent to the house, tied up, shot several times, and lit on fire. Afterwards, Channon was sexually tortured and gang raped back at the house for an extended period of time. Bleach was poured down her throat and doused over her. She was then wrapped in a series of trash bags and stuffed into a garbage can in the kitchen. There is speculation that Channon was actually still alive when she was so hastily stuffed into this can, but perhaps died slowly of suffocation as her body was not discovered until 2 days after her and her sweetheart’s disappearance. The five perpetrators included four men (George Thomas, Letalvis Cobbins, Lemaricus Davidson, Eric Boyd) and one woman (Vanessa Coleman).

There has been a lot of debate about whether or not this crime received the amount of media coverage and national news attention proportionate to its beyond heinous nature.

Personally, I had never heard this story until very recently (like in the past couple weeks) when I was watching the show “Sins &Secrets” (season 1, episode 2) on Netflix. Sins &Secrets is one of those suspenseful Investigation Discovery crime documentaries, complete with the classically ominous narration and chilling soundtrack. Like most crime shows, it contains a combination of actual footage, live interviews, and dramatized reenactments of real events. Shows such as these, while based in reality, are often sensationalized and designed to entertain viewers. Beyond pure entertainment value though, one could also argue these shows serve the purpose of forewarning, intimidating, and educating people. I’ve always had a soft spot for crime documentaries myself, my primary excuse being that the knowledge alone will render me more aware in my everyday existence (perpetual paranoia). Each episode of Sins&Secrets focuses on a different U.S. city where a homicide took place, attempting to really set the stage and introduce the cultural landscape of the community before delving into the crime at hand. The “Knoxville” episode is no exception. In the beginning, the narrator makes a point of pointing out that while the southern city has a very eclectic makeup, it also has a clear cultural divide, summing things up with “There’s the west of Knoxville, then there’s the rest of Knoxville”. On Sins &Secrets, the west side of Knoxville is painted as this very picturesque upper-middleclass suburban paradise with images of peaceful people gallivanting about in their golf carts. In other words, it is the ideal part of town for the privileged to comfortably reside. It is here where we are introduced to the first victim, Channon Christian, who is described as a blonde-haired, blue-eyed “All American Girl”, and “The ultimate girl next door”. Channon was dating Chris Newsome (the second victim), an all American, baseball playing “Good ol’ boy”. Their relationship is described as both “White hot” and “A fairytale romance”. But then tragedy strikes.

I explained the crime above, so there’s no sense in rehashing gory details. What I want to emphasize is the way in which the world of the perpetrators and the perpetrators themselves are portrayed in this documentary. The 5 assailants hail from this dark, poverty-stricken part of town with sinister music that is “no place for the faint of heart”; a place where drugs and prostitution run rampant. The pictures we see of the accused are very unflattering shots, whereas the pictures of the victims are angelic and dreamy. Journalist Jamie Satterfield states towards the end of the episode “You had these very attractive, young white kids, and then you had these very mean looking black guys” (the 2 victims were white, the 5 perpetrators were black).The documentary heavily suggests that the crime incited racial tension amongst citizens of Knoxville, even causing vicious white supremacists to protest in the streets over what they felt was a hate crime being largely ignored by media.

This “Knoxville” episode (made in 2011) is not censored in the sense that it was taken off the network or anything. I mean, you can stream it right now on Netflix. However, I believe that the overall framing of the story and the performance/entertainment elements could be considered another form of censorship. The episode does not come right out and tell you what to think, but when you examine it holistically, there seems to be subtle bias in the re-telling of things. Naturally, most crime shows will have you sympathizing with the victim. That’s a given. But I think that this particular documentary kind of pushes the audience toward the viewpoint that what happened to Channon Christian and Chris Newsome was a hate crime with some sort of racially charged animosity.

Power, Privilege, Voice:
Just looking at this Sins &Secrets episode alone, I would say that the two victims, Channon and Chris, have power because not only is their story being told, but they are both being portrayed in a purely sympathetic and positive light. The family members of the victims also have power because they are able to speak on the behalf of their loved ones, and their opinions/commentary are included throughout the episode. The creators of the documentary have power because they chose what went into the episode and what stayed out of the episode. Individuals who believe this crime was neglected by media outlets have power because the case is now chronicled in a television show, meaning that more people will become aware of it. On the other hand, because of the way this documentary was framed, the 5 people found guilty do not have power and neither do their families and/or friends. Unlike other crime documentaries, there was absolutely no input from anyone on the behalf of the accused. We have no concept of who these people actually were and why they wound up the way they did. They have no voice.
Things get more complicated when you step away from the made-for-television documentary and focus solely on the controversy surrounding the case. As mentioned several times before, many people were outraged at the crime’s perceived minimal news coverage when compared to other big stories that dominate the media. If this is true, and Channon and Chris’ saga got the shaft, then it is they and their loved ones who are made powerless because it is almost like the atrocity never occurred. Conversely, the assailants (and those affiliated with them) are given power because when something is underreported, it becomes almost invisible to the public. At the same time, you could argue that the mainstream media’s supposed decision to shrug this story off, in turn, only fueled the hatred of white supremacists, causing unnecessary tensions to materialize in Knoxville, ultimately taking more power away from the two people who lost their lives. It sullies their already grotesque deaths with connotations of racism, and just like a family member said in an interview, “They would not have wanted that”.

So what do I think?
A crime is a crime. Channon Christian and Chris Newsome’s story disgusts me, shocks me, and infuriates me. It’s one of the saddest stories I’ve ever heard to date. Whether or not the crime was motivated by some sort hatred, I can’t say for sure either way. I don’t know exactly what happened that night and why things escalated the way they did. Nobody really knows the whole story. As for the allegations that this case was censored from the media, I can only say that I’d never heard a word about it until I watched Sins &Secrets (but I’m also not the most informed person on the planet either, I’ll confess). I feel like all violent crimes of this caliber should be given equal attention when it comes to news coverage, regardless of the ethnicities of the victims and/or aggressors. There are people who do evil things from every race, sex, religion, social class, etc.

ATTENTION: If you have a Netflix account, search “Sins &Secrets” (the performance I have focused on). It is part of the Investigation Discovery series (ID). Watch episode 1 from season 1 called “Knoxville”. It is 43 minutes in length.

In the case that you do not have a Netflix account, fortunately, someone filmed their television while watching portions of the “Knoxville” episode I make reference to in the main body of my post. It offers a small glimpse of the performance elements in the documentary, as well as the underlying argument being made:

^^^This is a 16 minute documentary posted by Knoxnews detailing the case with ample commentary/ perspectives from the victim’s families, journalists, and various individuals residing in the community. Comments are disabled for this video on YouTube. I feel like it offers a more balanced view of the crime and its aftermath.

***If you’re interested, there are other YouTube videos out there that discuss the many political controversies of this case and I encourage you to do more research (I can’t post all of them though).

Here is the link to the homicide’s Wikipedia page:

Here is a link to the Facebook page in Honor of Channon and Chris (the group description is kind of interesting):

LOTS OF QUESTIONS: Had you heard about the Channon Christian and Chris Newsome murder case prior to reading this post? Are you a crime documentary junkie? If so, what is your overall impression of how information is usually represented or dramatized? If you went ahead and watched the Sins &Secrets “Knoxville” episode, how did you feel about the performance elements in it? Did it feel biased or sensationalized to you? Let me know what you think about this crime in general.


Blog Post no.2: Fifty Shades of CENSORED


1.) Perhaps you’ve heard of the relatively recent #1 New York Times Bestselling book by the name of Fifty Shades of Grey, following suit with Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed to complete an allegedly titillating (not to mention popular) trilogy. I first caught wind of the erotic literary phenomenon a couple years back when someone I worked with asked me what I was reading. I handed her my copy of Story of the Eye, a pornographic novella written by the French author Georges Bataille in 1928. My coworker opened to a random page where the narrator is jerking himself off, and then proceeds to have sex with his lover beside the corpse of a girl who was previously the teenage couple’s concubine. “Have you ever heard of Fifty Shades of Grey?” She asked, “It’s like, huge right now.”

I hadn’t heard of it. She said I should read it.

To this day I still have not read Fifty Shades of Grey or any of the other books in the series. It’s not because I think I’m too cool or anything like that, I just haven’t gotten around to it. I haven’t taken the initiative. Because of my ignorance, all I know about the trilogy is what I’ve heard by word-of-mouth, YouTube videos, and online articles/reviews. My interest in the novels from a censorship standpoint, I confess, began a couple months back during spring semester when I was taking a Self Defense class for women. A lot of people in that class (including the instructor) always seemed to be up in arms about these damn books. In fact, it dominated much of the class discussion—and it was heated discussion! They kept saying things like, “It’s a horrible influence on girls and women alike”, “The writing sucks”, and “It ought to be banned everywhere”. They also unanimously expressed that they believed the author, E.L. James, was nothing short of a monster that will be responsible for an influx of both emotionally and sexually abusive relationships over the course of the next decade. The instructor of the class seemed to endorse this viewpoint and invited everyone to attend a lecture/discussion that was being peddled around campuses to raise awareness about the evils of Fifty Shades of Grey. The following email was sent to the entire class one day:

Here is the information about the Brown Bag lecture/discussion/talk (?) tomorrow. You can attend this session as a make-up for missing a class. Just let me know if you attend so I can give you credit.
Wednesday 2/13/13 11:30am -1:00pm (Campbell Hall Room 230)
Amy Bonomi, MPH, PhD, Lauren Altenburger, Nicole Walton
“Double Crap!” Abuse and Harmed Identity in Fifty Shades of Grey

(I was unable to attend the discussion due to a schedule conflict, but truth be told, I was a bit conflicted as to whether or not I would’ve wanted to attend anyway. ) ???

As I read over this week’s blog prompt, I was reminded of the whole anti-Fifty Shades of Grey attitude espoused by the majority of my Self Defense class, and I wondered to myself, “Has the series faced any other back-lash?”

Turns out it has! As you can see, I found a whole slew of video clips and articles chronicling the enormous demand for the books, as well as the bans that have taken place at certain libraries in the United States. According to one very informative (and very recent) article by the Huffington Post, “Libraries in Wisconsin, Georgia and Florida have all either declined to order the book or pulled it from shelves. Other states may soon follow.” (Lush)
That’s right, in 2013.
Interestingly enough, the banning of the series has been most notorious in Florida libraries, occurring in more than a few counties, including Collier in the southwest portion of the state. I’m perhaps more disappointed than I am surprised.

So why is this trilogy, which apparently has everyone and their mom drooling after it, being banned?

Fifty Shades has, by and large, been labeled as pornographic and deviant. It graphically chronicles the sexual relationship between a young woman recently graduated from college and a suave, money-bags business man of sorts with an affinity for *BDSM activity. Apparently there is lots of sex. Lots of kinky sex, at that.

2.) Because I have not personally read the Fifty Shades of Grey series, I feel that I can evaluate this situation somewhat objectively:
-Censorship of these books is justified when you consider the fact that it is very feasible one could wind up in the hands of an adolescent, or worse—a young child. I mean, I know I encountered a pornographic novel or two at my public library before I turned 18. I’m not a parent myself so it’s hard for me to say how I really feel on the issue, but I can imagine I’d feel a little uncomfortable if my 8-year-old came home clutching a copy with their bookmark stuck in the middle. Oh, the awkward questions that might ensue! Another issue I’ve heard my peers express concern over is the possible negative impact the books could have on young women and their self-esteem. The heroine of the series has been accused of being hopelessly passive and allowing a man to control her life in an unhealthy way. Some readers may not be able to discern this for themselves, meaning they might perceive it as normal behavior and seek to emulate this behavior (including the sexual behavior) in their own lives/intimate relations.
-Censorship of the Fifty Shades series is not justified because it infringes on the rights of citizens who wish to read the novels as well as the artistic rights of E.L. James, the author. Although I came close, ironically I never actually spoke out in my Self-defense class about how their agenda to put an end to these books bothered me. I guess I felt my opinion would be unpopular, and in turn, I might be resented for it. I didn’t want a classmate to *accidentally* punch me in the face when I held their target for them, you know? But seriously, if I had felt a little more comfortable, I would have raised my hand and said something of this nature:
“Okay, I’ll admit, I’ve never read Fifty Shades of Grey so I’m probably not as informed as you all are, but my instinct is that it’s not my place, and it’s not right to tell E.L. James what topics she can or cannot write about. She obviously wrote these books for a reason, and for some reason a lot of people are devouring them. I can take your guys’ word that they’re poorly written, and that there may be some criticisms to be made of the material, but just because I disagree does not necessarily mean it should be banned entirely”.
Yeah, I probably would not have put it exactly like that as we were in the process of doing planks, but you get the gist.

-I believe that all artists and/or performers have the right to express themselves in such a way that is not influenced, moderated, or infringed upon by some outside force other than the muse, the inspiration, or the idea itself. My one condition is that, in the process of this expression, others are not physically harmed. Which is to say that I don’t think it is okay for a painter to sacrifice his neighbors in order to paint with their fresh blood (he could just as easily use his own blood). I realize that’s a really bad example.

– I believe that all artists and/or performers have the responsibility to tell the truth. When I say the truth, I don’t mean that their work has to be the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It doesn’t even have to be the truth (in the literal sense of the word) at all. I just mean that the truth needs to be true to the artist’s intent…and that’s it’s everything the artist did or (in some cases) didn’t want it to be.


Have you read Fifty Shades of Grey? If so, what input can you give, and did you like the book(s)? Do you find it offensive? If you haven’t read the book(s), what is your perception of the series? Like, specifically, what words come to mind? In your opinion, are libraries in Florida and others states justified in banning the book? Are you surprised by it? Also, what flaws do you find in my personal definitions of an artist’s rights/responsibilities? Do you disagree with me?

Now that I have written this blog post, I think I am going to go ahead and read the books. All this controversy has got me straight up curious!


Drama Censorama, Blog post no.1

Greetings Pleasure Party!

So, I have this feeling that despite any innate aversions I may possess, my life and to-be-determined career will inevitably be censored in some (if not several) capacities. First of all, I’m a theatre major. What aspect of theatre am I focusing on, you might ask? That’s a good question, as I personally identify as many things and sometimes consider this to be problematic in and of itself. I identify as a performer (singer, actor, and everyday personality), as a director, and also as a writer. I’m actually minoring in Creative Writing, but am treating it as a second major of sorts as it is technically not offered as one here at Ohio State. However, no matter what medium I am working in at any given moment, as an artist in general, censorship’s a thing. It’s especially a thing for me because I just happen to like things that are kind of explicit, that are provocative and scandalous. In other words, I have an affinity for things that tend to be censored! This past autumn semester I took a stage directing class where we had to direct three different scenes; two in which we had to write ourselves, and one which was a preexisting text of our choosing. It was perhaps the most heavenly experience of my undergraduate career, having all that creative control, and I quickly became notorious amongst classmates for my risqué directorial debuts, both in a thematic and representational sense. I was okay with this accrued reputation, but I remember a conversation I had with a fellow student-director one day after class. We were rehashing the morning’s performances, and when we came to discussing my scene, she said, “Gosh, during that one part I just had to cover my eyes! It made me feel so uncomfortable to watch”. I wasn’t offended by her comment. After all, she wasn’t necessarily being critical, she was simply acknowledging the fact that we had different aesthetics, different tastes when it came to theatre. When her actors were shaking hands, mine were de-robing (you get the picture). What I gleaned from that exchange was that even on a small scale, in an intimate classroom setting, my work offended/made someone uncomfortable enough that she censored it by closing her eyes—and even if she was just one person, that one person could potentially represent dozens of individuals assuming my work were ever to be showcased somewhere with a larger audience.

Today, as we watched This Film Is Not Yet Rated, I felt very concerned about some things. Particularly, I was concerned with how the MPAA supposedly treated the independent film, Boys Don’t Cry, written and directed by Kimberly Peirce. The MPAA initially gave the film an NC-17 rating, not because of the violence, but because of a sex scene between the two main characters which was not only not a “straight” sex scene, but one where a female was experiencing great pleasure (and this bothers some people apparently). Kimberly Peirce expressed that, as an artist, she was very hurt and unhappy with the whole ordeal. Boys Don’t Cry is something she had put so much work and passion into, and while she didn’t want to cut anything out, she also wanted her film to be sufficiently marketed; she wanted the story to reach as many people as possible. I guess I never before realized what a difference it makes whether a film is rated R or NC-17. It seems unfair to me, but I can also see how it might relate to my future endeavors. I mentioned previously that I identify as a writer; in fact, I might consider it the single most important thing in my life. But I like to tell the truth, I really like to tell the truth. There’s a story I’ve been wanting to tell, that I’ve been putting together for the past seven or so years…but sometimes I wonder, especially in light of censorship in society, that if this story of mine was published or something of that nature (a lofty thought, I know), how would it be received? More specifically, would I be forced to “lose” integral parts of that story at the hands of censorship? How would I deal with that? I don’t know if I could deal with that. So anyway, I guess what I’m saying is that censorship is very relevant to both my passions and prospective career path, and it is something I do worry about from time to time, not going to lie.

As for the video clip I posted above:

This is a rather long segment from the 1967 film, The Graduate, starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft. You should definitely watch the whole thing if you have time, but please pay attention to the end starting at approximately 8:43. It is an awkward moment in which Anne Bancroft’s character (Mrs. Robinson) is propositioning Dustin Hoffman’s character (Benjamin Braddock) with a covert sexual affair (which he eventually goes along with). She stands in front of the bedroom door, nude, blocking his exit and matter-of-factly confessing her attraction for him. The camera, imitating Benjamin’s perspective, keeps sneaking these split-second flashes of Mrs. Robinson’s naked, tan-lined body. If you really think about it, you barely see anything at all. I wonder if this was an artistic choice, or if censorship laws had something to do with it? Or both?  I remember the first time I watched this movie with my parents and my dad telling me that this scene was considered somewhat “scandalous” when it first came out. Interestingly enough, it has a PG rating.


What other examples of censorship can you think of in relation to writing and performing arts? How can we tell if a choice is solely artistic or influenced by censorship somehow? In your opinion, as an artist, would you rather self-censor yourself or have someone tell you later on down the road that something must be omitted?