Thursday, May 19, 2011

Censorship and The Insanity Thereof

Let me begin this right by saying this: AAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!. I ACTUALLY WROTE SOMETHING!. AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!! *flails*.
Allow me to continue the trend with this: No, not all of censorship is directly related to film. No, this is not about any single movie/TV show. In fact, it may have very little to do with any of it.

Written on: May 19, 2011

Today I am here to talk about censorship. And I plan to use big words, inexplicably long sentences and be as roundabout and redundant as possible. Why?. Because if the experts have taught me one thing, it's how to be indirect and long-winded. Also, that's just how I tend to write about stuff. In addition, I intend to question the intentions of movies and television everywhere. And the intentions of everybody else as well.
You might want to avert your small child's eyes. Or better yet, turn this stupid blog off and watch Barney with your poor lonely kid. And don't point out to them exactly how many different illicit drugs it would take for a stuffed doll that turns into a giant talking dinosaur to make sense (here's a question: why didn't I ever see Barney in his toy form at stores?. As a kid, I thought the stuffed Dino was enormously cute and really wanted one. But all I could find were the ones shaped like a guy in a purple T-Rex costume. Yes, that is what Barney was originally supposed to be. I was always a bit puzzled by why all of his teeth were flat. Although his size in relation to everything else didn't bother me. Nor did the fact that he ate vegetables and not children). My spell-check has informed me that “dino” is an actual word, but only if you capitalize it O.o . Now, if you haven't gone with your kid, do go now.
You're still here, aren't you?.

Just so you don't get totally confused and think I'm like the majority of the internet which believes everyone should be just as exposed to vulgarities, explicit content and beer as they are, I'm going to tell you right off that I believe censorship to be a necessary evil.
No small child should be subjected to some guy graphically hacking pedestrians into small pieces while singing about the various parts of their anatomy (here's a question for feminists: why is it that women need to be in action movies to prove their ability to be just as awesome as men, but they're never serial killers?. And why do they never get turned into horrible mutant squid things either?. Isn't that being sexist?. Just askin'.).
By the same token, the elderly should not have their evening news watching session ruined by some naked man running around punching people because of the excessive drugs he was on (which happens far more often than one might think).
What I'm telling you is that I understand why certain things are not for certain people's eyes (or preferably anyone's eyes, in some cases).
But then there are things which I do not understand.

In movies I watched as a kid, there was often a scene where the evil person cackled with glee over something you couldn't actually see them doing. Sometimes it was because the camera was outside the building. But more often, it was because the camera was so close to their face that you could have counted their eyelashes if you'd had a mind to.
Because children villains must, for some reason, have greasy hair and bad teeth, this was understandably terrifying. Easily far more disturbing than what they were about to do to our hero, which usually involved chaining them to the wall or knocking them out.
Admittedly, there are many known cases of children hurting each other by trying to knock each other out like they saw on TV. But, oddly enough, the trend continues even as that is censored from kid films.
On the same general topic, is it still actually hidden from the kid when you can see the villain's face and their arm moving and here a 'thud'?. I assume that they are able to put pieces together.
Aside from that, I grew up with old westerns and never felt the overwhelming urge to clonk someone on the head because of it (and believe me, there is an excessive amount of knocking folks out in old westerns, particularly in Roy Rogers films and Bonanza).
Anyway, point at hand: cackling villains with greasy hair and bad teeth are *insert capitalized curse word here. Perhaps another for good measure* SCARY!!!.
They are far more likely to give me nightmares than watching them chain our hero to a wall. Or lock him/her in a dungeon or whatever it is they were doing.
Here's a simple thought: the reason horror films have been successful is primarily due to the fact that they know how to startle their audience and give them nightmares without actually showing you anything (mainly because most of them are cheap and don't actually have anything to show).
Whatever the reasoning, the real result is this: the audience can think up something a hundred times more frightening than whatever you've cooked up.
In the past, this was because, quite frankly, guys in bear costumes and seaweed are just not that scary.
These days, it's because every individual has a different idea of what scary really is.
Sometimes its the drool coming out of its mouth that scares them. Sometimes its how big it is in relation to other things. Or the blood they imagine being on it. Whatever their secret trigger (we're talking deeper than whether they consider snakes or spiders scarier), a good breathing noise, darkness and some blood spatters is far more likely to horrify than seeing an actual CGI monster.
Me, personally, I find wolf-like monsters particularly alarming. Which is probably why the big, black thing scared me in The Never-Ending Story so much.
So horror films that have a breathy thing that leaves behind people who look mauled is more likely to frighten me than anything else (these are also known as werewolf movies. Usually). However, when I see the final creature, usually it's nowhere near as scary as I was imagining.
Catching quick glimpses or not seeing it at all is really more alarming.
So let's get back to our Bad Guy. Which is more likely to scare me, honestly?. Him cackling or him knocking our hero out with evil glee?.
So should we censor Bad Guys in general?. No. That would be incredibly stupid.
Should we look at the greasy-haired man and imagine him as the most horrifying monster we can think of before having him do things?. Yes.
Should we make villains not cackle anymore?. Heck no!. It's okay to scare kids a little. Otherwise, your evil guy would just seem like happy flower-man and just wouldn't seem terribly villainous.

So, what have we learned so far?. That's right, absolutely nothing. Glad you're following. That is precisely what it looked like. A long, aimless rant which ultimately led here.
Now I'm going to come up with multiple issues with a specific target, rather than just Childrens Enemies Everywhere (or CEE, if you prefer).
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (just stick with me, there is a point to this). The 2003 version. It's rated TV-Y7. If I recall, that's supposed to mean that you should be 7 or older before seeing it or you might be traumatized for life. Or just learn to do secret swearing (wait, only someone who knows what swearing is could possibly pick that up).
Now, to be clear, TMNT '03 is not the only one guilty of this. It just so happens that it's the one I thought of first. And the only one I've seen very much of.
In this show, their favorite word seemed to be 'shell'. This word was used in a variety of ways. In fact, it was so frequently used in so many different contexts that it ceased to have any meaning to me.
But, most importantly, it was frequently used as a substitute for whatever swear word they weren't actually allowed to use. I don't feel that my readers need it to be spelled out for them. But experts have taught me that they do. Just insert 'shell' randomly into a sentence and then remove the 's'. Yeah, that's, in essence how they used it. Some don't consider that a swear word, but most consider it child-inappropriate (so now I'm confused. Is it or is it not censored content?). Lately, a lot of Y7 shows have abandoned hiding the word and just use hell, damn, and crap whenever they please.
That's right, teach the seven-year-olds to have an even smaller vocabulary than they already do.
So they can use these.... how shall I put it.... vaguely inappropriate words wherever they like, but couldn't bother themselves to have anything that might educate. Well, except in the ways of political correctness (I am totally serious: one ep of TMNT'03 had a fat white guy in a wheelchair who was king of the trash pile as the villain. No wonder people grow up with such weird views O.o).
So anyway, back to shell. Shell, as with any swear word, ceases to have meaning when you use it anywhere and everywhere. Besides using it as a cuss word alternative, they used it in other ways.
One of their favorites was “you saved our shells” or some variant thereof. For some reason, this made my brain hurt. Because, in the other context of the word, they were essentially saying “You saved our swear words”. O.o what?. o. O that didn't help at all.
Besides, who would want to save someone's swear words anyway?. On the other hand, who would want to save mutant turtles who could kill me with a thought?. Or... well... a sword anyway (shut up, it's a sword. No, I don't care what it is technically called. Knowing what it's called doesn't make you smart. It just means you read the *insert expletive here* comics!).
So, now that I've exhausted that particular subject, time to move on to another.

TMNT'03 is rather violent, as a disturbingly large number of Y7 shows apparently are. Apparently, seven-year-olds live for violence. On the other hand, what sort of Ninjas would they be if they didn't leap off chandeliers and kick someone (oh wait... that was some other show. The chandelier part, that is). They also use their weapons, which work for Donatello and Michaelangelo (I can't remember, which one of was spelled this way?. The 80s one or '03?. Never mind). They don't have sharp objects as their weapon of choice, so they can hit people without censoring.
But if Leonardo or Raphael hit someone with their pointy weapons, the screen needs to be black out. But with an awesome slash of white and the sound of.... metal hitting metal?. I'm not really sure. One way or the other, the enemy flies backwards and is usually unconscious.
I'm not sure, but I'm pretty positive that's not how stabby-stabby goes. Oh well, never mind.
So, every now and then, the turtles are severely defeated and random, precisely circular, gray spots appear. Presumably they are bruises (what color would a green reptile bruise, anyway?). But it's also entirely possible that they're scabbed over cuts (we'll get to that in a minute). In any case, they are of uniform size and shape every time and on every turtle. They're even uniform in color.
Those are some pretty epic bruises.
To continue the trend of making fun of the violence, I'll move on to a rather disturbing topic.
Nobody. Ever. Bleeds. At. All.
As I mentioned before, stabby-stabby is usually censored for the kiddies. But, in certain instances, it's not. In one episode, Donnie (the full names are long, I'm just gonna use the names used most often by the series, okay?) gets cut in the leg (without censoring) by a giant mutant man-roach. This is relevant for multiple episodes, but I'm just gonna talk about that specific event. Where he was 'cut' there is a little stripe of darker green. O.o do they have green blood?. No... just... no blood at all.
It's rather disturbingly like they're actually walking play-dough and cutting them just makes a shadow.
To my mind, that is far more alarming than a little red stripe (these days, characters of Y7 shows DO sometimes get little red stripes. It's less disturbing, believe me. I mean, they don't need to bleed all over the place, but a red stripe is far easier to explain than a green one (to show off how sciency I am, I will admit that certain animals DO have blue-green or green blood. Reptiles, however, do not. Their blood is most definitely red. Meaning that, even if these human-turtle mutants had turtle-colored blood, it would still be red).
In another episode, Raph (no, not Ralph, spell-check, don't be dumb) gets a cut/sting from an oversized alternate-universe version of a wasp. Again, a darker green stripe appears.
Well.... maybe that's just what random bug poison does?. No.
In one of the most memorable episodes (and a favorite of a lot of folks, which I don't understand as it involves our heroes getting their shells handed to them and fleeing into the night. By the way, for anyone who cares: SPOILER!. Oh wait... we all knew it was coming... and it's openly talked about whenever TMNT is brought up. My bad...) the daughter of Captain Evil-Pants (the Shredder. Happy now?) sticks a sword (shut up) into Leo's shoulder. The actual stab, as I recall, was hidden *runs to find the scene on youtube*. Yep. Actually, more was hidden than I recalled. But it's made pretty darn clear that he was stabbed. Still, no blood. Just the whole... dark green... thing. You can't even imagine their blood might be green as the shades of darker green depend on the shade of the turtle. Raph is much darker than either Don or Leo.
To compound their sheer weirdness of censorship, there's a episode where one guy gets this human (ish?) body that starts graphically disenegrating. Over the course of the episode, you get to witness as the skin and muscles fall apart. There's no blood, naturally.
The point of mentioning that and giving you that awful mental image is this: some guy's body falling apart is far more disturbing than a little red stripe.
Now, I do believe that I have successfully picked TMNT '03 apart. And shown that I saw far more of it than I should have (though not in recent history. It was a few years ago).

My final complaint has less to do with television and more to do with swearing in general and trying to mask it from children. Now, I must again avoid confusion. I have no problem with heck, darn, dang it or fruit monkeys. My complaint is with respelling.
Example 1: S----ing (see me not using an actual swear word?. That's just personal choice not to. The word, if you'd like to know was: Swimming. But you can probably guess what word I'm ignoring).
Example 2: @dd (as opposed to the one involving a burro. Just figure it out).
Example 3: Piotch (or Pi-otch, as some may prefer. You know what the other one is).
Example 4: G*rms (Germs. Because that's what I thought of).
There are only two reasons for typing in this manner.
One: because you truly don't want to scar the children forever (Is anyone actually in this category?).
Two: because you're too dumb to make up an actual replacement word and just want to fool the censor.
Either way, you're an idiot. Most children actually already KNOW these swear words, just by being on the internet. Or by being in school (AUGH!. I'm politically incorrect!. AAAAAHHH!!!!!!).
Hiding them just allows said children to use the words too. Congrats. You fail.
The other, trying to fool the censor, is dumb. Clearly, the site doesn't want you to swear. So MAYBE you shouldn't. Besides respecting site rules, you would also avoid the potential for being reported and banned by someone who doesn't like you.
Additionally, censoring in this way allows you to try and expand your vocabulary. You may think you sound smart by saying the same three swear words over and over, but you don't. You sound like all the other internet idiots. By using your brain to come up with other words (or the dictionary, if you must), you actually sound smarter. Even if you just use darn instead of damn. I have, in fact, been complimented on using darn on more than one occasion. For whatever reason, these people were impressed by the fact that I was using older or little-known (apparently) words instead of swearing. People also think it's funny if you say something they don't expect. Like a word that starts with the same letter. Or just whatever word you happen to think of that isn't related to sex, drug, alcohol or some movie everyone quotes already.
I'm not good at it, myself, but it works.
On the other hand, most people on the internet are too lazy to think of their own words and would rather use someone else's (that's why they all use the same three swear words).

Speaking of censorship, word censors are pretty dumb, if you think about it.
Either they can't detect alternate spelling, or they're obsessive.
One site that wanted to be 'child-safe' was a little... TOO safe. Grape and Cockatiel are two examples. Those words would be censored because of the unacceptable words within (or not child-safe).
It didn't matter that many people were talking about making out with their boyfriend or used hell and damn like nobody's business, so long as nobody mentioned Cocker Spaniels or religion, everything was fine (although, politics was apparently okay to some extent).
Seriously, people, I understand your aim, but you shouldn't censor actual words which someone might like to use. Especially considering that this was a pet-related site. Seriously, it's not like that few people want to talk about the specific pets they have.
It didn't help that a few of the items you could buy had Peacock in the name, but you couldn't use said word in the forums. It made it difficult to buy these items from other people.

So... I think I'm done now. And I am most definitely hungry.
I hope that I've accomplished nothing, unless it involves you being entertained briefly.
Goodbye, all.

*note that none of this necessarily reflects my current views, merely the views I had at the time I wrote this.

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