Thursday, September 30, 2010

Why Books?

Welcome to all the new followers. I've trickled past 100 now, and while I don't put that much stock in the numbers, it's nice to know someone's listening. *waves*

There's something that's been on my mind for a while. Before banned books week even. I think it started with the Ellen Hopkins Texas mess. I'd heard of book censorship before, but it doesn't affect me like it does Americans (and to lesser extent Brits)-because where I come from that's not how we roll- so I had to be entwined in the online community for it to be more to me than a passing news article. Anyhow the thing that's been bugging me is "Why Books?"

Other media have this progressive partial censoring going on. I'm not a big fan of cussing. I'd never even said a cussword til after my teen years. One of my best friends swore- and still swears- like a pirate that disturbed a beehive, so I wasn't sheltered. Still, it didn't float my boat. I don't mind the well placed choice word or two, but there are some tv shows and movies where it seems the only adjectives they know are 4 letter ones.

But when a movie has cussing, that's no reason not to show it on tv. They just insert *BLEEP* here. And there may even be "clean" flim versions. For example, growing up, I had a fave movie that I used to watch on TNT. I watched this movie maybe 30 or 40 times on TNT over the course of several years. I do not recall a single *BLEEP*. Then I bought a copy of the DVD. And if you could find a 10 second stretch of dialogue with no cussing, you found a lot.

Same thing happens in music. Whole songs are hardly ever censored for sparse cussing. They just *BLEEP* it. In fact, some artists even produce "cusless" versions of their album for sale. You'll find the "clean" right next to the "warning: explicit lyrics" too, so it's not like you don't know. Still, that's okay somehow.

But not when it comes to books.

Noone even suggests you produce *BLEEP*ed versions.
Noone suggests you put a "Warning: explicit material" or "Graphic Violence" sticker on them.
Noone suggests that you give them a rating "PG13"

It's all or nothing.

Well, today for the first time, I've actually come up with two reasons for that.

Movies have been a round a little over a hundred years. Recorded music, a little more than that. Written works have existed since almost the beginning of time.
Books originated in a time before there was a concept of moderation. It was all or nothing in everything, everywhere. The world wasn't round, so you couldn't gradually curve around it. It was flat, you'd just fall off the edge.

So books with "objectionable" content were burned in mass. Because the release of one of these books into society, would cause the downfall of everything. -Insert overly dramatic music here.-

As a linguist, I studied the burning of early English language bibles in Translation history. Bibles were written in Latin. Only the well educated spoke and read Latin. So by calling English bibles heresy and burning them, the masses still had to come to the educated for their religion.

Yeah, all the wrong reasons even back then.

Anyhow, point being- all or nothing.


Yes, yes, the publishing industry. Books cost them a lot. But who else?

What plays on radio and tv has huge implications because of ADVERTISING. I don't like to think that advertisers call all the shots, but they do a fair share. For example, on occasion, a singer will get themselves in serious trouble. And then you'll hear their radio appearances being cancelled, because the stations are afraid of losing advertisers.

The reverse is also true. If they universally censored all artists who cussed, rap and hiphop stations probably couldn't exist. (You can probably count on one hand the number of artists with a major following that have never cussed in a song- okay, maybe not that bad, or well, maybe...) And then all those advertisers would not have a way to reach that demographic. Tons of clothing stores, and hair product producers and lawyers, and doctors, would all go out of business for losing their market.

Nothing of the sort happens with a censored book. It's just an author, a publisher, an agent, and a bookstore or ten.

What about you? Why else do you think that the sort of censorship in the book world only happens here?


Dianne K. Salerni said...

Pretty interesting! I don't know if Blogger will let me post a link here (but I'll try). This is an interesting article about why some words are considered "objectionable." The history behind it might surprise you!

Anonymous said...



Brilliant post...

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You know, I was thinking about the warning labels on CDs this week. Rating books would be next to impossible, as there's too many and they take longer than the two hours required to view a movie. But publishers could place warning labels on books just like on CDs.