SpeakSpeak News


Heins on Hollywood

Filed under  by Amanda Toering — 04/20/2005 @ 8:56 am

If SpeakSpeak.org has a patron saint, it’s Marjorie Heins.

Heins has published a piece at the Brennan Center for Justice (republished at Free Press) discussing historical bowdlerization (a perjorative word for “sanitizing” art that has an interesting history) and current attempts to clean up motion pictures.

Bowdlerization is an impulse ever-present in the body politic. Today, we’re talking about the bowdlerization of movies. On one side, we have filmmakers protesting the mutilation of their work by profit-making companies selling software that cuts, blocks, and bleeps words, images, and entire scenes that the companies think offensive. On the other side, we have moralists, child protectors, and some opponents of strong copyright control arguing that this software is a tool of parental empowerment and that all of us should be able to revise movies for private viewing and eliminate the naughty parts.


Frankly, though, the more interesting questions are political, not legal, and once again, “family” is the term that is used, both in the proposed law and in setting the terms of policy debate. But does a tool that destroys the artistic integrity of films by – to take one prominent example – deleting the nudity and violence from depictions of the Holocaust in Schindler’s List, really help families? Are children protected from harm by watching sanitized versions of history, artistically incoherent narratives, and films shorn of words and images that their parents, or the entrepreneurs seeking to sell these products to parents, find troubling or offensive?

Read Heins’ piece, “Bleep: Censoring Hollywood,” at the Brennan Center (pdf) or Free Press (html). Excerpts can’t do it justice.


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