According to Mark Twain, “Censorship is telling a man he can’t have a steak just because a baby can’t chew it.” Censorship, or the suppression and prohibition of books, films, or other entertainment that are considered to be obscene, offensive, or indecent (Oxford Dictionaries), is and has been prevalent throughout history and has controversial effects. However, when the power of censorship goes beyond its intended purpose, it can even cloud one’s freedom of expression.
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Throughout history, the purpose of censorship has been used to help create a better environment to live and grow up in. Although some people might disagree with censorship because it takes away from one’s freedom of speech and the freedom of expression, it is vital in today’s society (The Importance of Censorship Essay). Censorship is more prevalent now due to the the many forms of entertainment such as movies ,cartoons, and media. However, the censorship of books is the most controversial form of censorship due to its prevalence of works throughout history.
Thomas Bowlder was a doctor, philanthropist, and most famously, an expurgator in the late 18th century and early 19th century (Encyclopaedia Britannica). He is known for his censorship of many of Shakespeare’s plays, his most famous work being The Family Shakespeare. According to Eschner, “ nothing is added to the original Text: but those words and expressions are omitted which cannot with propriety be read allowed in a Family.” During this time, literary establishments were often again the expergation because it took away the authenticity of Shakespeare’s original writing. And, as a result of this, “The term ‘bowdlerize,’ meaning, in the words of Merriam-Webster, ‘to expurgate (something, such as a book) by omitting of modifying parts considered vulgar,’ was first used in the mid-1820s, and it has been around ever since” (Eschner).
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was a Russian novelist who wrote a short novel called “Odin den’ Ivana Denisovicha” (“One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich”). This novel, more commonly known as “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich,” was about Solzhenitsyn’s experiences in a Soviet gulag. All the early editions of “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” contained some censorship, either by Soviet authorities or by Solzhenitsyn himself; who omitted details like the fact that he was tortured until he confessed a crime, in order to avoid trouble with Russian authorities (“One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” from Shmoop). Stalin is most like the true cause of this kind of censorship, since his rise to power in the 1920’s. Stalin censored literature that called his leadership and ideologies into question; and, if it weren’t for a shift of power in Russia, it is likely that “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” would have never been released to the public (Litcharts).
Solzhenitsyn’s book disclosed information about the Soviet Gulag System which lasted between the 1930’s and the 1950’s. Solzhenitsyn shared his experiences in order to reveal the injustice and abuse of power that was inflicted upon Russian citizens (Litcharts). However it is likely that Solzhenitsyn’s book might have had a much more influential, bold outcome if it hadn’t been so censored, and it had been released during Stalin’s reign.
Nowadays, since the invention of television in 1927 by Philo Taylor Farnsworth (Hur), movies have become increasingly more depraved and increasingly less censored. What may have been deemed ¨unacceptable¨ in the 20th century, such as pornography or profanity, is not only accepted in the movie industry today but welcomed. These two things are often what keep the audience´s attention due to the fact that people are often more desensitized to things such as death (Bradbury p. 49), murder, pornography, and other corrupted ideas.
On the other hand, movies have become more more censored to moral and political subjects such as racist, sexist, or offensive notions. According to Turner,
We live in a world where it’s now not okay to state your specific values or beliefs unless you’re going to be completely inclusive to everyone and everything, even if that means you go against your values beliefs.
He believes that the reason for people to be offended by everything is because ¨We don’t examine ourselves enough.¨ He explains this by giving a controversial statement that “I don’t believe that men were created to be with men, or women to be with women” (Turner). Today lots of people might take great offense to this, saying he “hates gays;” but he says that because he finds his identity in Jesus Christ, he believes men are to be with women, but because the gay person might find his identity in being gay, he is offended by this statement.
In relation to this, Bradbury says in his book Fahrenheit 451,
Colored people don’t like Little Black Sambo. Burn it. White people don’t feel good about Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Burn it. Someone’s written a book on tobacco and cancer of the lungs? The cigarette people are weeping? Burn the book. Serenity, Montag. Peace, Montag( p. 57).
He hints at the fact that, in most cases, it doesn’t even matter why people are offended, just that they are; and every precaution possible should be taken in order to avoid offending anyone. He also says “Don’t give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with”(p. 58). This suggests that, when it comes to controversial ideas, society should just remove the possibility of conflicting ideas.
According to Rebecca Miller,
Libraries, in an important sense, exist to remove fear from our culture: fear of the other, fear of the unknown, and the fear of differences of of opinion that make us human. They do not exist to remove those differences.
Books in general are full of opinions, beliefs, stories, and words. Whether it is for good intentions of bad, censorship created limitations of what other can say and read.
Another form of censorship brought about by television is cartoons. Most cartoons are censored due to their mature topics, dialogue (including foul language), sexual jokes, and violent scenes (Saberspark). Although Saberspark may not be a huge fan of censorship due to the fact he believes it is a form of suppression, it is necessary in some cases. The purpose of censorship, however can be traced back to one’s culture. Censorship is typically the prevention of altering one’s morals (Saberspark), beliefs, or to avoid corruption. It seems as though it is completely up to one’s personal beliefs as to whether or not censorship truly belongs in society.
Bowdlerization, although a pejorative term, can have both good and bad results. It includes all written works, including books and subsumes even modern-day technologies, such as movies and shows. The effect censorship has had on the world is as controversial as censorship itself, but in inarguable fact of expurgation is that it takes away one’s freedoms of expression, and one’s freedom to read whatever one wants to read.
- Bradbury, Ray, and Neil Gaiman. Fahrenheit 451. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, an Imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc. 2013. Print. 30 May 2019.
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- Encyclopoedia Britannica. “Thomas Bowdler.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 20 Feb. 2019. Web. 5 May 2019.
- Eschner, Kat. “The Bowdlers Wanted to Clean Up Shakespeare, Not Become a Byword for Censorship.” Smithsonian.com. Smithsonian Institution. 11 July 2017. Web. 5 May 2019.
- Hur, Johnson. “History of the Television.” From The 1800s To Current Time. 4 Dec. 2018. Web. 1 May 2019.
- LitCharts. “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich Study Guide.” LitCharts. 2019. Web. 2 May 2019.
- Miller, Rebecca T. “The long good fight: libraries at the heart of intellectual freedoms.” Library Journal. Libraryjournal.com. 15 Feb. 2015. Journal. 5 May 2019.
- “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.” SparkNotes. SparkNotes. N.d. Web. 5 May 2019.
- “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.” Shmoop University. 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 5 May 2019.
- Saberspark, director. Why Are Cartoons CENSORED? YouTube. YouTube. 10 Aug. 2018. Online video. 1 May 2019.
- “The Importance of Censorship Essay.” Cram. Cram.com. N.d. Web. 30 April 2019.
- Turner, Eric. “Why It’s so Easy to Offend People.” Medium, Thrive Global, 14 Mar. 2018. Web. 1 May 2019.
- Twain, Mark. “A Quote by Mark Twain.” Goodreads. Goodreads. N.d. Web. 2 May 2019.