Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Logic, please.

1) A pair of exposed breasts

2) The colloquial word for faeces

3) A vicious beating or a murder.

In which order would you place the above objects in relation to a child?
That is, which would you least like a child to encounter directly? The answer seems, fairly obviously, to be in reverse order; partial nudity is held to be the least harmless, whereas physical assault is the most dangerous and undesirable. Now consider the same child being exposed to these things on a television screen - the order is almost certainly inverted . It is far more likely (and seems to be considered more acceptable) for a child to vicariously experience violence via the media than for the same child to be exposed to the pernicious image of, er, female nipples. This is, to couch it in the most conservative terms, fucking insane and indicative of a sick, death-obsessed society. I do not want to have to live in a world where this is the case. Perhaps this can be conveniently be blamed on the Church - the all-pervading image of the crucifix providing a precedent for the glorification of violence and death- but whatever the cause, it remains that this is not the way a civilised society behaves. This is not a "think-of-the-children" rant proposing censorship of Tom and Jerry or any of that nonsense, however. I am fundamentally against censorship. I do agree that allowing vulnerable* people to choose whether or not they are exposed to violent or otherwise disturbing imagery is a good idea. However, I do not consider a large amount of what would be considered "sexual imagery" (by which I mean specifically nudity) to be disturbing. Furthermore, the methods employed by the BBFC and their foul spawn seem fundamentally hypocritical. Why is it that (for example) a man's bare chest can be shown, but a woman's can not? The only argument I can think of that isn't inherently sexist is that female chests are secondary sexual characteristics and therefore more "sexually charged" than their XY counterparts. Which is crap, because unless we start worrying about intersex examples on television to the exclusion of all else, it seems to follow that in the majority of cases, any bare chest is either male or female, and therefore, a man's lack of breasts is equally sexually significant as a woman's possession of the aforesaid attributes. For the record, I think both are good. If anyone can come up with a logical argument for the censorship of nudity (especially over and above violence) in the media, then I'd like to see it, please. Now.
Otherwise, I call for a sane and non-death-exalting way of structuring and advising about content, in order that future generations aren't quite so fucked in the head.

*This is not necessarily dictated by age, and could indeed be a matter of personal preference.


At 7:58 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whilst I, at least in part, agree with Mr. Black's proposition, I do have one or two suggestions/questions which I would like to put to him.
Firstly, when he states that it is 'fucking insane' that violence should be allowed to be experienced on television, where actual abuse is frowned heavily upon, I would like to clarify the obvious distinction, which is that television violence is vicarious, and although it may have an adverse effect (i.e. prompting the viewer towards a 'glamorously' violent lifestyle), it is unlikely to be considered worse than actual physical harm.
What Withiel Black, of course, meant was to distinguish the comparisons between violence and nudity on television and in reality. With this, he indeed has a point. I do not, however, agree that it is the Church's fault that we have become a 'sick, death-obsessed society'; at least not in the context that Mr. Black suggests. In the Old Testament, the glory of God is exposed through his rage and wrath (i.e. Noah's flood, etc.). As the New Testament arrives, I hypothesize, the Church felt that the whole violence thing wasn't working for them - people weren't seeing the advantage in believing in such a shit God. This couldn't be unwritten, however, (well at least not the particularly memorable events such as the flood and murder of Egyptian first born, etc.) and so it remained the thorn in the progressively more 'liberal' religion. They now needed an image even more potent than that of flood, fire, etc. and so choose a symbol which can be easily reproduced and is easily memorable - the cross. The cross, however, is seen as a symbol against violence. Something that shows us how man can be violent, cruel and wicked and how only evil can come of it. So, in citing the 'all-pervading image of the crucifix', Withiel Black is perhaps wrong in claiming that it causes the 'glorification of violence'.
Or is he? The cross as an image evokes a certain fear in us. The bisection of two lines, a breakdown in the linear structure of life, an execution device, a sinister shape in itself, and countless other semiotic meanings. It certainly glorifies death, but I am still unsure whether it is meant to glorify violence in itself. Maybe Withiel is right.
The main premise of the essay is to highlight the stupidity in condemning light adult nudity. I do not think that censorship on this can take the form of how large the sexual object is, or whether they are designed as secondary sexual characteristics or not, but on how a censor predicts that it will arouse the viewer. ‘Tits’, to use the parlance of our times, I believe, are more likely to arouse people than male chests – at least that is the theory. What people fear is that by enlightening children too early, the ‘innocence of childhood’ will be destroyed; it may encourage the child to engage in sexual acts at too young an age (this is certainly a possibility); and it will allow children into the private adult world, which should only be allowed when people are closer to death [age distinction is not something I want to get into here, but perhaps the reason for such prejudice against children is a certain jealousy on the adult’s part – the children are likely to live longer, so let’s make their early years hell! – not a thought I necessarily agree with, but interesting nonetheless, I hope you’ll agree.] . I don’t agree with these reasons for censorship, but these, I feel, are probably the conclusion you will come to on the adult view, if you ask most parents for a response.

At 10:21 am, Blogger Withiel said...

It allows an object that is a symbol of violence to be displayed in many homes and public places - consider the reaction that would be had if visitors discovered a skull on your desk. Furthermore, I was attempting to make the point that the New Testament specifically fetishises one's own suffering of violence over and above the human sexual drive. Compare to the proliferation of nude or partially-nude images in Classical civilisation. And surely preventing children from seeing any images of the naked human body results in the aforesaid object being rendered "transgressive" in the child's mind, and therefore something to be ashamed of and to secretly seek out? If my example of violence is a problem, consider the reaction a parent would have to the beating or murder of an unrelated person in the street - this would surely still be more harmful to a child than my previous example of a woman's exposed chest.
" ‘Tits’, to use the parlance of our times, I believe, are more likely to arouse people than male chests "
Only if your society is geared around the mechanics of male arousal, as most primitive societies are.

At 5:27 pm, Blogger Sable X. Veins said...

Whilst I entirely concur with the aforsaid stances on the emblematic potency of the crucifix as representative of a destructive, sadomasochistic society, consider the following:

the cross is to murder and torture as images of a bloody car wreck are to drink-driving.


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