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Submitted on
December 17, 2013
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I received this fantastic question from :iconcopperchipmunk: back in October (to which I did respond quickly) and have wanted to share my answer to a wider audience/ open myself to the opportunity of being persuaded to think differently if a better viewpoint is made (although I only just now remembered to do it). 

"Hi again Mr. Bates,
Listen, i'm working on something for school and my teacher said I should contact you and ask you something you should most definitely have an opinion about.
What are your views on the unnecessary censoring of children's cartoons, comics, and 20th century books? Do you believe the parents are being too censor-happy with some of these, or do you support their decision?
Examples: To Kill a Mockingbird was banned from schools because it "promotes white supremacy" when actually, it doesn't.
Derpy Hooves has been edited in My Little Pony because she was "offensive to the disabled" when actually, she ISN'T.
Writers and artists are being shunned or forced to edit their work.
Please respond to this ASAP. It would be nice to hear a comic artist's argument."

Wow, that is an excellent question and something I consider myself passionate about. 
A fast answer is that I'm firmly against "unnecessary" censorship, as you put it, especially in regards to children's/all ages/20th and 21st century entertainment. 

However, it requires a longer answer that I will attempt to keep brief. 

It's important to control what ideas and content a younger audience is exposed to. That is without question. We as a society determine a basic guideline or set of rules for what is appropriate for certain age groups, or certain material, and creators must be held accountable to craft entertainment within those parameters. 

But as you've pointed out, often the material censored is a victim to an overzealous effort that does not understand the content its stripping. Knee-jerk reactions are too often acted on without a sincere effort to understand the property or its audience. 

Steve Pinker addresses a topic that relates to this in his book 'Better angels of our nature', specifically the section 'CHILDREN’S RIGHTS AND THE DECLINE OF INFANTICIDE, SPANKING, CHILD ABUSE, AND BULLYING'. Here is a quote that I think is particularly helpful-

"The movement over the past two centuries to increase the valuation of children’s lives is one of the great moral advances in history. But the movement over the past two decades to increase the valuation to infinity can lead only to absurdities. "

Unnecessary censorship is one of these absurdities. 

Children are young humans observing and learning how to react to the world around them. What older humans need is an honest and rational discussion about what is acceptable for a contemporary young audience. 

We need to admit that a full-scale whitewashing of all the unpleasant truths and difficult ideas that make up our reality is not healthy for developing humans. 
We need to engage developing minds on moral and intellectual ground with these topics. For example, explain and converse with them on why something is no longer acceptable in our culture, such as racism. Or that some humans are born or develop physical and mental disabilities, then attempt to help them understand how this affects their lives. 

With a firm understanding of these topics, young minds can absorb, understand, and appreciate these representations of their reality in entertainment.

No good can from an ignorant populace!

Thanks for asking!
-Ben
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:icontazi-san:
Tazi-san Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
I think you're response was well put :nod:

I remember the things I use to watch as a kid involved characters dying, a bitter sweet end, good overcoming evil but at great price, etc. Dealing with realities like death or that life doesn't always turn out the way you want is something kids will need to grasp and those were always the stories I never forgot even when I was 4 years old!

I think it's all about purpose.  Why did the writer/artist put that element in there, was is just to be sexually or violently gratuitous and drag the viewer through the mud or to serve an actual purpose in the story? There are some things that I would never let a kid see, not even I would watch it, but I know there are some things that are not outright bad to see, it's just their minds can't grasp them yet until they are more cognitively mature.

We just have to be thoughtful and take it case-by-case.
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:iconplasticplayhouse:
plasticplayhouse Featured By Owner Dec 19, 2013  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter

i totally agree!!!

 

And I love Mr. Pinker's statement of

 

"The movement over the past two centuries to increase the valuation of children’s lives is one of the great moral advances in history. But the movement over the past two decades to increase the valuation to infinity can lead only to absurdities."

As a parent of two children myself, I understand the importance of what it means to be a parent.  A parent is a caregiver, leader, mentor, advisor, and a disciplinarian.  I'll be the first to say that I'm not the best parent.  I believe we learn new things every day and that we can all strive to be better, yet it saddens and frustrates me when I see other "parents" mentor/lead their kids.  Some parents are so afraid of what others may say or how they may be perceived that they fail in some or all of those categories.  For example, the child acts up in a disrespectful manor - the parent ignores them or appeases them.  The child craves engagement and mentorship - the parent tells/allows them to play video games/watch tv for hours on end because they are too lazy to make time for them or they just want the child to be "quiet".  Many parents naively believe they know their child's friends, but they don't truly know quality of their child's friends because they never took the time to get to know them.

It feels like too many people turn a blind eye to the true meaning of being a parent/mentor and they allow the media (applies to this censorship topic) to dictate how they should be a parent.  It is also those same people who believe that in order to "help" the children grow, they need to eliminate any possible threat, difference, or negative encounter.  Rather than having the child read a semi-controversial book and the parent/teacher taking the time to explain the true meaning behind it (therefore showing the kids that you should try to understand something before you judge it), it is easier for them to just shelter them from topic all together.  Sure some things should be censored, but if our society gets overzealous (which it is becoming), how is the youth to learn to understand something before judging and also how to determine right from wrong on their own accord? 

 

That is a long winded response to overzealous (and I stress overzealous) censorship, but it has a profound effect on our youth, their growth, and ability to be free thinkers.  Needless to say I am passionate about our youth and our responsibility for their upbringing.

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:iconbiosonic100:
Biosonic100 Featured By Owner Dec 18, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
The only censors content needs are discretion warnings, and ratings. Otherwise literature in all forms should be allowed free expression.
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:iconwarriorkt135:
warriorkt135 Featured By Owner Dec 18, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
100% agree
adding to favs
and at least there are people like u in the world that think logical and reasionable .3.
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:iconmx-robotnik:
Mx-Robotnik Featured By Owner Dec 18, 2013
Unnecessary censorship is why my daughter doesn't watch many cartoons about these days (we also don't have any way to watch live TV), she watches a lot of stuff from the 80s/90/s and early 2000s, the stuff I grew up watching and loving and she loves it too.

I get that parents want to protect their kids but there is no need to be so over zealous over much minor things like Derpy Hooves.
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:iconlight-dusk:
Light-Dusk Featured By Owner Dec 18, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Censors are definitely necessary for some of the more 'mature' content the entertainment industry has to offer, but yeah, censors/bans/political correctness can get out of hand quite a bit.
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:iconmegahayzer:
MegaHayzer Featured By Owner Dec 18, 2013
Yes!! Yes! What this guy said!

To be honest, Mr. Bates, I might vent a little bit, but I want to bring you a related but different plight:

Your mileage may vary on the subject of Christianity. Whatever, that's fine. I'm a strong rooted Christian individual (to the point where nothing can sway me from my faith). Bah, starting to speak Christianese again. So I wanted to bring this knowledge to you, since you care about this topic.

In any case: censorship is actually a big topic in Christian circles right now and has garnered a lot of debate. Both are pretty much extremes. One side says all things shouldn't have language, nudity, blood, etc. The other embraces all of those things and says: "The story would be wrecked without those things." For example, if all the gorey humanicide in Attack On Titan was removed, you would no longer have any fear of the titans because what they do would no longer affect you or further the purpose of the story by leading Eren to swear revenge on beings who didn't gorily eat his mother.

I happen to fall on the latter half of the debate. I think when things serve purpose, they should never be cut out for the sake of someone's emotions. Would Schindler's List be the same if all the shots of the Germans treating the naked Jews like animals were removed? No. Would a story about a group of soldiers in 'Nam be accurate if there was no language? No. So, then, would a film adaptation of the life of King David be accurate if they censored everything (cutting of Goliath's head, raping Bathsheba then murdering her husband, all the wars he led, his mighty men, etc.) And this is why the problem has reached Christian minds. And this is why it's important for me: we teach our children Bible stories, but shelter them from the same content in the rest of the world. Nope! You're not allowed to watch that movie because of nudity! Here, go read Song of Songs! (That book is all about sex, fyi; Hebrew erotica is weird to us, but considered holy if it's been kept for this long). Suddenly, Christians are even more inconsistent with their teachings: "Thou shalt not bear false witness." The ninth commandment. Is censoring a movie for a child's ears bearing false witness of what happened. I'd argue yes. It's one thing to forgo *all* discretion and raise a desensitized child, that's not what I mean at all. But I feel like society as a whole, especially the Christian chunk, needs to move past our naive views on content and start pursuing the people of our culture like Christ said to... In separating ourselves from the world in this way, we've made it impossible to reach people. It's not wrong (read: unbiblical) to curse and swear, nor is it wrong to witness blood and death. But somehow these rules become more important than the ten commandments, which speak nothing about these things.

Anyway, that was long winded, but like you, this is something I'm quite passionate about. I'd like to hear what you think, but I understand if you don't want to respond. We Christians aren't always the most friendly sort... Lol. I'm doing my best to change that.
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:iconseadaemonphotography:
SeadaemonPhotography Featured By Owner Dec 18, 2013  Professional Photographer
A very well-voiced response. I work for a book store, and October was "Banned Book Awareness Month", and it blew my mind how many titles had been banned in different communities/schools throughout our own country. 
You take a very strong stand here for educating vs editing, and I have to agree with you whole-heartedly. Thank you for sharing.
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:iconchauvels:
Chauvels Featured By Owner Dec 18, 2013   General Artist
This was a very thoughtful response! It would have been easy to answer this with a very short and brief entry. As you mentioned the "knee-jerk" reaction can happen to artists as well in response to censorship of almost any kind. Most artists (and creative types) are, of course, against censorship. Especially when it comes to the things we create ourselves. But we forget about the things we as a society choose what's appropriate to show to the young and what's not.

I am not a parent myself but I've seen friends and family members who started a family and become concerned about what their children are exposed to in the media. I've seen parents take it too far, I've seen others try their best to explain certain things to a child that doesn't quite get it. But more or less, each parent was always concerned about what their children watches, plays, or read.

I can also understand censorship to an extent. I have a very little sister (she's 3, I'm 26) and I wanted to tell her everything about the world, regardless of what it is. But when she's in the room while I'm watching something, I subconsciously ask myself if what I'm watching is appropriate for someone her age. Usually, I don't like her watching something that is overly violent. It's a weird feeling but I understand why censorship can be taken too far.

Am I saying censorship is a good thing? To be honest, things are not so black and white, there's a grey area for almost everything. I am against a lot of unnecessary censorship, like the whole "Huckleberry Finn" fiasco. But maybe we should always take a step back and try to understand why the other side acting in such a way. Maybe then we can have civil discussion on our point of view.
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:iconsurrealbrain:
SurrealBrain Featured By Owner Dec 18, 2013
Exactamondo, Ben! Sometimes censorship goes farther than it needs to.
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