Whether it may be a beep on a television show or a heavily pixelated painting, we often see censorship of creative material on a daily basis. The reasons that are usually given are to "prevent obscenity" and to "protect the interests" of society.
The freedom of expression of an artist is heavily limited by such a censor where the entire meaning of an artwork could be lost. Such constraints may even force them to abandon a particular project altogether. Many valuable and original artistic contributions are lost in the process.
Resistance to censorship comes with its own dire consequences. The earliest example is the plight of Socrates where his refusal to censor his teachings eventually led to his execution.
Even today, the punishments for resistance are severe in many cases. In documentaries or pictures, we often see that best fine art and antique sculptures are cropped to avoid nudity. This degrades the art work and gives it the status of pornography.
Nudity and Swearing
The question is: Where do we draw the line when it comes to protecting the interests of the people? For example does a painting which contains nudity classify as obscene? Is it wrong to depict god according to your own interpretation?
On one hand censorship can prevent cultural tensions among people but on the other it also leads to the death of several ideas that could otherwise lead to the development of thought. Protecting children from explicit content is important but perhaps not worth limiting an artists' freedom to include nudity in their artwork.
Similarly, filmmakers should avoid wanton use of swear wordsbut a particular character or story may demand it. In such a situation a filmmaker must have the liberty to write what they want to portray.
The most iconic example of censorship would be how John McLane from 'Die Hard' would have to say "yippee-ki-yay, my friend" instead of his famous one-liner. Bloggers are weary of how self-censorship can potentially destroy a show such 'Game of Thrones' where sex scenes, nudity and violence are part of the show's dynamic and are crucial to the story-line.
We have set such an intricate set of rules that could ban content even though it does not necessarily offend anyone.What started as an exercise to protect moralistic interests has turned into a witch hunt to limit any sort of expression that doesn't meet with social norms.
The problem is when you ban an "offensive" artwork; it makes people even more curious about it which essentially defeats the purpose of censorship.
Often banned art works gain a cult following, which often leads to a situation where people cease to think about its negative effects. So, if one were to ban a song which mentions the use of drugs, some people would blindly support the song and completely ignore the reasons for the ban.A ban can indirectly glorify an artwork beyond a certain limit.
What next in censorship?
You meet people whose opinions you do not agree with but you cannot stop them from expressing them.Then why is a writer's opinion banned or altered to appease the people who find it shocking? Moreover, reality and truth cannot be censored.
Censoring swear words in a film does not succeed in removing them from the lingo. Same goes for news of violent crimes. What about the experiences of an eight-year- old who witnesses verbal and physical abuse of his mother each day at home?Why censor something that depicts the murkier realities of life?
The question is; why is it so uncomfortable to accept something that does not fall under the mainstream? And instead of erasing it, why don't people counter art with the help of the same medium? You find an art piece uncomforting or offensive? Counter its existence with a whole new one.
There is absolutely no emotion that cannot be depicted through this medium. Then why leave out offense? If a particular piece of artwork has disregarded your feelings in anyway, then why not counter it with another art depiction?
We cannot use censorship as a means of protecting ourselves from the reality or an opinion that does not sit right with us. We cannot afford to live in a bubble where our principles are the be all and end all of everything.
We must accept the fact that there are people with opinions or experiences that are offensive or feel inflammatory to us. But there is a reason for their existence. After all, good or bad; art will always be a mirror of life and hence we must always allow it to project whatever it needs to show.