After posting about bisexuality here on the blog, these days I hear a lot about various activism topics relating to glbtq issues and upcoming events. I definitely appreciate that my friends and contacts keep me up to speed on these issues, which are important to me and many people I care about.
Yesterday, however, I was invited to a Facebook event urging me to support banning a horror movie which apparently features a graphic rape sequence and is potentially offensive to transgender people. I’ve never seen this movie — and apparently neither have most of the people behind the movement to ban it, who also have an online petition they want me to sign, because they are telling me to do all this based on the movie’s trailer. The movie is apparently Victim (2010), and features what appears to be a forced gender reassignment surgery performed as revenge.
I have a lot of problems with the approach being proposed by some of my fellow activists. First off, I had never heard of this movie before being invited to help it be banned, and now that I have educated myself about it I will more than likely seek it out to view it for myself and make up my own mind about it. I can’t imagine I am the only one who had this reaction — attempts to ban things almost always work against themselves.
But even worse these are the tactics of our enemies. When a new movie, tv show or popular book comes out which says its OK to be gay, or that sex might be fun and good for you, there’s almost inevitably an outcry by groups like the American Family Association or Parents Television Council who demand that this ‘filth’ be taken off the air before it can pollute our children or hurt someone’s morals or behavior.
Look at the recent uproar over Skins, which dared to show teenagers having sex with each other. Go further back and look at the attempts to ban The Last Temptation of Christ, a beautiful and stirring film which suggests that Jesus might have been tempted to have sex with Mary Magdalene rather than suffer that whole dying on the cross thing, but then chooses to do it anyway. Look, Victim is hardly the only or the first media to deal in edgy ways with transgender topics. Ian Banks controversial novel, The Wasp Factory, deals (spoiler alert! don’t expect them often in this blog but here you go anyway) with the aftermath of a highly inethical gender reassignment, an event that directly leads to insanity, animal abuse, and murder.
I’m a big Ray Bradbury fan. Many of us had to read Fahrenheit 451 in school. What most people seem to retain is that there is universal censorship and the banning of all but the most facile media. They remember that firemen are paid to burn books. What they forget is where the censorship comes from — while it is government supported, the push for censorship doesn’t come from some repressive new regime but by the demands of countless minority interest groups. The Christians don’t like media that makes Jesus or their religion look bad, the cops don’t like media that makes police look bad; scary media is bad for children. Only in the future depicted in the book these groups are all given the power to do away with the things that offend them, all the way down the line until everyone has taken their cut and nothing at all is left.
If we ban media that offends us then we’ve become like our enemies, and given them fuel when its our turn later by creating an environment of censorship and fear of expression. This simply isn’t how art works in a free and healthy society, where it becomes a conversation — or an argument — between different creators. By closing down one artist’s discourse it makes all our conversations harder.
I’m going to put it as simply as I can: If one artist offends you, don’t try to get their artwork banned. Make your own art that speaks your opinion louder, better, and more beautifully instead.