Tag Archives: censorship

Off Limits…Are You Kidding Me?

*Warning: Film spoiler ahead: Non-Stop

I’ll apologize right off the bat because this post is a bit repetitive in that I’m ‘ranting’ about censoring the writer again. A couple of things happened just after my post on this issue which lit up my nerve endings on the topic, and I wanted to open it for discussion again. One of them is hardly earth shattering. The other, for writers and other artists, is horrifying.

One of my favorite genres is the thriller so when I saw trailers for Liam Neeson’s Non-Stop, I knew I’d check it out. When it came to town, I enjoyed a night with “Liam” and mentioned it on social media. That solicited this exchange with a friend:

Friend: I’m a Liam fan, but heard it might rub people the wrong way.

Me: Okay, before I say anything…what have you heard would “rub people the wrong way”?

Friend: According to one online source and they say–spoiler alert–that it deals with some hypothetical someone from 9/11 retaliating by “hi-jacking” the plane and potentially killing passengers.

Friend: So, your take? & was this source wrong?

It’s not wrong, and frankly, I thought that part of the premise weak, trying too hard for a twist. Things the victims of 9/11 might do as a result of trauma are only limited by the human psyche, which as we all know can be truly creative. However, I’m thinking the last thing a victim of 9/11 would use for their revenge would be a plane. Just my opinion.

The problem with anyone taking offense at the perpetrator being a 9/11 victim is there is an assumption that no one impacted by 9/11 had mental issues going in. Not a likely scenario given the numbers of mentally ill in this country and the numbers impacted by 9/11. In Non-Stop, the hijacker’s “excuse” is the loss of a parent in 9/11. Here’s another issue. The perpetrator was also a former soldier. There are a lot of people who would take issue with that. Yet, Fort Hood is only one example of a soldier  going rogue and killing innocent people.

If we begin to censor who can be the bad guy in a film, who is off-limits? Why? Make the teacher the killer – the teacher’s union goes nuts, make the pilot the killer and the pilot’s association gets angry, and on and on we go. We have to seriously lighten up. AND we need to address our complete disregard of the mentally ill in this country.

The second and far more serious issue that caught my attention was this article on the number of men being sent to prison for murders they may or may not have committed, and the fact that the evidence used against them was their rap lyrics. We’re not talking confessions put to music. We’re talking generic, violent gangsta rap being used to convict people. I’m not here to argue their guilt or innocence. However, if the justice system can’t convict them on real evidence, the justice system isn’t doing its job. I can’t count the number of times I say, “I’m a writer. I kill people for a living.” Now, I’m a target? Every time I’m in the vicinity of a dead body (thank God that hasn’t happened yet) am I the perp?

As if writers don’t take enough heat from their inner critics and the external critics (agents, editors, reviewers, readers, etc.) now we have to worry when we sit down to write that our story line might accidentally get played out somewhere and we’ll land in an interrogation room to explain it? This is not about cop bashing because they have a tough job to do. This is about the slippery slope we got on when we began the PC business. We should always be respectful. But our first duty is honesty. It is best if both can happen. But in a PC world where your lyrics get you 50 to life, neither happens.

Sound off. Does this latest trend frighten you?

One small note about Non-Stop: It’s a great ride, fast paced and fun. Reviewers talked about the believability factor. I’m cautious with this these days. In the year 2000, we would have laughed at a film about terrorists gaining access to US domestic flights and flying them into US targets. We have to exercise caution when we say something could never happen. If 9/11 taught us nothing else, it taught us that.






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Filed under The Life, Writing

Censorship and the PC Movement. Writers, Put Up Your Shields!

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 2.53.58 AMOne of my professors in grad school preached a lot about the danger writers might fall prey to the political correctness bug. While there is nothing wrong with being kinder and gentler as a society in our discourse with each other, being PC has not really had that effect. In fact, it appears to have had the opposite. People get into bitter discussions and vitriol flows freely in comment threads and on social media sites. If it sends the average Joe down that path, what is it doing to writers?

Brock Pope informs student writers this is a daily battle. We have to guard against it every time we sit down at the keyboard. The PC mentality is so engrained in our society that all rational thought leaves the building. Everything has become an attempt to ‘marginalize’ people. Recently, I had a scene with my detective, a Native Samoan. My critique partners both suggested it be cut as it was stereotyping. I trust my girls, and I always take their suggestions seriously. However, as writers we have to know when to fall back on our own counsel and what we know and have learned.

When I was going over the piece later, I kept hearing Pope ranting in my head against writers who cave to the pressure “not to offend” or to maintain a “PC” approach. Ultimately, I cut the bulk of the paragraph in question, not because it was stereotyping but because it was info dumping. I researched Native Samoans thoroughly and what I said was not stereotype but fact. There is a difference. When we make every male black character a basketball player, it’s stereotyping. They are not all brilliant basketball players, and they don’t even all like the sport. However, if I write an Italian character who talks with his/her hands, I am not stereotyping. Talking with our hands is a genetic factor in who we are. Attend my family reunions, you can pull major muscle groups dodging the arms.

What bothers me most about this PC culture is we’re slowly wiping out and demeaning our own histories. By demanding others not acknowledge who we are, we are also denying it. I grew up on Italian jokes, loved them, still do. Do we probably look silly talking with our hands? No doubt. But it’s part of who we are, and I wouldn’t change it anymore than I would my name. There are hazards to writing characters that have diversity. We’re encouraged to do it, yet told not to write characters outside our own culture. These things are in opposition. Trust writers to write. Allow them to create characters from any number of cultures, full of a richness that is part their culture and part their own unique personalities.

Writers today can spend too much time worrying about offending people and not enough time writing real characters. As writers, we must ignore the culture wars when we sit down to write. Otherwise, we are censoring our writing more than we’re editing.

How do you silence the inner editor who seeks to censor you?


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We’re living in a strange world. Orwell’s worst fears of cameras on street corners and government intrusion into our bedrooms and if you’re female, your uterus. It’s something writers are actually quite familiar with. Writers have faced it since they first put chisel to stone to tell their stories. Not from any one source either. We face the self-critic perched on our shoulder every time we sit down to write. And when we place our work out there – as we must – we face the often harsh criticism of others.

I’m guilty of that inner censor. For one thing, I write for young adults. I am cognizant as an educator of the limitations others will place on my audience if my content strays outside of an acceptable path. In spite of the fact, that for teens to relate, writers truly have to “go there”. I hear my former librarian’s consternation over being caught between what her students wanted to read and what their parents wanted to keep from them. We aren’t circus performers and we know that one wrong step and we’ll go splat. There is no safety net.

In grad school, Pope Brock often spoke of this tendency of writers to cave to the pressure of the inner critic. Sometimes it’s the voice of insecurity. Other times it’s the voice of a harsh public. Sometimes they are correcting us(accurately or not), other times they are merely telling us no one is interested, and we should just shut up. When we draft, we too often listen to the voice of that public. If I use this word, will it offend the reader? In order to write from a place of truth, we have to fight all forms of censorship. Whether it’s the voice in our head or our perceptions of the reading public.

How do you shut out the voice of censorship when you write?


Filed under Writing