Wednesday, February 26, 2014

All Hail Freedom of Speech

Before we get into this week’s blog, I’d like to devote a few lines in tribute to Harold Ramis (shown above, right, with Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd), who passed away earlier this week. If you don’t know the name, you know the movies he wrote or co-wrote: Animal House, Caddyshack, Stripes, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day and Analyze This, among others. If you went to a movie comedy in the late 1970s-early 1980s, you probably either saw him or heard his dialogue in the mouths of John Belushi, Rodney Dangerfield or Bill Murray. He was a member of the legendary Second City comedy troupe and, as time has demonstrated, a writer of comedy classics. Thank you, Dr. Spengler. You were a man of rare talent and you will be missed.

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As you may remember, a couple months back, before all the snow closed the roads, I conducted an experiment in localized censorship by visiting libraries in different counties to test what their content filters deemed too “adult” for me to look at. This was sparked by Lancaster County’s library system blocking my publisher’s site, shielding my innocent eyes from “adult content” I myself had written. Because we’ve got a large, conservative religious population of Amish and Mennonites in the area, it didn’t surprise me at all that Lancaster would block anything with even a whiff of the nasty on it. The system still allowed me access to a site that showed me how to build a pipe bomb. I suppose as long as you don’t try to have sex with it, the filter considers that okay.

Well, talk about your 180s. The other week I discovered, quite by accident, that the ban has been lifted. I doubt if customer protests or First Amendment rights had anything to do with it. Lancaster County recently upgraded their library computer system. I’m betting the content filter had to be reset, and hasn’t caught up with all the dirty sites yet. It even let me onto Ellora’s Cave! That proves the filter’s not working. It’ll probably get back to blocking erotica publishers eventually. Until then, I’d better do a lot of research and download a ton of submission guidelines. And look at porn, but I can do that on my laptop. The library doesn’t need to know.

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I’m almost done with my reread of all 1100+ pages of Stephen King’s It. That’s the one about an evil entity lurking in the sewers beneath a small New England town, killing children and promoting all things malevolent. (Which got me to wondering what’s lurking in the sewers under Peyton Place. Anybody want to write that one?)

What does a ten-pound horror novel have to do with freedom of speech? I’m glad you asked. This book, written and published in the more lax era of the 1980s, features a character who freely uses a certain word with, shall we say, negative racial connotations. Because even alluding to the word in question has resulted in legal action in the past, I’m not going to repeat it. I’m pretty sure you can guess which one I mean.

Now, I’m sure Mr. King is not a racist or a bigot. If he is, he knows enough to keep his mouth shut on the subject when in public. But he is a writer, and writers feel compelled to tell the truth as they see it. The truth is, people like the bad guys in It (at least the human ones) do exist in the real world, and they’re going to use that word, or similar words, against the people or groups they don’t like, regardless of political correctness or racial/sexual/whatnot connotations. You know, like what happened with Duck Dynasty.

Here’s what I got thinking about: my edition of the book dates back to 1985, before political correctness tightened its stranglehold on freedom of expression. Have modern editions been cleaned up—filtered for content, if you will—to protect the sensibilities of the modern reader?

That’s my next mission. Next time I’m in a bookstore, I’m going to look for a more recent edition of It and see if the book still exists the way King originally wrote it, or if it’s been cleansed for modern consumption. I should check current editions of Huckleberry Finn while I’m at it. That book ran into problems over the same word a while back. Wonder what it looks like today? If I own an early, pre-PC edition of Huckleberry Finn, am I in possession of offensive material?

One thing I’m certain of: the words bitch, cunt, cooze and fuck will still be in there, in all their offensive glory. Y’know, I’ll bet if the B-word ever becomes as big of a no-no as that other word, it’ll mean the end of literature as we know it. Half the movies in existence will be yanked from the shelves, and rap music will become extinct. And what will the women on almost all of Bravo’s reality shows call each other? We really need some unisex, ethnicity-neutral insults. Any writers out there up to the challenge?

Oh, and hey, Amazon: I understand depictions of underage sex violate your terms of service. It has a scene where an 11-year-old girl does the deed with all six of her little buddies. Plan on deleting one of Stevie’s bestsellers from your catalog any time soon? Look on the bright side: she doesn’t use the no-no word. Trying to earn a living as a writer gets trickier every day.


Savanna Kougar said...

Thanks, for the eulogy mention of Harold Ramis... it's been a long while since I've seen any of those movies, but thoroughly enjoy them all at the time... along with the roles Harold Ramis played.

Cooze? never heard that word spoken,or seen it... shows you how sheltered I've been... huh?

That is fascinating about the underage scene in IT... of course, some will argue that's literary writing as opposed to salacious porn penning.

And, that's always the danger of censorship... inevitably it's a slippery slope controlled by small, limited minds, and those who want to end free expression for their own nefarious reasons. ~sighs~ I'm really tired of it all. Really, as long as true info is available about a book or any media entertainment, people can make up their own minds. As long as no one is forced to read/watch anything, then what's the big effing deal?

My only line is when it comes to children, who do need to be protected from 'adult' entertainment-material. And, of course, the pedophiles' creepy crap. Of course, the problem with that too, is that innocent people are being thrown in prison because that pedo-stuff has been intentionally planted on their computers to frame them. And, in divorce cases, spouses are accusing each other just to win the case, not because it's true.

What kind of world are we living in? 'King' probably has it right, it's a nightmare coming from the sewers where the soulless exist.

Okay... of the soap box.

Pat C. said...

It's yet another word that refers to a lady's downbelow parts, and also to the lady herself. I don't see it used often in fiction. Maybe it's regional.

The sex scene happens toward the end of the book. By the time it turns up, you've been rooting for these kids for 1000 pages. It's an act of love in its purest sense. It wasn't done for tittilation. My point was that Amazon's been dropping romance books right and left for things "real" (i.e., high-selling, non-genre) writers are allowed to get away with. Your best bet is to skip the sex entirely and just have random, bloody violence. Nobody ever complains there's too much of that.

Savanna Kougar said...

Yeah, maybe the word is regional, since I've never heard it before, or seen it written anywhere.

Anyhoo, even when there have been complaints about the amount of bloody violence, rarely is anything done. All I care about is a warning beforehand.

Ah, yes, romance novels are constantly under attack for one pitiful reason after another. It's been that way since I began reading them at age 13. Just goes to show, imo, people can't deal with LOVE. Often it's an unconscious problem.

But worse, LOVE itself is under a brutal attack by those often called the dark-side controllers. After all, how do these psychopaths control the people when LOVE, in all of its expressions, is motivating them to care for each other, and take care of each other. Just like that Mother Moose -- that Rebecca wrote a flash scene about -- loved her baby.

In the end, LOVE does conquer all. However, our society has been perverted by design to the point where that doesn't appear to be the case.

Bottom line: there will come a time when, if they can get away with it, romance novels will be outlawed, no matter how much profit is lost. 'Cause, it's about ruthless unending power and control, not money -- that's only a means to an end.

Pat C. said...

I thought it was about suppressing women, since women are the primary writers, readers and publishers of romance novels.

Comic book writer/artist John Byrne once defined the difference between X and R movie ratings: "If you make love to a woman, it's X. If you kill her, it's R."

Savanna Kougar said...

Yeah, that's part of it. However, it goes much deeper. Women, at their spiritual core, hold the power of LOVE, of LOVE as it's expressed in the human race. Not to say men aren't as loving, they are and can be. However, men don't possess the power around LOVE that women do. Thus, the fair sex has been deemed the enemy since the fall of the 'real' high Egyptian culture, when the dark priests took over. Everything has been done to suppress women, to keep them from coming together in a common goal to better life on the planet. Women are pitted against each other, belittled, degraded into moronic behavior... on and on, you get the picture. Divide and conquer women as a race, and you rule the world. And thus, you rule the men. Men always follow women. The Roman slave owners wrote that basic premise. Whatever... you get the idea...