Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bad Words

Okay, so this apparently will be part three of the Censorship series. Day one was pulling books out of school for being "inappropriate" and day two was the restrictions on sex and sexuality in television. Today will deal with curse words in both literature and television.

There are several words that are barred from anything kids might happen to look at. I mean, if you read a middle grade book, you're not going to see a character blurt out a string of curses, even if it's appropriate for the character or if the softened dialogue seems inaccurate. The same goes for childrens' television. But keeping children from being exposed to the word "fuck" is one thing. Refusing to allow God, demon, gun or bomb is another.

The first, I'm sure, is not allowed for fear of offending people who don't want their children to hear blasphemy. The second I've never understood, although I suppose demon can have religious connotations, association with such is not the first thing that comes to mind. Gun? This is getting a bit ridiculous, especially when I know of parents who take their children out hunting. Yes, I know there are school shootings, but they aren't caused by anyone, from four to forty, hearing the word gun in a cartoon. Interesting: the word weapon is okay. Bomb is in pretty much the same boat. While I'm not advocating shows about weapons and explosions, if a serious-minded childrens' show mentions a bomb somewhere, I don't think it will traumatize anyone. I mean, it's a kids' show. They're already forbidden from showing death.

Is this a case of taking protection too far? Or is it trying to shield children from harsh truths? Words can be powerful, devastating even, whether in the form of a threat, a cruel barb, or a simple joke. But will...can seeing a cartoon bomb in an unrealistic situation cause irreparable damage? I'm sorry, but I just don't believe that, especially when other countries allow their children to view/read these situations and no harm comes. I just don't believe hearing of bombs and violence will desensitize children even a small amount. Hell, I started reading Steven King when I was eight and violence still horrifies me. I think they're looking in the wrong place if they want to protect their children.

There are words that should be legitimately banned, but these are words of degradation, not actions. If a child hears the n word in casual conversation, s/he will believe it's okay to use that word, that there is no history of violence and disenfranchisement surrounding it. In the same vein, children should not watch/read about heroes who bomb or kill (mentioning is different from actions) because then they'll think that is acceptable. But how far is too far?

We must constantly question that. And we should not rely on others to make that judgment for us.

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