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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Pre-censorship do you do it? Do you even know that you do it?

 Pre-censorship

-to determine arbitrarily in advance what may or may not be permitted in (books, films, news releases, etc.)



Many of us are aware of censorship. From the time we are young, we are very aware of it.
But as writers and or artists, sometimes we are not aware of a much more significant, and subtle form of that. Pre-Censorship.

When you write, do you avoid certain topics? Rape. Incest. Risque sex. Bestiality. Racial. Violence against animals, women and  children. Politics?

Rod Serling was known as the "angry young man" of television." Against his own good fortune, he fought hard and bristled against the very heavy handed censorship in the early days of television. He would even go so far as to call out the networks and sponsors in the public media. In this 1959 interview with Mike  Wallace, he talked about how it works and how even he had come to accept that if he wanted to survive in the television writing world, he had to adapt.
Below is a written transcript of an exchange on the topic of this blog.

http://www.rodserling.com/mwallace.htm 

Mike Wallace: Paddy Chayefsky has talked about the insidious influence of what he called pre-censorship. How does that work?

Rod Serling: Pre-censorship is a practice, I think, of most television writers. I can't speak for all of them. This is the prior knowledge of the writer of those areas which are difficult to try to get through and so a writer will shy away from writing those things which he knows he's going to have trouble with on a sponsorial or an agency level. We practice it all the time. We just do not write those themes which we know are going to get into trouble.

Mike Wallace: Who's the culprit? Is it the network? The sponsor? It sure is not the FCC.

Rod Serling: No, it's certainly not the FCC, ideally speaking, of course. It's a combination of culprits in this case, Mike. It's partly network. It's principally agency and sponsor. In many ways I think it's the audience themselves.

Mike Wallace: How do you mean?

Rod Serling: Well, I'll give you an example. About a year ago, roughly eleven or twelve months ago, on the Lassie show this is a story usually told by Sheldon Leonard who was then associated with the show Lassie was having puppies. And I have two little girls, then aged five and three, who are greatly enamored with this beautiful Collie and they watched the show with great interest. And Lassie gave birth to puppies, and Mike, it was probably one of the most tasteful and delightful and warm things depicting what is this wondrous thing that is birth. And after this show, I think they were many congratulations all around because it was a lovely show, the sort of thing I'd love my kids to watch to show them what is the birth process and how marvelous it is. They got many, many cards and letters. Sample card, from the deep South this was: if I wanted my kids to watch sex shows, I wouldn't have them turn on that. I could take them to burlesque shows. And as a result of the influx of mail, many of the cards, incidentally as Sheldon tells it, were postmarked at identical moments all in the same handwriting, but each was counted as a singular piece of mail. And as a result, the directive went down that there would be no shows having anything to do with puppies, that is in the actual birth process. Well, obviously, it is this wild lunatic fringe of letter-writers that greatly affect what the sponsor has in mind.


I am sure that I, like everyone else, does it. How much I am actually aware of it is debatable. It is very sub conscious on many levels.
How about you? Do you pre-censor yourself? Where is your line and how aware of it are you?



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