Don’t Blind Me Without Blinking

What I learned in this class was more reinforcement and broadening of two simple ideas that I had already possessed: open-mindedness and choice. These seem to be the key terms upon which this class was built. I learned that an astounding rate of those who would ban or censor certain books had never even opened said books, let alone read them.

How can one judge something one does not understand? It’s a philosophical question, and I may be straying from my point, but there’s a lack of understanding that revolves around censorship. Andrew Smith said: “People fear what they don’t understand”. How can anyone be certain of the obscenity of any art form without bothering to look within the contents? I believe that no one should. They do, of course, and this is the problem.

There should be more awareness about what exactly the public is and is not allowed to encounter. The MPAA rating system censors sexual content four times more than violent content. Female pleasure is censored more than male pleasure, although nudity of a woman is more widely accepted that male nudity. There is a deeply endowed sexist mentality that is rampant in the industry, but that is another argument entirely. The fact is that it is not fair. Movies and books should be available to everyone, period.

People should be allowed to make the decision for themselves whether or not they want to watch a movie with a sex scene, or read a book which has a vivid murder scene. If someone doesn’t want to be privy to those art forms, then they should not be forced to partake. Taking away everyone else’s opportunity to enjoy something just because a small group may disagree with the content is wrong.

That’s my issue with censorship.

That’s what I learned in this class.

Fire, Fire Everywhere; Nor Any Book to Read

Although Fahrenheit 451 is considered science fiction and was written over fifty years ago, some of Bradbury’s fears which are made palpable through his novel are problems for today’s generations as well. The theme of book-burning in 451 reveals a panic as to whether books and literature itself will remain relevant throughout time. It’s true with the world’s increasing desperation for shiny new technology; books have become outdated in many ways. Some people would rather slide their finger across a screen than flip a page.

The enormous screens which seem to take over most of the population’s lives in the novel are not a far cry from the current obsession with Netflix in this era. We don’t need screens that line the walls because we have pocket sized televisions constantly able to update us with new and amusing applications.

The notion that technology is reigning over people’s minds is a prominent topic both in 451 and in life on Earth today. Libraries may well go extinct within the next hundred years. There is a chance that people will stop leaving their houses because literally everything they need to keep them happy will be available to them within the confines of their own home.

These ideas are frightening, and this is exactly Bradbury’s point. Books nurture, enrich, and educate minds, and although not all technology is bad, too much of anything is not conducive to any healthy lifestyle.

To Do What Needs To Be Done

Instead of one specific scene, the section of the book in which Rodriguez recalls how the gang violence turns from simple fights into murder is the most memorable in my opinion. This is mostly because of the transitions the author elaborates on to get there. He began innocent, like everyone equally does, however his poor living situation and criminal lifestyle turn him into something harder. The section where he talks about the deaths of those he knew and sometimes didn’t know is made all the more important because of where he stood on the matters. He did what he thought needed to be done at the time. That was how he lived his life. Those deaths were awful and he knew it.

Reading about how he managed to assimilate into whatever life was thrown at him was what made the book so easy to relate to, but also how he had the courage to realize when he needed to make a change, and to actually make it, is what truly made it memorable. I, personally, gained a new respect those who are thrown into the life full of killing and fighting. The statistics that get thrown around with gang wars on the news aren’t just numbers; they are lives of boys who were only doing what they thought needed to be done.

Everyone Desires Love

The two biggest differences between the movie and film versions of A Streetcar Named Desire are the history of Blanche’s husband’s death, and the lust, or lack thereof.

The movie leads audiences to believe that Blanche’s husband was quiet and poetic; that he killed himself because she couldn’t understand him and even hated that about him for it. Those who read the play know that it was really because her husband was homosexual. The fear, at this time, of even speaking this word still astounds me. Homosexual people existed in the 30s, 50s, 90s, and today.

In fact, the depiction of a homosexual man marrying an upper class woman to cover up that fact, and who becomes depressed and then is led to suicide because of her inability to understand his lifestyle, is common, and has been common for many years. It is terrible, but pretending it didn’t happen will not take away that fact. Hiding the homosexuality will never extinguish the homosexuality.

 In the play, lust is constant and everywhere. It drives every character to be who they truly are, and for the film to completely disregard this fact is a point to disregard the characters’ true intentions and selves. Stella and Stanley have an extremely lust-based relationship. They feed off of each other’s obsession with the other, in the play. By the movie removing certain takes which show Stella giving Stanley certain lustful looks; it takes away from the reality of their relationship. Also, the alternate ending in the movie as opposed to the play’s ending is really unsettling. Stella loves Stanley, and would never leave him, no matter how he beat her (which wasn’t clearly depicted in the movie either) or how many times they fought. 

The “Legion of Decency” didn’t want anyone to associate with the immoral, irrational character that is Stanley Kowalski because they didn’t want decent people to associate themselves with immoral characters in their own lives. However, my theory is similar to theirs, and yet contradictory: if no one will associate with those kinds of characters in movies, than how can people know that sometimes it is okay to know and love those characters in real life? Immoral people exist. Lustful people exist. I am not rationalizing with Stanley’s ability to beat his wife or rape his sister-in-law. I am merely trying to convey the idea that everyone desires, and deep down deserves, love.

Finally, I apologize for the length of this entry. I wanted to make sure I was clear in my position on this matter.

Education Saves Lives

There are millions of pieces of information thrown at human beings every day. Children are more like sponges than adults; they soak up every scrap of information their mind can compute, no matter its content. With today’s desperate need for social attention, not to mention the invalid stereotypes shoved into the mix, it can get confusing.

It is natural to have questions about the ideas being thrown around. Like every other human being on this planet, your children deserve to be privy to the truth about this information. They deserve to know that having sex without a condom will increase the chances of getting or giving a sexually transmitted disease, and could also result in a pregnancy. They deserve to know that 42% of Americans have admitted to smoking marijuana, even though it is a proven scientific fact that this act will kill brain cells over time. They even deserve to know the gruesome facts: over two million people will die drug-related deaths this year in the US alone.

These simple truths will change your children’s life, and it could even save them one day. Just being honest and open about the truthful answers to these puzzling new questions can steer your child in the direction of a safer, longer life.

As a parent, why would you risk not educating your child when all it will do is help them make better decisions?

“Misguided” Faith is No Less Faithful

Of all the ideas Alice Walker attempts to convey in her novel The Color Purple, lack of religion is definitely not one of them. Misdirection is a word easily thrown around when the topic of religious differences appears, and this novel’s critics have been no more original. God is present in the novel very clearly in many varying forms.

Celie begins her letters to what we infer is the Christian god; she is asking for a sign, for some kind of help in her miserable life. As her humanity decreases through the abuse of the men in her world, she loses faith in this god that has never helped her. Unhappy, she explores other ways to find faith, no less faithful in the goodness of a higher being. Her sister Nettie becomes an outlet for her misgivings. Not any less religious, simply funneling her faith through a different person. The Olinka believe in a tree god who is established as an “it” rather than a “he”, but that doesn’t take away from their level of faith. Shug Avery also finds god in nature and takes in the beauty of earth to mean a form of religion. None of the characters which the readers most associate with protagonists are faithless.

Believers may not be able to sit altogether in a certain church and agree with everything the pastor says, but they can all be content with their lives and find meaning through the love of some higher being. What you, as concerned parents, might see as anti-Christianity, your teenager, as a curious, growing young adult, may see a million different factors of religion. The wonderful part is that everyone has their own personal belief system that works for them. Being open-minded and having respect for all beliefs is most important when growing through life, so making sure your child understands that is the best way to help he/she through this novel.

Why Censor Something as Beautifully Enlightening as Reading?

It is a lesser known fact that the MPAA gives films higher ratings for sexual content than violence. This sends a message to American parents, convincing them that it is more acceptable to kill another than it is to physically love another.

One of the main reasons that directors have the MPAA rate their films is so that they can be advertised successfully and therefore make a profit; six of the largest film industries also control 90% of the media. However book advertising has little to with that same kind of controllable media. Word spreads through independent book stores, the internet, and word of mouth, none of which is powered by any of the top film-controlling businesses. Therefore it would be unnecessary for books to even want ratings, let alone need them. Despite how useful the ratings may or may not be to parents, there is no real reason for books to necessitate them.

On the topic of whether or not they would be useful to parents or not, I say, simply this: Your children already download whatever they want. Movies, music, and books are included. If they want to get their hands on a specific book, they will get it. Passing a law saying that they must be seventeen or older to read a book with a gay sex scene in it will not prevent them from reading it.

The reasoning behind the system is unfathomable, but it does prove that the MPAA’s rating structure is devastatingly flawed. Let the original story tellers keep their sanctity. For these reasons alone, there should not be a rating system put upon books.

Passion Rebuilds the World For the Youth

I think it’s meaningful that I recognize the same major issue with the lives led in The Giver, that is, lives without music and color, both when I read the book as a child, and rereading it now as a young adult. As a child who sang, danced, drew and painted as often as possible, this lifestyle exposed sounds terrifying. Not only does the population of The Giver not have choices, they have no emotion! I consider myself a passionate person and I enjoy pursuing the arts as a way of expressing that passion. Sometimes I feel joy when I sing. Sometimes I feel pain when I paint. It is the emotion I pour into my art that gives it passion, freedom from monotony, and beauty. Learning about a life that has nothing of everything I hold dear is really difficult to comprehend.

“Passion rebuilds the world for the youth. It makes all things alive and significant.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Lowry paints a “pretty” enough picture for the reader to know that you cannot miss something you have never had. However, the deaf idea that something is still missing and instinctively wrong with their lives is apparent through Lowry’s rich imagery and empathetic figurative language.

The most important message I can take from this book is one that should be embraced by both young and adult readers. Realizing and enjoying the seemingly small, but truly beautiful aspects of life, such as music and color is the purest path to an authentically passionate life.

The Right to Knowledge

The idea that a large audience can be prohibited by a generally small group of people from reading certain pieces of literature is one that is still rather incomprehensible. Why anyone should have such intimate control over another is unthinkable. No one should have any control over what is available for another to read. Reading is not only a choice, but also a chance for growth and learning as an individual. Taking away an option from the list of book choices is limiting that personal growth. By removing options, those with the authority to do so are assessing that the likelihood of the population’s inability to come to the correct conclusions is less than desirable and therefore dangerous. This vote of no confidence in the larger population is simply insulting to the average reader.  For example, if someone chooses to read Adolf Hitler’s book Mein Kampf, but it is banned in the surrounding environment, it will not necessarily stop the person from acquiring the book. After reading said book, he/she is liable to question many of the ideas that the book portrays. But if that book has been banned in that person’s town or county, there will be no one willing to discuss such ideas and no room for anymore growth beyond a simple understanding. Even if people cannot come to the right conclusions on their own by reading, banning the books would only limit those available to discuss the different conclusions made to create more room for learning. In this scenario, the person could favor fascism and not comprehend the damaging aspects of that mindset because it would be considered taboo to bring it up in conversation. That is the most dangerous thing that banning a book can do: cause fear which could ultimately limit the available knowledge.