This is my first blog post of the year. So long to 2016, and welcome to 2017. May it serve you well. I could go on about my resolutions this year, but I don’t want to be talked about if I don’t end up fulfilling them, so I’ll just keep those to myself. Instead let’s talk writing, because this post is long overdue.
Believe it or not I have written some wild stuff. Whether it be in English classes or a Facebook update with a not-so Christian topic. Once during college senior year, on a draft for a short piece I did in an English class, I received a comment for a line of dialogue which I used. That comment was “This can be offensive”. I wasn’t trying to upset anyone. I was just using a phrase that is often used in real life by a certain type of person.
As I sat in my desk taking in the comment, I thought about all the many pieces of literature that were considered offensive and even went so far as to be baned from schools and entire countries. I pondered about books such as Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mocking Bird” for its themes on race and adult issues, and Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” for its constant use of the word “nigger”(“Banned Books That Shaped America.”). This brings up the big question: Should writers be censored?
Michele Cates, Austin Peay State University communications graduate, said writers should not be censored, but that it depends on the writer.
“Writing about issues gets people to talk about it and to bring light to serious and social issues. Even comics have written about issues such as drugs, race, and gender issues since they’ve started. This can be done in music, tv, movies, magazines media. Anything.”
“There are things I personally don’t want to write/draw about, but some I do,” said Cates. “I want to do it to make the audience approach or look at things differently then they have before. And maybe they can as a person stand up for what’s right or recognize something they’ve done before as wrong”
Social media correspondent James de Moss said that we should not be censored, but at the same time that we should be aware of what we write.
“Creation is powerful, and every word processed onto the page is creation,” said Moss. “God created, and from his creation, all things have come. So to do we create, and all things can come from that which we create. We should be steeled against whatever those consequences are and be prepared for them. To write about something as difficult as addiction, for example, should not be censored, but at the same time, should be done in a way as to effectively convey the hardship of it. To glorify brutality, addiction, or pain is a dangerous thing. We wrote, and thus we create. If we must create, let our art be beautiful. Let our creations be fae magic, not fel. When we create, it should be to express, to show beauty, and show light, even if we use a dark paint to do so. I’m all for creation. But never will I create so as to destroy”
I think when you’re writing a fictional piece that you should have the freedom to write whatever you want. Yes, you are the one putting the words down, but the characters are the ones saying the dialogue and doing the acts that are considered offensive. As writers we have the ability to separate ourselves from what we are writing, just as actors can separate themselves from whoever they are portraying.
For example, let’s say I write a fictional piece involving a character who is homophobic and goes about harassing another character who is gay. Does that make me homophobic? No, I’m including the character because in real life there are people who dislike those of the LGBT community. Just like there are other issues in society such as sexism, racism, domestic violence, poverty, drug addiction, murder, rape, human trafficking, and torture. The issues go on. It is my opinion that not talking about those issues further allows them to happen. Writers, we have a responsibility.
As for non fiction pieces such as essays, speeches, or news stories, I think you do need to be careful with what you say because you are the one saying the words. In using your voice and addressing an audience you have the power to incite sadness, anger, hate, and violence. You don’t think words can hurt- they can.
Going off of what Cates said, I too think it depends on the writer. For example, during my college years at Austin Peay State University, I worked as a staff writer for the campus newspaper The All State. As a writer for the news section, I was tasked with researching; interviewing; and informing, but never inserting my own personal opinions into the article. And I was careful of what I said on my own personal social media accounts on certain topics such as politics. I did this to demonstrate that the paper was not biased. I wouldn’t call that “censorship”. I would call it “better safe than sorry”. Anything you say or do can reflect others.
One final thought, you can’t please everyone. There is always going to be someone who doesn’t like anything you do or say. All you can do is aim not to hurt and do what you feel is right. Write until you don’t feel comfortable. Do I think writers should be censored-no. Do you?
“Banned Books That Shaped America.” Banned Books Week. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Jan. 2017.