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December 1993


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Doug Riblet <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 15 Dec 1993 11:29:34 -0600
text/plain (55 lines)
Sorry to keep responding to my own post . . .
I may have responded too harshly to Megan Mullen's post last night.
In reading through the exchange again this morning, it strikes me
that each of us read the NYT article in different ways.  In
retrospect, I agree with some of Megan's points, and she may well
agree with some of mine.
At the risk of putting words in her mouth, Megan seemed to be saying:
The NYTimes and other US newspapers have no qualms about taking a
strong stand in the Trent University/Duras case, but with a similar
US case, they would likely take a more "balanced," less clearly
anti-censorship view.  I think this is true.  Last month, our local
paper published an article about another case in which a US university
film class (can't recall which school) had shown the film Taxi Zum Klo.
Some students in the class had rebelled, stating that they should not
have been "forced to watch" such a disgusting film.  The newspaper was
assiduously "balanced," giving equal weight to the libertarian views
of various professors and to the protestations of a handful of
homophobic cretins.  (If any Screen-l participants were directly
involved in the Taxi Zum Klo case, I would love to hear details.)
Megan is also right that belittlement of Canadian culture and politics
serves an ideological purpose in the United States these days, as the
powers that be try to squash a small but growing movement supporting
a Canadian-style single-payer national health insurance plan.  I
certainly do not support that agenda.  US censorship and Canadian
censorship bug me in equal degrees.
However, Megan writes, "Canada, like any other country, has its
bureaucratic hypocrisies."  If this implies that the Trent/Duras
case was a minor bureaucratic hassle undeserving of the attention
it has received (again, I do not wish to put words in Megan's
mouth -- she may not have meant this), then I must disagree.  As
I stated before, I see the Trent/Duras case as one example in a
mounting trend -- in both the United States and Canada.  Moreover,
the fact that many (certainly not all) leftist, feminist intellectuals
have contributed to this trend disturbs me greatly.
I do not know what troubles me more:  the National Endowment of the
Arts denying funds to artists like Karen Finley and Annie Sprinkle
because their work is "obscene," or undergraduate students rebelling
at being "forced to watch" artworks which offend them.  In my view,
to shock and disturb an audience is one of the most important effects
that an artwork can achieve.  The idea of 18-23-year-olds putting
forth a "right" to be protected from such artworks and insisting that
they only be exposed to artworks which provide pleasant experiences
strikes me as one of the most disturbing trends in our culture.
It is relatively easy to formulate a strategy for fighting state
censorship -- how does one try to counteract the latter phenomenon?
Best wishes as we approach the holiday break.
Doug Riblet