Misogyny? Censorship?

I just saw something on the news about the "Chocolate Jesus" scandal in New York City. Apparently, pressure from some Christians has caused the gallery to cancel the artist's exhibition. It brought back the memory of a discussion I had earlier this month on censorship and advertising -- the question posted was that are advertising becoming offensive to women and minorities, and does the government have the right and the obligation to censor these ads? In particular, the outcry centered on this particular Dolce & Gabbana ad, which many people interpret as a gang-rape scene and condemn it as being offensive to women. The reactions, by both men and women in that discussion, were surprisingly mixed. While most people did feel that the advertisers were walking a very fine line, many were neither bothered nor convinced that the ad portrayed harm to or disrespect for women. In a way, the advertiser succeeded in creating a highly sexualized but ambiguous campaign that are absolutely provocative, but may fall short of creating a real controversy.

I posted the following at AbsoluteWrite and I think it's worth repeating here:

Q: The question in the context of this discussion would be: had the studio not chosen to discontinue the ad campaign, should the government had stepped in?

My answer:

Of course not.

We can look at how MPAA works. They don't really "censor" anything, I don't think, or tell a filmmaker they can't make this film or that. But they will slap an NC-17 label on a film, and virtually make it lose its mass market appeal. So yes, in a way, they are telling the studios that they have to change the films if they want to get an R or PG-13 rating; but there is still a choice. Movies have been shown in their intended forms, with their intended contents (child rape, torture, whatever) with NC-17 rating because the filmmakers/studios don't budge. It's still about money. But no, the government shouldn't censor. It shouldn't be their job.

Now ads are different, I suppose. You can choose to watch a movie or not, based on its content and rating. But if the ad is on a huge billboard on the side of the highway, you have no choice. So it becomes a consumer's "right to choose" issue now. But once again, I don't think the government should censor, unless the ad content clearly violates the laws (for example, if the ad agency wants to put up an ad featuring child porn).

Still, the line is blurred between art/expression of ideas and reality. Murder is illegal, and yet it's prevalent in all kinds of art form, including video games. So where do we draw a line, or should we draw a line?

So, if Dolce & Gabbana has an ad that depicts, explicitly or specifically, gang rape, I think it can be argued whether they have violated any laws. But in the case of art, especially if it's vague and open to interpretations, it's hard to tell. Were Mapplethorpe's photography porn and did they violate sodomy laws, for example? Or were they just deemed immoral by certain morality watchdogs? That was the issue that Cincinnati faced a few decades ago. We gave an answer back then, but it seems like the questions are being raced again.


Popular Posts