Citizens, Censorship and the Arts

So one stream of thought that we need to engage in the context of an Introduction to the Arts that delivers general education credit at a public university is measuring our relationship to censorship. It rarely makes sense to advocate for an absolute libertarianism with regards to the arts; we all can immediately think of important qualifiers that require thinking about the modification of representation. Most everyone accepts that there need be a shared sensibility about age-appropriateness for instance (although little agreement about what is age appropriate); we accept that there are contexts that might rightfully be called “sacred” in which some materials might be inappropriate (although little agreement about when something is truly sacred); we accept that absolute freedom with regards to speech is hard to maintain — we recognize the usual prohibitions about, say, “shouting fire in a crowded theatre.”

That said, one of the most important things that a university education can provide is opportunity for students to gain sophistication and subtlety in the development of an attitude to speech and representation for which it is harder to generate community consensus. You need to learn context, appreciate diversity while not slipping into solipsism or absolute relativism, and — as always in this class — learn to describe your response (aesthetic, religious, political) in enough quality detail that others can make sense of the story you are trying to tell.

So let me throw out a few examples over the next few weeks that might provide occasion for you to try out your skills at explaining context, working to recognize diversity of opinion, and articulating what you see and hear in the context of your own value system.

Rocky Horror Picture Show in Georgia — too risque?

Art, Nudity, and Facebook


About jchall1960

I'm the instructor for FA 200, Introduction to the Arts at the University of Alabama
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9 Responses to Citizens, Censorship and the Arts

  1. I’m not going to lie, at first glance when I opened “Art, Nudity, and Facebok” I was SHOCKED to see the pictures at the topped, although they are beautiful and well renowned pieces of art, to me seeing pictures of nudity is not appropriate, I believe in our society (especially in America) censorship is such a huge thing, nudity is almost frowned upon, but if you go to other contries, it’s not. For example, i went on vacation to England with my family and there, they found nothing wrong with nudity, they had naked women in their magazines and didn’t blur things on their televsion shows, i think that your perception of how you deal with nudity evolves from your environment. So someone from England perhaps may not feel as uncomfortable as I do, but since nudity is not such a publicized thing in America, it does make me uncomfortable when I see it.

  2. kdwiggins says:

    So… I just followed the link about the Rocky Horror Picture Show being shut down. It honestly makes no sense as to why the mayor of Carrollton is stopping the production. My grandmother lives in Carrollton, Georgia, so I understand that it is a VERY conservative town… But then again, these actors aren’t running around on the streets preforming the songs in front of children. This play is in a closed off building where only adults over the age of 17 can get in… yet people are horrified that it’s in their town. If you don’t want to see it, DON’T GO SEE IT. The City of Carrollton’s Cultural Arts Center deemed the show to be a “culture clash” for their city. But no one is forcing its people to go..? Can the people not decide/speak for themselves? Or does the government really have to censor everything for “the good of the people”?

    So the plot of the story is risqué, but that’s just how some people express themselves. It’s art. People are all wired differently and just because you may not particularly agree with it doesn’t mean you simply shut it down.

  3. khoover22 says:

    After watching the video news clip about the Rocky Horror show being called of in Carrollton, I would have to disagree with the mayor’s decision. Yes, the show may be risque but honestly it’s 2011 what haven’t people seen these days. It’s just a play, not real life. It might be different and I might agree with the mayor if little kids were allowed to go see the play but as far as I can tell they are not. People older than seventeen should be mature enough to handle an R rated play especially if they can handle an R rated movie. Also, if it bothers someone that it’s going to be risque then they don’t have to go see it. It’s not like anyone is being forced to go see it, it’s just an option of entertainment. I believe that sometimes little towns or cities need new and spicy things to come up, such as this. Anyways, I hope they raise enough money and do get to put on the show in a private place eventually.

  4. srlewis3 says:

    Even though I knew I would not like what I would see when I saw the nudity link, I clicked it anyways beacause I was curious. This is exactly what someone who is younger than me would do too, but instead of closing the lick quickly as I did, they probably would have shown some friends or been scared for life. I think that those pictures are not apporpriate for anyone to see, no matter the age. Censorship should be in mind when working on art. For example, a half covered breast on a sculpture would probably be considered artistic. A close up view on a vagina would fall into the category as porn before art.

  5. Nure Kassas says:

    Our culture has become obsessed with sex and nudity, equating it with art. Every year movies, books, photographs, and paintings become increasingly more graphic with each “artist” pushing the benchmark of what is considered appropriate a little further, (most of the time, it seems, in an attempt to create controversy), and then labeling it art. Unfortunately, this places some of the “art” produced today more on the pornographic end of the spectrum than the “aesthetic” end. This can be quite disturbing for people whose religious beliefs dictate their values. I also think that these people have every right to speak up when they find these images inappropriate, yet, somehow, they always get labeled as “too conservative” or “old-fashioned.” There is a fine line between what is “beautiful” and what is “inappropriate.” For example, I am not sure how many you actually saw this article a few months ago, about the 10 year-old fashion model who was dressed rather provocatively. French Vogue defended their as “beautiful” – so where do we draw the line? (I’ve linked the articles below).

  6. mdetter says:

    After viewing boht articles, I believe that art should be limitless; that each person has their own thought and perception that they choose to express in various ways. Despite this free range of thought I do believe that there is a time and place for each form of art. For example, One wouldn’t post a dramatic,detailed painting of Jesus in a Buddhist Temple. In this context, I think Facebook should continue to prevent nudity from being displayed online. Yes, those things can be found all over the internet. But with spyware these days, one can’t find them unless they are searching. People of all ages are found on Facebook, and are constantly surfing the site looking for new friends. I feel that nudity should be avoidable. I along with most people were disturbed be the photos and I believe that is mainly because of the morals most of us are brought up with. One’s body is sacred. I mean afterall, we do walk around in our daily lives with clothes on. I mean, let’s be real. Some places won’t even serve food without having shoes on! This is society’s standards and they should be respected.

  7. elgernert says:

    I do agree with facebook and i think that nudity should not be allowed. when i first clicked the link i was a bit shocked. I think that some people take nude pictures as art but that doesnt mean they have to be on facebook.. Where a lot of people can access. I think the pictures should not be allowed on facebook. I also watched the rocky horror show clip and think that the mayor was being a little ridiculous. People know what there going to watch when they buy ticket to see the play. It might be a little risky but at least the audience knows what there about to watch. I think the mayor should just have made it known that the play was going to be R rated and still allows people to watch it.

  8. sbusby2015 says:

    Ok, so I visited the link about nudity, and even though I knew what was coming I was shocked at what I actually saw. Was I offended? No! One thing I think people don’t realize is that nudity is gradually becoming everywhere in the United States. Even though it does make me uncomfortable to see photos like that how can we judge? Seriously think about it. There rarely these days is a movie where you don’t see some kind of nudity. The movie may be funny, scary, or even sad, but somehow nudity will show up. Why? Because it seems that is what our society is coming to. Money and sex appeal. Look at our celebrity world alot of people think that unless you are wanting to dress half naked and dance around than you can’t be taken seriously. I disagree, however, I think it is something we are going to have to get used to. Facebook however I do not believe nudity should be allowed. Even though I think there should be a stricter age limit and twelve year old kids shouldn’t be on facebook, I believe it is disrespectful to have photos like that posted for the world to see when they log on.

  9. I believe to some extent that if you do not want to see nudity, then don’t look at it. You have a choice, and its not like these pictures pop up on Facebook unless you click on them… However, I do believe in the censorship of nudity. Yes I believe that the human body is beautiful, at least some of them, but that doesn’t mean we should walk around showing it off. I feel as tho the term “but its art” is just like claiming insanity in the courtroom to justify yourself. Is Playboy art or just porn? Anything can be “art” if you call it “art”. The styrofoam cup I’m drinking out of right now is “art” to somebody but I’m going to throw it away… Just because one person, or a group of people believe something, doesn’t mean that it should infringe the rules and regulations already set in place. When someone signs up an account with Facebook, and when they add pictures, it clearly states there is to be no nudity. If you have a problem with that, then don’t be on Facebook. I found it funny at the bottom of the article where it shows the two social groups “Artists against art censorship” and “Stop censorship of modern art”, because between the two, there are barely 500 members! There are 750 MILLION active users on Facebook, and it seems that only 502 actually care about having nudity censored. This whole concept is just like any other argument in this country. Nudity being art, gay marriage, abortion, animal rights vs. hunting, going green, the 2nd amendment, is bigfoot real or not… The list goes on and on. The problem here is everyone thinks they’re right, and that they are owed something. So now everyone is getting in other people’s cool aide but they don’t even know the flavor. So if you have a problem with something or somebody, stay away from them. Regardless of the outcome of facebook’s censorship argument, if nudity is allowed, don’t look at it, if its not allowed, then express your art in an art blog or somewhere only people who will appreciate it will see it.

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