Most of you reading this article probably recognize those 8 iconic words. For those of you that don’t, the words in the title above were spoken by an actor named Clark Gable in the film “Gone With the Wind”, which was released in 1939. The plot to this film, which takes place in (1861) Georgia, is unimportant to this particular rant. The bit of dialogue mentioned above, however, is essential.
“Gone With the Wind” was released a mere month and a half after the Motion Picture Association board had passed an amendment to the production code. This amendment stated specifically that the “Use of the words “hell” or “damn” except when their use shall be essential and required for portrayal, in proper historical context, of any scene or dialogue based upon historical fact or folklore … or a quotation from a literary work, provided that no such use shall be permitted which is intrinsically objectionable or offends good taste” was forbidden.
It is hard today to imagine the amount of impact something like the word “damn” would have had on viewers then. For perspective, it would have been akin to the F-bomb being dropped in a PG movie today. Although we can laugh at the idea of this and consider it to be ridiculous, who knows what the future of the rating system will be in the coming century. As a society, the idea of what should, and should not be censored, has changed immensely in a relatively short amount of time. When I was a child, the word “Fuck” was restricted to R-rated movies. Imagine my surprise when in 2001 I heard the word being used not once, but three times in a movie that held a PG-13 rating.
These changes are not restricted solely to the cinema. Content allowed in video games has also gone under a radical change. Technically, the first video game to contain nudity and sex was a (1982) game titled “Custer’s Revenge”; A reprehensible depiction of racism, sexism, rape culture, and complete lack of game-play. This game was, however, 2D and highly pixelated. A far more graphic depiction of nudity would arrive in the form of “Duke Nukem 3D”, a game released in 1996 that showed women’s bare breasts. Since then, nudity has become more and more common in mainstream titles, as has violence, vulgar language, and drug use. The content of a game series like “Grand Theft Auto” Would never have been released 30 years ago.
I realize that none of this is particularly new information to most of you. You have lived through these changes and have noticed them just like I have. In truth, these changes are not what I intend to discuss. Rather, I intend to write about the underlying idea of censorship as a whole. The desire to address this topic came from, of all things, a vlog made by the YouTube personality PewDiePie (Felix Kjellberg). During the video in question, Felix states that he has recently come under scrutiny by the public for his perceived anti-Semitic behavior. Upon further research, I found that in the past Felix has faced similar criticism for his attitude towards things like rape, the homosexual community, and race. When I read the sniveling complaints of the overly sensitive, pity-seeking, emotionally underdeveloped neanderthals that were accusing this man, I couldn’t help but to feel an immense amount of bemusement.
When exactly, I wonder, did our country stop abiding by the First Amendment?
Our society has, over the course of less than a lifetime, made significant changes to our own definition of acceptable content. It is incredibly hypocritical, then, for us to unnecessarily judge someone on words used that carry no power of their own save the power we personally give to them. Likewise, social norms have evolved. It is now no longer socially acceptable to say things such as “gay” or “retarded” in the derogatory sense. Politically insensitive racial terms are also viewed as taboo, with words such as “chink”, “spic”, and “nigger” being considered especially abhorrent.
I personally identify with many of these cultural taboos. I am Filipino, Mexican, Chinese, Native American, and I am also bi-sexual. My days spent in high school were rife with bullying, and the full gambit of insults was used to my detriment. I have been called a wetback, a slanty eyes, a faggot, and a tree climber. I have faced discrimination based on my interests, gender identity, and race. Over the course of the years I have found less and less people that wish to demean me based on features which I have no control over. Yet I do still run across the occasional bigot who feels it their personal mission to convey their biased opinions to anyone within earshot.
In all honesty, why shouldn’t they?
I am not so weak that I take offense to someone calling me something that has been deemed offensive by the very same people that wish to “protect” individuals such as myself. I understand that the word “gay” can mean multiple things, and if it is used to describe me in a negative way, so what? I cannot imagine why I would afford anyone the satisfaction of having a word hold sway over my emotions.
I did not always feel this way. I used to come home to my mother in tears; I was so hurt by the words that had been used against me. Looking back on that time, I can understand why I was effected so strongly. My entire life had been filled with censors. There were words that you could not say, and words that could hurt someone deeply if uttered. Because of these words being forbidden, I was struck in the heart when they were flung at me. If, however, those words were not forbidden and instead were introduced with no stigma attached, I would not have had cause for offense in the first place.
Words are not people. They are not inherently evil, nor good. Words can be used in any way that the speaker sees fit, and the only people that align these words with good or evil are ourselves. With that being said, it would be rather nice if all of these stuck-up jackasses that think we should pussy-foot around for the sake of people’s feelings would just stop. Don’t they understand that they are fighting against themselves? By raising awareness on the damage of these words and by condemning their usage, they are, in fact, creating the pain that they are supposedly seeking to prevent. Words do not just fade out of existence, and even if they did, new words would arrive to replace them in due course. Censoring particular words is not going to change an idea.
It is time for us, as a people, to stop being so Goddamn weak. If you are offended that someone called you a faggot, question why on earth that becomes anybody’s fault but your own. If somebody calls you a chink, who gives a damn? The worst has happened, you were called a chink, and that’s the end of it. Anything that you feel as a direct result of being called by these names is not the fault of the person saying it. As of yet, mind control has not been proven to exist, so the only person making you feel like shit is yourself. If you go to work, and on the way inside the building, someone says that your shirt is ugly, then shit, that’s their opinion. You wouldn’t gasp aloud and begin frothing from your gaping mouth, aghast at the pure, unadulterated hatred of your favorite button-down. You wouldn’t start a charity in the name of raised awareness for Big Macs after someone told you that they thought Big Macs tasted like shit. You didn’t choose to like them, and you didn’t choose not to like them, because you can’t.
I am a faggoty, girly, red-skinned, squinty-eyed banana-tree climber, and I don’t give even half of a fuck if that is alright with you.
Thanks for reading.
–More to Follow