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Author: Subject: Should Books be Censored or Rated?
Michy
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[*] posted on 5/4/2013 at 11:28 PM
Should Books be Censored or Rated?


Television shows are rated and censored. Movies are rated and censored. Video games are rated and censored. Should books be rated and censored?

Historically, books push the envelope of societal comfort zones so that we are made slightly uncomfortable by the content but are forced to face some of the baser urges of our species.

Books can contain graphic murder, rape, sex, crime and more, both real and imagines, and be considered artistic still, or entertainment at the least.

Where is the line drawn between art and titillation?

If a book contains a graphic murder, should it say so? What if the book isn't a sex book (not porn, not erotica) but it contains a graphic sex scene replete with penetration and oral/anal intercourse? What if there is sexual abuse of a child told in detail---but the book is a crime and suspense novel? Does it get away with it because the genre wasn't for titillation?

And what if these books don't tell us what to expect, as many or most of them don't these days, and we happen upon these scenes in books when we were expecting something quite different?

In the past, the gatekeepers (publishers/agents/editors) 'protected' us from things like this by only include thing that were absolutely necessary for the plot and weeding out scenes that weren't necessary or where perhaps too graphic in one area given the entire structure and plot of the book.

But with indie publishing now, there are no gatekeepers, and while Smashwords has some minor censorship due to using PayPal as a payment processor, Amazon.com has ZERO censorship even if or when they get multiple complaints about the same book. There are no warnings, no labels, no rating, no nothing, and with indie publishing, now, anything goes...

So what do YOU think about this?

Should books be censored for content?

If no, should they then be rated to that even though they aren't censored, those with more tender sensibilities don't accidentally stumble upon them?

How would a rating system affect, if at all, the way you write your books/stories?





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[*] posted on 5/5/2013 at 07:18 AM


A very interesting subject, Michy. Although I do not believe in censorship, the idea of 'rating' books hadn't occurred to me. It shouldn't be terribly difficult to come up with some system, similar to the one used for TV, to let people know what to expect in a book. I could be approached from a voluntary standpoint. If the reading public appreciated that, public opinion might 'force' compliance simply from a 'I won't buy it if it doesn't have a rating' reaction. TV movies use the 'R' rating with 'V', 'S', 'L'. That could be taken a step further. It wouldn't prevent anyone from buying anything they want to, but would give a warning to those who might not want to spend their money on a book they certainly wouldn't want to read.



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[*] posted on 5/5/2013 at 08:00 AM


I started typing with one idea, but once I started thinking about it more, I'm not so sure.

I really like the idea of a rating system. It's not something that ever occurred to me, but I really like it. I read my first graphic sex scene when I was around 8 or 10 years old, and I was absolutely not ready for that, but I was reading books from the adult part of the library because I was a very advanced reader, and they only had two fiction sections - picture books, and not-picture-books. All of the more advanced children's books and YA books were mixed in with the adult ones. A rating system probably would have helped me considerably.

As an adult, that sex scene seems pretty tame, and wouldn't bother me if I stumbled across it. But your example of graphic sexual abuse of a child would certainly turn my stomach. There's a reason I don't read crime novels; that's a perfect example of it. A rating system might make me more comfortable with picking up some random crime book.

That's what I wanted to say at first.

Then I started thinking about The Higher Power of Lucky - a Newbery Medal winning kids books, frequently banned because it deals with adult themes (abandonment, Alcoholics Anonymous, foster care, death of a parent in a not-so-abstract way, poverty) and because it uses the word scrotum a handful of times, including on page 2 or 3. "Adult" themes, and adult language, and I'm sure this book would be rated much differently from what I'd rate this book as. Its actually a wonderful book, one of my favorite children's books. I would say that it's written in a very appropriate way. And suddenly, I'm less certain about ratings being a good idea.




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[*] posted on 5/5/2013 at 09:54 AM


That's a good point, Erin. It's true that some books would not be picked up, simply because of the rating for some seemingly innocous thing. But then I feel a rating system would also allow parents to choose--if parent is a good parent, they'll simply read the book first and determine if it's acceptable. Which puts the parent back in the loop--which would be a good thing if all parents were good parents.

I worry too that it would then cause things to happen like book retailers having to disallow children buying books or like the movies where they have to check IDs to sell anything above a certain rating.

It could get interesting...




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[*] posted on 5/5/2013 at 12:31 PM


Well, the big difference Iím seeing here between media and books is that any idiot can and does watch television and movies, but only certain types of children read anything more than the teachers force them to.

I believe that those children, on the whole, are more advanced and mentally mature than kids whoíd rather play first person shooter games than read a book. In light of that, I think that a little graphic stuff here and there wonít bother them at all--well, most of 'em. You know what I mean.

A rating system WILL hurt the sales of some books, there is no doubt. And what about the kids who shop on Amazon by themselves? Wonít a lot of them SEEK OUT adult rated books just because? A book rating system only works if the parents go shopping for books with their children which, Iím sad to say, likely isnít the majority case.

Thereís a certain expectation when you go see a Disney film that nobodyís going to swear, masturbate, or smoke a cigarette. But books, in my mind, are a stripped down, more real version of the crap on screens, so I believe stuff like that might have a place no matter the age group. Do I necessarily want my eight year old reading a steamy sex scene? Probably not. But if he or she is eight years old and reading books, itís already a win situation that they (and the parents) can probably handle.




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Michy
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[*] posted on 5/5/2013 at 02:03 PM


I read a story once, a memoir style (but fiction), novel that was a coming of age story. I loved the story. Absolutely loved it. But in the story was a scene where the little girl, about 11 years old, was running home to get her baseball glove for a practice she was invited to participate in and she as very excited. On the way down the stairs, her father stopped her and he basically raped her. It went into minor details of him putting his penis between her legs, instead of in her, and talked about his weight of his body on hers and the smell of alcohol on his breath.

I think the scene itself was too graphic for a child to read. I was 13 when I read it, and it was too graphic for me.

As an adult, I don't think it was too graphic at all. I think the writer handled it beautifully, in walking that line between sex and violence, making it clear this was the latter, and how she wrote it was quite well done.

Even so, I don't want a child to read that... and I was a child and I read it.

My kids, both of them, would spend all day in the library and come home with literally armfuls of books they would keep for two weeks. With my son, I let him loose in the kids section, so I was safe there--but with my daughter, it was anything goes... today, they both still go to the library on a regular basis. When we moved, my daughter got her library card before she changed the address on her driver's license.

I think ratings puts an undo hardship on the author though. Movies have to be sent to a ratings committee to get rated. Who would rate the books? Would the ratings be universal? If a book wasn't rated, could you publish it as 'unrated'. etc.




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Michy
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[*] posted on 5/5/2013 at 04:49 PM


Also, what if a rater thinks a book is this or that but the author wholly disagrees? I can see potential lawsuits, etc.



I seemed to be looking down from an immense height upon a twilit grotto, knee-deep with filth, where a white-bearded daemon swineherd drove about with his staff a flock of fungous, flabby beasts whose appearance filled me with unutterable loathing.

Just keep writing and the good stuff will come.
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Michy
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[*] posted on 5/6/2013 at 12:55 AM


I know that they have talked about producers and such making movies and ensuring they keep the number of explosions, fights, expletives, sexual thises or thatses to a certain number to ensure the movie gets the rating they hope for. For example, a movie can use the word Fuck a limited number of times, as long as it's not used in reference to a sexual act, and still get a PG-13 rating (I don't remember off the cuff how many times it is)... Shit will get a PG-13, and sometimes ass and bitch are acceptable. But using fuck the wrong way will get you an R rating every time.

So in the movie industry, there is a guideline that the producers know, and they basically decide to do their movie within the guidelines of the ratings they want.

That's why I wondered with authors, would knowing there was a rating system do anything to change how you write your novels? There are so many authors pandering to the public instead of writing what they really want to write...




Love and stuff,
Michy
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[*] posted on 5/6/2013 at 10:34 AM


In Erin's case, I think the library was more at fault for shelving juvenile books with adult books.

I have no problem with a rating system, but it seems to me that there is already one in place. Just like movies have G, PG, PG-13, R, Xetc. books have Kids, Juvenile, Young Adult, Adult. Video games have similar. One R movie may have fantasy violence and a few curses, while another may have child abuse and rape, etc.

Should there be full disclosure on exactly what's inside on all types of media? I don't know. Would it be policed in some way? Kids in the library couldn't take out books marked with the "rape" sticker or something? I agree with Derek's thought that kids (teens) would purposefully go buy the books rated more adult than others if that were the case.

I too read from the adult section of the library from a young age. I was 11 or 12 when I read Flowers int he Attic - my friend in school had an older sister she swiped it from. I got incestual rape as my first glimpse of anything sexual. I'm sure not what my parents wanted me reading, but it didn't scar me.

As a writer? I don't care if someone reveals there is nasty abuse or whatever in one of my books. People can make more informed buying decisions. If I had to submit each thing I write to some rating committee before publishing it? That would be a pain in the butt.




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[*] posted on 5/6/2013 at 11:17 AM


Yea, and thereís also the problem that movies SHOW you things instead of tell, by and large. In fact, some movies are completely wordless!

An author has to use words for every single thing theyíd like to portray, so they can easily get into deeper water more quickly than the movie writer who has to obey a few well known rules.

Thatís my story, anyhow. :D




I seemed to be looking down from an immense height upon a twilit grotto, knee-deep with filth, where a white-bearded daemon swineherd drove about with his staff a flock of fungous, flabby beasts whose appearance filled me with unutterable loathing.

Just keep writing and the good stuff will come.
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