As a Means of Expression
Editor’s Note: This post deals with censorship regarding art and language. Because of the subject matter, it contains words that some in our audience may find uncomfortable.
It’s amazing how censorship can make you hate the art that you love. I was listening to the “Killing In The Name Of” on the radio, and I was loving it as usual until the last part of the song came on. You know, when Zack de la Rocha sings “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me.” The “fuck you” bit was edited out, crudely, and because it was removed, the song became a different song, it became a weak cover of itself, one somehow performed by the same band. I was compelled by the situation to turn off the radio. I didn’t just switch to a different station, I turned the motherfucker off. Because what could I expect to find elsewhere, apart from disappointment?
But some might say that a good song doesn’t need obscenity to be good, and hey, I like Frank Sinatra, too. His songs are both clean and great. They’re also, for the most part, about happy loves and triumphs in life. If bad times are mentioned in the lyrics, they’re simply things that have been overcome. To put it differently, Frank sings the same stories Odysseus would have sang when he returned home. He doesn’t need cuss words to express his tender joy, and naturally, given the era most of his songs were written in, cuss words were easily omitted, having never been considered unless in jest.
So great, that worked for Frank Sinatra and the emotions he voiced in his music, but that doesn’t work for all artists because clean language isn’t always the best way to express an emotion.
Sometimes you feel angry, now. A situation has come up, and you’ve yet to overcome it. A love turns sour, and you’ve yet to find someone who can restore your faith.
What do you say during these moments? Whatever you want. And in that moment, for that emotion, de la Rocha chose to sing, “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me,” and who can deny that he meant it? He meant it the way Frank Sinatra meant any word in “That’s Life.”
Words change based on the situation and the individual experiencing it, and music is the best medium to demonstrate this. So when certain words get censored from public broadcast for reasons of public decency, I have to wonder what is indecent about the word, and that means wondering who finds the word indecent exactly. An unanswerable question, perhaps, because the so-called powers that be can always give it a good Orwellian dodge, which I suppose is their right, as cowards.
Still I’m left wondering what is being censored here: the word itself, the emotion it represents, or the individual’s right to acknowledge that emotion. Words are things we’ve made up because we have consciousness and lack telepathy. They’re supposed to represent real things and abstract notions like language itself.
So if I’m in the midst of a rant and I say “fuck” and you attempt to censor me, perhaps you are protecting your values, but you’re also restricting how I express my emotion, and to some degree how I feel about it. I don’t know, but shit’s fucked up. RATM is impossible to listen to on the radio, just as Scorcese movies are impossible to watch on TBS.
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This is a blog for challenging assumptions, building faith, and developing a stronger community. The two channels of this blog – Faith and Narrative – push us to know ourselves and the world around us more intimately. Want to learn more about us?