Saturday, January 24, 2009

Censorship

Sometimes I find the censorship here really bizarre and haphazard. For example, I was in a bookshop looking at some books in the "health section", and there was one about breast cancer. Now this topic interests - or rather concerns - me because my mother had breast cancer. So it was supposed to be a guide for women, how to check themselves, etc. But the UAE censors had blacked out all the pictures of the breast self exam with magic marker - thereby totally defeating the purpose of the book. But, another time, I bought a book called "family doctor" or something like that and all of the detailed illustrations of female and male genitalia remained untouched. I don't know if that one book slipped by accidentally, or if it is up to the whim of individual censors to determine what is and is not permissible. I have no problem with them censoring porn - I wish it was censored everywhere, but censorship of medical books, because they show body parts, seems a bit crazy to me.

I hate censorship of IDEAS the most and of historical and religious topics and debate. I don't understand why other people's views are so threatening. And it doesn't always work in your favor to remain blissfully ignorant of opposing views and ideas other than those with which you are comfortable . I like to read the opinions and ideas of people from different religions, cultures, etc. It doesn't mean I will agree with them, but it does help to understand where other people are coming from and what is motivating them and why they do and say the things they do. I find it very frustrating trying to look up certain topics online here, and all I can find is the viewpoint supported by the government - and everything else is censored. It seems they spend so much time worrying that someone might let an opposing opinion on religion or history get through, that they let other things that ought to be censored slide right on by...

I was taking my kids to a movie at a mall in Dubai several months ago. It was a children's movie, and upon entering, I noticed I was the only parent in the theatre. The rest of the audience was comprised of children aged 12 and under and a couple of Indonesian nannies, who probably didn't speak much English. We were early, so the neither the movie nor the previews had started, it was silent.Suddenly, as we settled into our seats, music started pumping into the theatre - it was loud and the words were very clear and for the most part, quite forgettable - but I will never forget the chorus... "you know I want to FUCK you," over and over again. By this time my little one, who has ants in his pants, was already dancing in front of his seat to the catchy tune and beat. My older son looked at me in shock - he knew it was a bad word. I shot out of my seat and went to find the theatre attendants, who got an earful from me, though I realized later it probably wasn't their fault, they just play what they are given I.

I am pretty sure that no movie theatre in the US would risk playing such music for fear of being sued by an offended customer - and getting fined.

I have also occasionally heard lewd lyrics on songs being played on public radio stations in the UAE - whereas, back home, a cleaned up version of the song would only be permitted on the air (unless things have drastically changed since the last time I checked, which I don't think they have). I wonder just exactly who these censors are here. Who are these men (or women?) who get to see and hear everything and then decide what is unfit to be seen and heard by the ordinary man/woman. Who has the job of reading women's magazines all day, page by page, and blacking out "obscene" things. Sometimes I wonder if, before they black out certain body parts, any of them secretly take their time to admire the images or watch more of a dirty movie than they really need to...
I think they should spend less time worrying that an opposing religious or political view will slip through, blocking websites that give relationship advice, and blacking out necessary illustrations in medical books, and focus their attention on the things that matter more - like what kind of music little kids are listening to in public places. My son remembered those lyrics for a long time after hearing them only once...

9 comments:

Empress Anisa said...

Darling... you've been tagged!
http://thebarefootempress.blogspot.com/2009/01/ive-been-tagged.html

Desert-Veil said...

You've been tagged twice! :0)

http://desert-veil.blogspot.com/2009/01/ive-been-taggedagain.html

Jen Jen in Jakarta, Indonesia said...

I am finding the same problem over here in Indonesia.
The mall's 'Muzak' can be almost obscene, as are the slogans on some young peoples t shirts. My kids have heard and read far more swear words here than in the west.
I can't even begin to imagine why film and TV companies think it is acceptable to show violent, graphic, horror, etc clips and ads during kids shows.

Molly said...

Tis the same way in Egypt. In malls, theaters, restaurants, the most obscene language is permitted and yet if the music was in Arabic, even a suggestion of something racy becomes an outcry. The main reason is that they think most people do not speak English and will not know.

There was a huge outcry last fall over a song by Tamer Hosni where he says "aktar haga behebeha feeki howa da" and LOOKS AT HER BREASTS and says "oh oh ohoooo albik"

(the thing I love about you the most is that *looks at her breasts* oh oh ohooo your heart.)

I mean, the lyrics aren't racy but the video (which was a song in a movie) was kind of. And people were pissed.

Imagine if they knew what the english songs were saying.

desertmonsoon said...

reminds me of a commercial i saw on youtube to promote learning english. This old couple gets in a car with their grandchildren and turn on the radio and this song that says "i want to f*** you in the a**" in english comes on and they look at each other smile and start nodding their heads in time to the music and drive on.

desertmonsoon said...

by the way @ Jen and Molly: thanks for reading and commenting

Al-Ghariba - The Stranger said...

Salams Sister,

Yeah in UAE i could not access English Teachers Quarterly professional journal. But I could buy books at Abu Dhabi mall full of torrid stories of illegal extra-curricular activities while seeing ex-pat shoppers saunter by with miniskirts and half their chest hanging out. LOOOL. Crazy bloody world.

desertmonsoon said...

Thanks for commenting Al Ghariba and welcome to my blog

it is crazy what they choose to censor and online censoring is the most annoying because you click on something you think is completely innocuous and it is censored and you have no idea why. English Teachers Quarterly is censored??? That would actually be funny if it wasn't so irritating.

A. said...

It is surprising what can get past the censors. When I was in Jordan, there was a Canadian movie on the local channel that had American, Brittish, and a little Canadian shows/movies. They kept saying the P____ word (female body part), which surprised me. The censors must not have known what that meant.