Censorship & the city

An interesting thing happened today.

I was told to remove a book from my book list because of “explicit content.” The book was Stardust, by Neil Gaiman, and the questionable content was the scene in the beginning where Dunstan is seduced by the witch. Luckily, due to the fact that the book isn’t really that risque for a teenager, I was able to get away with a gracious “Thanks for letting me know!” (I knew, I’ve read it) and leave it on the list.

It brings up a compelling & multi-faceted argument, though. I bookmarked Claire’s take on it back when she wrote it, because I love hearing other young teachers’ opinions on classroom politics. I thought of her (and in conjunction, this one from the Guardian book blog) today. Do we have a right to censor what kids read?

The answer is, ostensibly, yes. But is it good for them? No. Life isn’t pretty. People die. Pets run away. Genocides happen. People have babies in one night stands with faerie-slaves. It’s life. So I tweeted earlier that I wasn’t going to take it off the list.

My parents (all 4 of them) never censored what I consumed in any form, especially not books. Sure, Beavis and Butthead were verboten, but I read The Diary of Anne Frank when I was 8. They knew I was smart enough to ask questions if I had them, research what I didn’t understand, and most importantly, they knew that I was intelligent enough to understand the difference between reality and fantasy. In fact, I still mostly can! Bonus.

Do some books blur the line? Absolutely. But riddle me this: what’s worse? A skanky faerie-witch, or a main character whose whole relationship is predicated on saying ‘No’ and being forced to do things anyway? The whole Twilight franchise glorifies ignorance and sexism, and yet… No… Stardust?  We’ll encourage unrealistic teenage relationships, unrealistic teenage marriage fantasies, and unrealistic teenage pregnancy, thanks.

Great.

I clearly win.

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3 Responses to “Censorship & the city”

  1. Amanda Says:

    I’m with you — I think people of any age should read anything they can get their hands on. Reading something isn’t the same as agreeing with it. You have to have a statement in front of you in order to question it. And I think questioning things is something that kids aren’t learning enough about in schools. If kids are going to accept everything they’re fed, then yeah, you’d have to be careful what they were exposed to. But they can’t be protected from that forever, so the solution is really to expose them to whatever they want and get them to question question everything. If the world goes to hell because of that, at least it won’t be because they were sleepy, obedient cows.

  2. Cait Says:

    First of all, I started a book yesterday that touches on that – well, two books actually, and one reminded me of you particularly. “Ms. Hemple Chronicles” and “Notes from a Scandal” (for the record, the former, not the latter, reminded me of you).

    Secondly, it’s censorship. It’s just like with abstinence-only education; you can hide it from kids, but they still know about it.

    In the case of Stardust, which is a wonderful graphic novel, the sex scene is not even remotely pornographic. I could understand parents having a problem with you reading something that was inherently smutty – cough, Twilight – but Stardust is more literary. It’s the same thing as with Lady Chatterly’s Lover. Yes, there’s a lot of sex in it, but it’s not written like soft-core porn; it’s written because it adds to the story. A huge part of the story is that the boy had a witch mother. Clearly, sex happened in here somewhere – it’s not like his father found him under The Wall.

    I loved Stardust. It’s a great story, and it’s really vividly written. I think that it would be great for kids in middle and high school to read because it invites creativity. It’s also right up their alley with the whole fantasy thing.

  3. One Night Stanzas » Blog Archive » Procrastination Station #58 Says:

    […] Catherine of New England Noir on censorship. […]

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