Communism in the Southern United States
© B.L. Bierley 2012
It’s a widely accepted fact in the town where I live that censorship is a given. It is also a widely known fact that Southerners can’t think for themselves and we must therefore be coddled so that we don’t make bad choices or take in everything we read, hear or see like sponges (*pronounced with a healthy dose of sarcasm). In fact, someone out there in my southern habitat thinks we’re all naïve sponges who cannot possibly perceive that stories or characterizations in movies of certain things are not presented as life-examples. (Coincidentally, I just realized that SpongeBob Squarepants is much more metaphorical than I originally perceived, but that’s off-topic). The other possible explanation for this censorship is much less palatable for my first amendment rights to comprehend.
Disdain: Sometimes Unavoidable
Why am I writing this you ask? Well, I’ll tell you. This past September a movie came out that my daughter and I wanted to see. It was based on a young adult novel. Being both a fan and creator of literature myself, I was eager to see how the film portrayed the novel, having read and heard reports that it was true to the heart of the storyline. I checked the content on a favorite parent watchdog website just so I could be prepared. My daughter DaVelma is intelligent and mature, but there are certain things that are sensitive subjects for her which I feel she would need to be prepared for before witnessing them in a movie. The content didn’t seem to me to be too extreme or graphic, so I set out to buy our tickets.
After countless searches using our internet update software that links us to movie release dates and ticket pricing, neither of us could find a showing of this film within our area. It was quite puzzling. After having purchased and read the novel that inspired the film and doing a cursory online search of the content and ratings (performed a second time just to remind myself) I knew the general subject matter and thematic elements of the movie. So I realized fairly quickly why it was not being shown widely in our area. And that, my literary friends, really hacked me off.
Southern Fried Delusion
Okay, I’m pretty hot as I write this, so bear with my disconnected thoughts as I attempt to organize my anger. In Small Town and Big City Alabama there are forces, for argument sake I’ll call them Big Brother or the monkeys (think “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” monkeys), who decide what is allowed to be seen, heard, or otherwise used to entertain in certain areas. Movies, music and anything that might have a less-conservative message are tamped down beneath the feet of the monkeys so that the public (i.e. myself and others like me) will not be subjected to any material that they deem “unsuitable” for the public. But what I have also noticed is that there are certain topics that they don’t have problems with at all.
Violence, crude humor, and nudity do not seem to suffer the same censure as others. Case in point: when the film, “Magic Mike” came out earlier this year, theaters in our area showed the film in vast numbers of viewings throughout the day from the moment it was released. And Big Brother seemed to be okay with that. Why the difference? Because the film showed men and women in what they have deemed to be “normal” sexual roles; this is why it was ultimately acceptable even if not for everyone (and by the way, it sold out in nearly every timeslot the first few days in my favorite theater).
Never mind that there were rampant drug issues in the film (including private use and large-scale, gang-related distribution) or that there was nudity, swinging, group sex, and adultery to add to the naughty list. But apparently those things are “everywhere” in society, and also do not upset the seemingly delicate balance of heterosexual behavior in society as we know it.
On the flip side, other movies were either passed over, or not shown in most theaters except on the most inconvenient viewing schedules. Why? Because the topics within these movies were leaning toward issues that the monkeys think are too much of a sordid temptation for anyone, of course, and that makes them much more dangerous to the viewing audience.
But the stunner for me was the fact that a movie linked to a popular teenaged novel was all but banned from our area made me take particular interest. I speculate that it was because of the portrayal of homosexual teens having intimate relationships behind closed-yet-highly-judgmental doors or showing children experimentally using drugs without going fully into the consequences of those choices.
Apparently the aforementioned themes were quite an outrage! But I think I’ve actually uncovered true, penultimate consequence of this movie. The idea that children can actually think about adult subjects and situations and that these same little darlings will eventually learn to process their lives for themselves must have been ultimate sin. I mean, goodness forbid they show children as they actually appear in the wild! Clueless parents who don’t remember ever having to make tough decisions or choices themselves without their parents’ input might be shocked to coronary death to realize that these things could actually be happening in their own children’s lives!
I know! Right? Too much for our tiny bird-brains to process!
Drawing a Possible Conclusion
I’m appalled that Big Brother has the gall to suggest that I, as a taxpayer and an independent-ne-college-educated human being, am not able to see these movies with my daughter and understand and further explain the characterizations for what they are! I know they cannot prevent me from going later to buy the movies and watching them myself in the privacy of my own home. But it still digs at my brain that things like this are done anywhere in this country! How is the moral monkeys not allowing a movie to be shown to a taxpayer in the country that created the writer and the movie any different from taxation without representation?
We pay our taxes and movie ticket prices, so we should be able to have a choice in seeing the films we want to see—whether the mayor or the town council or any other monkey agrees with homosexuality in teens or not. Whether they agree that sexual orientation is a condition of choice or genetics, they shouldn’t be able to dictate whether or not we watch a film that portrays it in an open, honest way.
When the Church of (insert name of country here) prevents people from worshipping how they choose just because it doesn’t agree with their policies and faith, how is that any different from consumers being prevented from choosing which movie or show or music or play we want to watch because it doesn’t fit a certain kind of criteria in order to be allowed? How is that different from the countless other examples of things that we, as colonists, decided to go up against when we fought for our independence and won it all those years ago?
Railing at a Brick Wall
I am not usually someone who would write this sort of rant. But come on, people! Honestly, I don’t know how much longer I’m going to accept this parental guidance from individuals so wholly unconnected with me. I didn’t vote for this kind of censorship. I wouldn’t have if I’d realized what kind of judgy-feely values these monkeys are force-feeding us. At the same time, I don’t like making myself a political watch-dog either.
I have enough stress without worrying over something some may say is petty in the grand scheme of things. I think what I really would like is some understanding. Maybe if a few more people complained about this then the monkeys might realize that it is not, nor will it ever be, okay for them to force me and others to conform to their ideas about how to think about my movies and books or choices of music.
I know I didn’t give any examples of books yet, but the censoring of them is still out there—Alabama is probably one of the highest states in support of book bans. For the longest time there was a coalition against Harry Potter novels. Some still refuse to allow their children to read these books because the work within them "glorifies cultish behavior." But the banning of books worries me less because the bans now lurk in shadowy places. With the evolution of E-readers, it is so much easier to obtain certain works undetected (Fifty Shades of Grey was a bestseller in the e-book format for a reason, y’all!).
As for music, I'll be brief. Our radio stations play a variety of genres, but they are all censored to the tightest parameters as well.
Why I May Move to Ohio
I don’t know why the place I live continues to behave like we’re not a democratic country—like we’re all five years old and don’t know how to make grown-up adult decisions? Alabama’s Big Brother feels that we need more stringent rules than the rest of the nation. Don’t believe me? I’ll give you some examples. Alcohol is highly regulated in our state—in some places you can’t buy it on Sunday and in still others you cannot buy it anywhere, any time.
We do not have a state lottery nor do we allow any sort of gambling except on Native American lands that are somehow impervious to state regulations. Our education system ranks continuously low because not only can we not fund our necessary programs with adequate monies, we cannot provide a regulated curriculum throughout the state for the same reason. And the disadvantaged areas get the same scrutiny and testing as those with slightly higher funding from local revenue.
We have state schools that could benefit greatly if we allowed a lottery intake to fund education for anyone interested within our state, creating a stronger work force and more job availability. But apparently "God doesn’t want the lottery in Alabama" (that’s a direct quote from one of the groups that campaigned against the vote when it was last proposed about six or eight years ago). But apparently God doesn’t have anything to say about people crossing the state lines and funding the state revenues of Mississippi, Florida, Tennessee and Georgia.
It has happened at some points in my lifetime where certain episodes of television shows are not broadcast in my area because they are deemed offensive for whatever reason the monkeys declare. I can’t name specific examples off the top of my head, and the internet always obliges when this happens, but I know at least two times in the last ten years where this has taken place. The last time it happened the FCC stepped in and threatened to euthanize the monkeys’ licenses to broadcast at all if they didn’t relent. But it should never have come down to threats and license agreements. If someone is offended by a programming choice, there’s this little device called a remote. If they can’t operate that thing, they shouldn’t be allowed to watch television anyway.
This last one is really the most ridiculous to me. In order to obtain certain items, which for the sake of delicacy I’ll refer to as “marital aids” from this point forward, we Alabamians have to declare that we suffer from a medical, physical or psychological condition rather than just a desire to have a little spice in our bedrooms with our spouse or any other consenting adult. Worse still, if you want to order such things discreetly without admitting to a faux dysfunction in this state, think again.
I won’t say who, but a friend of mine once attempted to purchase a particular marital aid and was denied the purchase when it was determined by the company in question that she lived in Alabama. According to a restriction, marital aids and other such items are forbidden to be shipped to Alabama. You might think I’m joking, but I am totally serious!
This friend was forced to get another friend in a different state to accept delivery for her items and then have them delivered by other means under the radar. It’s like relatives sending blue jeans to Russia or mailing CDs of American recording artists to China. Communism is alive and well in our country, folks, just ask any Alabamian and you’ll see. I’m seriously considering defecting to a different state just to be able to reap the benefits my forefathers intended for me and my progeny when they fought that little war back in the Eighteenth Century.
Stirrings of Unrest in the Democracy
Actually leaving the state I’ve called home for a large portion of my life would break my heart. I like Alabama for many reasons, which I’m usually proud to proclaim in public but will refrain from reiterating here for the sake of expedience. However, the fact that Big Brother won’t let me watch certain movies or buy certain things because they’ve deemed them to be improper, immoral or just a bad influence on my fellow Alabamians really chaps my hide!
It’s appalling that such archaic practices are still allowed in this day and age. If you look back in history the denial of a particular right was the sort of thing that drove 90% of every war whether civil or revolutionary. Probably not movies or marital aids, mind you. But the sentiment could be the same in some rare cases!
Ultimately, People really hate it when you tell them no or that they are forbidden from doing something. It is especially worse when the reason for the refusal is so out of date that it is ridiculous. I’m not asking for solutions here, folks. But I truly believe that I’m being logical.
Do not mistake this rant as a liberalist crowing, however, I am not really a hard and fast liberal. I like to think I’d fall into a more open-minded category than that of the monkeys, of course. But I cannot fully accept the ideals of either side. So I guess I am one of those annoying fence sitters. I prefer the lesser of two evils as they pertain to me when given a chance to choose. I will not complain about most election results or rail about our president no matter which animal he wears on his tie tack. But I will protect my right to decide how I want to be exposed to things, be they good or bad.
All The King’s Horses, And All the Queen’s Men
I believe democracy in my state is damaged. I further believe that it will not be put to rights until the watchdogs of the 1950’s and 60’s government finally die out of natural causes and the people stop living in fear of things that others do rubbing off on them. In my opinion a “moral majority” implies that specific morals must be considered when a decision is made for the general public. And if we’re using Christian morals to dictate our behavior or the options available to people for their personal life choices isn’t that in direct violation of the separation of church and state?
My morals don’t have to be those of Christianity to call myself a U. S. Citizen. So why then should Christianity get to dictate the so much about something that is available to the general public? It’s even more imperative that this be neutral, even if it’s not linked in any way to governance.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to Christianity. I was raised in a Southern Baptist Church family with a conversion to Methodism in college. I eventually considered several other alternatives in search of my absolute happy place of faith and worship. The heart of my point here is that I cannot understand why anyone with faith would be threatened by things that they don’t believe or subscribe to as a doctrine? If I have faith in my maker, then I am not worried about what someone else does with their life or how they live it so long as they aren’t trying to enforce that way of life on me or my choices.
Filmmakers aren’t always trying to persuade us to their way of thinking. Sometimes it’s just a point of view. Documentaries that lash out at government or lack of government don’t seem to get the same treatment as alternative lifestyles used as topical fodder in entertainment. Why, because that is a First Amendment Right. Is it not in the Preamble of the Constitution that “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are inalienable rights to U.S. Citizens? If so my liberty and my pursuit of happiness have been jeopardized by my state’s refusal to allow movies, certain books, and marital aids to be seen, purchased or otherwise be readily available without censure or judgment to me.
One Final Note of Discord
The majority of people living and breathing on this planet are not Christians, people. That’s a fact. And whatever religion or lack thereof that they subscribe to is their business and none of mine. Some would argue that our country was built on Christian ideals, but they fail to remember that this ultimate foundation was established to give relief from persecution for believing anything that does not adhere to the majority.
That people get to make decisions as to how their government is performed is a touchstone of democracy. It’s not a blanket rule of independence to do whatever we want, though. We hold elections so that we can designate people to make decisions to keep things in order and avoid anarchy if anyone vehemently disagrees. It is only in areas not politically motivated wherein I believe people should let us mind our own business and choose. Because the denial of that choice option means we may as well start forming lines and accepting rations
The ultimate goal of life is to be allowed to make one’s own decisions and be able to choose what works best for us, be it choosing a spouse, practicing a religion, seeing a movie, or eating cupcake frosting without it being on a cake of any variety. That’s my idea of democracy.