Censoring in the Name of Anti-Censorship

 

shutterstock_217939057Apparently, the National Coalition Against Censorship is really concerned about censorship. So concerned, apparently, that some folks agreed to sponsor a quartet of plays at the Greenwich Village’s Sheen Center for Thought and Culture as a benefit event for the group. They asked Neil LaBute to contribute a short play… and subsequently cancelled the entire event.

LaBute’s career as a playwright and filmmaker has attracted controversy since his first film, In the Company of Men, which was both about misogyny and accused of being misogynist. So it should have come as no surprise that his contribution here would be, um… different. But apparently the sponsors of the event were surprised when LaBute titled his work “Mohammad Gets A Boner.” That was too much for the New York Times, which would not print the title in its reporting, though it hasn’t had a problem with The Vagina Monologues for many, many years, the sensitive dears.

Gloria Kadigan, the founder of Planet Connections where the event would held, knew the play would be “a discussion of whether or not it’s all right to poke fun at religion or religious figures”  but didn’t know the title of the play or its specific contents. So when she found out that the play would actually poke fun at Islam, it was all far too much.

So, what better way to show the dangers of censorship, than through censorship. It’s like… you know… meta. And meta is always cool in the art world. But meta-Muslim-mocking is never cool. Right?

Anyone recall talk about censoring this play?

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  1. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    I read the article you linked and noted this part:

    “When an artistic project maligns any faith group, that project clearly falls outside of our mission to highlight the good, the true, and the beautiful as they have been expressed throughout the ages,” Reilly said, adding that the center “will not be a forum that mocks or satirizes another faith group.”

    The Sheen Center looks to be mostly a forum for dance. I didn’t find anything that gave the lie to Reilly’s contention, and I’ve got nothing against the good, true, and beautiful. It’s a shame that the times actually call for the testing of boundaries and exercise of offensive speech, but it doesn’t look to me that the Center is the best forum for anyone’s prurience, even Big Mo’s. They cancelled all four plays, not just the one. I think I’ll take Reilly at his word.

    I wish Lars Vilks hadn’t been terrorized into silence. Can you imagine what he’d do with this?

    • #1
  2. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Eustace C. Scrubb: LaBute’s career as a playwright and filmmaker has attracted controversy since his first film, “In the Company of Men” about misogyny which was accused of being misogynist.

    I think In The Company Of Men is fascinating. I’ve shown it to literally dozens of people. I have yet to find a woman who did not find it powerfully obnoxious. A slight majority of men like it, although opinions often trend toward the center.

    I’ve never seen another film in which the gender divide was so absolute. It’s not about him as such, the same director, with the same lead male (Aaron Eckhart) produced the magnificent romance Possession, a film that got poor reviews from people who had read the book and were surprised that a multimedia epistolary novel needs some adaptation to work on the screen, but which has always performed the roles that I desire from romantic films (it makes me emotional and is thought provoking; what did you think I meant? Oh, except that, too).

    A feminist friend of mine got a large chunk of her degree out of support for Fat Pig (fat studies as a major still doesn’t have as many texts as they’d like), although I didn’t think it was as clever as The Shape of Things. I’ve also been on pleasant dates to see The Mercy Seat, Some Girls (I believe theater goers only chance to see David Schwimmer masturbate on stage in a surprisingly heartbreaking, tender, moment), and Nurse Betty. (Don’t take dates to see Your Friends and Neighbors unless they’re pretty strongly inclined to darkness).

    Anyway, my point is that he’s done a lot of seriously thoughtful, moving, and charming romantic stuff and he’s potentially the leading feminist playwright of the decade preceding this one. There’s always something of an edge to his work, but he’s not some sort of Sam Pekinpah, churning out misogyny after misogyny.

    The film itself doesn’t present the character who is driven by misogyny as being in any way admirable. There are numerous clear statements of condemnation. By most objective measures it’s as clearly on the feminist side of the debate as one could get. For some reason, though, both feminists and anti-feminists, including people who view raising consciousness of misogyny in the workplace as their life’s work, find themselves repulsed by a film that works hard to do just that thing.

    • #2
  3. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    James Of England:

    …although I didn’t think it was as clever as The Shape of Things.

    It’s the only one of LaBute’s works I have seen, and it was so exquisite (the reveal, inevitable after the first few minutes, propelled it all forward so suspensefully) that I’m sort of afraid to see his other works, out of fear they won’t be so good. (Yeah, it’s stupid.)

    I’ve also been on pleasant dates to see The Mercy Seat, Some Girls (I believe theater goers only chance to see David Schwimmer masturbate on stage in a surprisingly heartbreaking, tender, moment), and Nurse Betty. (Don’t take dates to see Your Friends and Neighbors unless they’re pretty strongly inclined to darkness).

    Pleasant dates to watch a man tenderly masturbate? You do live dangerously. Maybe Friends and Neighbors is the one I should try next.

    • #3
  4. Raw Prawn Member
    Raw Prawn
    @RawPrawn

    Didn’t you read that Mount Holyoak College cancelled a performance of The Vagina Monologues in January because it was not inclusive of transgender women? You really must keep up with the latest trends in political correctness.

    Mohammed Gets A Boner deserves a larger venue and National Endowment For the Arts support.

    It’s past time civilization stopped showing respect for Islam. By avoiding anything that might upset the “moderates,” we prove to the islamists that violence works. It produces obedience, which is what they want.

    The advocates of self censorship never tire of telling us that violent extremists make up only a small proportion of muslims and they are right about that much. They keep claiming to understand Islam better than the islamists do and assuring us that the islamists are misinterpreting Islam. They are arrogant as well as delusional.

    We should not divide Islam into “extremists” and “moderates,” a division that exists only in non-muslim minds. We should think of them as divided between “true believers” and “hostages.”

    By disrespecting Islam we firstly show the islamists that violence produces more of what they don’t like, not less. Secondly we encourage the hostages to resist their oppression.

    Islam is aggressive, it doesn’t need a provocation, it only needs a pretext. Better to give the islamists a pretext than to leave them to make one up all on their own and strike where you don’t expect them.

    • #4
  5. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    James Of England:

    I’ve also been on pleasant dates to see The Mercy Seat, Some Girls (I believe theater goers only chance to see David Schwimmer masturbate on stage in a surprisingly heartbreaking, tender, moment), and Nurse Betty. (Don’t take dates to see Your Friends and Neighbors unless they’re pretty strongly inclined to darkness).

    Pleasant dates to watch a man tenderly masturbate? You do live dangerously. Maybe Friends and Neighbors is the one I should try next.

    I think you might like Possession.

    Some Girls is about a guy meeting up with all his ex-girlfriends before getting married. The risque scene is with a woman who (spoiler alerts aren’t so much a thing with theater, right?) was married when he seduced her. She gets her revenge by persuading him to cheat on his fiancee with her, and then leaves before he does; she doesn’t want sex with him, just to have him know that he would. She lulls him into a contented headspace in which he’s able to put his moral issues to one side (he’s not a super moral guy to begin with). The audience has a sense of what’s going on, so it’s a comfortable moral place for the audience (comeuppance is taking place; we’re not complicit in tackiness)  and one could watch Schwimmer totally relaxing as he decides that the woman’s arguments are sufficient, and he ought to be doing this thing he wants to be doing. He murmurs loving affection to the now departed woman and has a brief moment of contented bliss before the emptiness and horror hits him.

    I think if I went to it with Mrs. Of England, she probably wouldn’t have approved and I probably wouldn’t have found it a romantic moment, but a decade back I was dating someone for whom this stuff was more meaningful. And Schwimmer really did convey a sense of totally relaxed bliss.

    • #5
  6. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    James Of England:

    …And Schwimmer really did convey a sense of totally relaxed bliss.

    Well, there’s that, then!

    • #6
  7. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    James Of England:

    …And Schwimmer really did convey a sense of totally relaxed bliss.

    Well, there’s that, then!

    I should clarify that it really was a unique moment. I don’t believe that there have been other occasions on which I’ve found the sight of a chap going solo to be romantic. This is me saying “I think that LaBute is incredibly talented” not, “Man, but there’s nothing I enjoy more than…” It’s like I’d praised a chef for doing great things with stuff that one wouldn’t normally recognize as food, not like I was praising them for producing a great filet mignon. I don’t even particularly admire Schwimmer’s acting in other things.

    • #7
  8. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    James Of England:

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    James Of England:

    …And Schwimmer really did convey a sense of totally relaxed bliss.

    Well, there’s that, then!

    I should clarify…

    Oh, James, I do so enjoy being your straight man:

    This is me saying “I think that LaBute is incredibly talented” not, “Man, but there’s nothing I enjoy more than…”

    • #8
  9. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @TitusTechera

    James Of England:

    Eustace C. Scrubb: LaBute’s career as a playwright and filmmaker has attracted controversy since his first film, “In the Company of Men” about misogyny which was accused of being misogynist.

    I think In The Company Of Men is fascinating. I’ve shown it to literally dozens of people. I have yet to find a woman who did not find it powerfully obnoxious. A slight majority of men like it, although opinions often trend toward the center.

    Anyway, my point is that he’s done a lot of seriously thoughtful, moving, and charming romantic stuff and he’s potentially the leading feminist playwright of the decade preceding this one. There’s always something of an edge to his work, but he’s not some sort of Sam Pekinpah, churning out misogyny after misogyny.

    Ride the high country & Wild Bunch Pekinpah? What’s the misogyny? Did this other fellow ever make anything as good as that?

    • #9
  10. She Member
    She
    @She

    Eustace C. Scrubb:But apparently the sponsors of the event were surprised when LaBute titled the short play, “Mohammad Gets A Boner”.

    If he’d only called it “Mohammed Falls in a Jar of Urine and Then Gets Covered All Over in Elephant Dung,” I’m sure it would have been perfectly fine . . . .

    • #10
  11. Devereaux Inactive
    Devereaux
    @Devereaux

    She:

    Eustace C. Scrubb:But apparently the sponsors of the event were surprised when LaBute titled the short play, “Mohammad Gets A Boner”.

    If he’d only called it “Mohammed Falls in a Jar of Urine and Then Gets Covered All Over in Elephant Dung,” I’m sure it would have been perfectly fine . . . .

    Guess I have to ask – ?was it full of prepubescent girls for Mohamed.

    • #11
  12. Pencilvania Inactive
    Pencilvania
    @Pencilvania

    My understanding from reading the article is that the venue – the Sheen Center – is funded by the Archdiocese of NY, and it is a separate group producing the plays, called Planet Connections, which is, from their website, ‘NY’s premiere socially-conscious arts festival.’ It’s the Sheen Center who has cancelled the performances, and Planet Connections is seeking another venue.

    Now I’m sure the Archdiocese does not want to openly disparage any person or religion, so there’s that motivation.  But I think that the bottom line – literally – in today’s America is whether an organization that owns a building can pay for many more expensive layers of security for a certain event, and also afford the increase in insurance that I’m sure insurers insist on, for hosting an event that might well draw violent threats to the audience, performers, or the venue.

    That’s today’s America unless

    unless from the top down, the government verbalizes and acts on the true threat that Islamists both in the Middle East and at home pose to our freedom.

    • #12
  13. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    I have no problem with the Archdiocese pulling support from blasphemy, but why on earth were they supporting blasphemy before they knew the details?

    • #13
  14. Douglas Inactive
    Douglas
    @Douglas

    Does anyone think that the New York Times would have had a problem printing Jesus Gets a Boner?

    • #14
  15. Pathfinder1208 Inactive
    Pathfinder1208
    @Pathfinder1208

    I recommended “In the Company of Men” to my sister-in-law a few years ago and she decided to watch it with some girlfriends on her birthday. She never fails to remind me that it was her worst birthday ever.

    • #15
  16. user_48342 Member
    user_48342
    @JosephEagar

    A few weeks ago someone wrote an article (I forget who or where) arguing that our elites are not acting out of class or ethnic or sectarian animus when pandering to Muslims; rather, they’re acting out of fear. In some cases they literally fear for their own lives, but in others they fear what will happen to Christians in the Middle East.

    I’m not sure what to think about this line of argument.  Should we self-censor in fear that ISIS or a mob in Cairo will lynch Christians?  The former can hardly be prevented by appeasement, but what about the latter?  I just don’t know.  This sort of strategy certainly didn’t work against the Nazis, but its not like civic activism in America would have, either.  On the other hand, my own preferred solution (send in the troops) is not going to happen anytime soon.

    • #16
  17. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Pathfinder1208:I recommended “In the Company of Men” to my sister-in-law a few years ago and she decided to watch it with some girlfriends on her birthday. She never fails to remind me that it was her worst birthday ever.

    If anyone else cares to conduct this experiment, I’d be keen to hear the results. Even after sharing it with a large class, multiple friends and girlfriends, I kept hoping that this woman was masculine enough. Come to think of it, I haven’t run the experiment with a trans man. I should fix this.

    • #17
  18. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    James Of England:

    Pathfinder1208:I recommended “In the Company of Men” to my sister-in-law a few years ago and she decided to watch it with some girlfriends on her birthday. She never fails to remind me that it was her worst birthday ever.

    If anyone else cares to conduct this experiment, I’d be keen to hear the results. Even after sharing it with a large class, multiple friends and girlfriends, I kept hoping that this woman was masculine enough.

    Hmmm…. (strokes beard thoughtfully)

    • #18
  19. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @EustaceCScrubb

    Joseph Eagar

    A few weeks ago someone wrote an article (I forget who or where) arguing that our elites are not acting out of class or ethnic or sectarian animus when pandering to Muslims; rather, they’re acting out of fear. In some cases they literally fear for their own lives, but in others they fear what will happen to Christians in the Middle East.

    Fear for themselves, I can believe. Fear for Christians in the Middle East… Not so much. Surely there would be more hash tags out there if they cared.

    • #19
  20. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @Martel

    Apparently after “In the Company of Men” came out, random women used to walk up to its star (Aaron Eckhardt) on the street and slap him.

    Personally, I find it brilliant (the final two scenes have about eight layers of symbolism).  It’s two dark opposing sides of Man in a love triangle with the dark side of Woman.  What’s not to like?

    • #20
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