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Thread: Activist-Led Censorship in Entertainment

  1. #1
    .~ *aĉa virino* ~. Array Totenkindly's Avatar
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    Default Activist-Led Censorship in Entertainment

    I saw the trailer and thought it was funny.

    LONDON– Bristol-based animation banner Aardman is to alter a scene in its upcoming stop motion 3D pic Band of Misfits in the wake of objections from leprosy groups including Lepra Health In Action and the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations (ILEP).

    With a cast boasting the acting chops of Hugh Grant, Jeremy Piven, David Tennant and Salma Hayek, the movie’s trailer has caused an issue with leprosy campaigning groups.

    In the trailer the Grant-voiced Pirate Captain lands on a ship demanding gold, but is told by a crew member: “Afraid we don’t have any gold old man, this is a leper boat. See.” After issuing the explanation, the sailor’s arm drops off.

    Leprosy groups expressed concern that the scene could increase the stigma and discrimination felt by people suffering from leprosy.

    Aardman has said it will change the scene in the wake of the objections.

    An official statement from the Bristol-based animation house says it had no intention of upsetting sufferers of the disease.

    “After reviewing the matter, we decided to change the scene out of respect and sensitivity for those who suffer from leprosy. The last thing anyone intended was to offend anyone and it is clear to us that the right way to proceed is to honor the efforts made by organizations like ILEP to educate the public about this disease,” the statement said....
    Thoughts on the matter? Did the production company reaction sensibly in this matter, and what does "sensibility" mean in this sense? (And I have to say, we're talking Peter Lord and that crowd... they make some of the funniest, most wholesome humor out there, as a general rule, rather than being edgy.)

    I also immediately recalled the Weird Al song about the leper colony, full of jokes (including the names of various people as well as turns of phrase), which compared to this 5-second clip in the movie makes it look like a pea shooter compared to its own mushroom shaped cloud of devastating puns. Would music be next as something to censor? Or is there a difference between visual media vs audial media, and what is it exactly?
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Array Lateralus's Avatar
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    My first reaction to this story was, "There's an International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations"? My second reaction was, they're being way too sensitive. Isn't leprosy a curable disease? I thought it was. If it is, how can anyone take these sorts of jokes personally? I could understand if it was something serious like cancer or permanent like diabetes, but leprosy?

    I like one of the comments after the article:

    I bet the reanimation cost an arm and a leg.
    "We grow up thinking that beliefs are something to be proud of, but they're really nothing but opinions one refuses to reconsider. Beliefs are easy. The stronger your beliefs are, the less open you are to growth and wisdom, because "strength of belief" is only the intensity with which you resist questioning yourself. As soon as you are proud of a belief, as soon as you think it adds something to who you are, then you've made it a part of your ego."

  3. #3
    Emerging Array Tallulah's Avatar
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    *sigh* On one hand, it's great that we live in a society in which there's respect for people who are different from the norm. On the other hand, we've created a society that's sometimes a giant pain in the butt to endure. No one can take a joke at their expense. If you don't like something, just bully the offender in the media until you get your way. Sometimes I wish everyone would just agree that comedy is comedy. Everyone gets made fun of at some point. Sometimes I wish I could retire from our society, because we have become horribly self-important and annoying.

    Weird Al, though he has a hardcore following, isn't nearly reaching as many people these days as a potential blockbuster movie. I'm guessing that's the difference.
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  4. #4
    RETIRED Array CzeCze's Avatar
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    EEEeemmmmm....leprosy is still around??

    It's not that I don't think people should be sensitive to the needs of people with ailments and such, but I wonder how easily producers and production houses cave to pressure. This could have easily been a group criticizing a movie's use of GLBT characters or abortion or religious imagery. My concern is when there isn't any thought about the actual criticism being made and whether it's valid or decision makers agree with it, just that there is a criticism and it could be bad PR and therefore eat into a movie's bottom line and so something is changed.

    I'm really surprised a movie would delete a scene based on a group that lobbies around such a frankly obscure cause. I had no idea leprosy (still?) occurs in the developed world. The only place I know of that has or had lepers in large numbers up until the cold war era was India. But then, that's a giant country and they also have colonies for 'intersexed individuals'. Partly for that reason, it's true though, people still think leprosy makes your appendages fall off.

    On second thought, maybe it was changed because it's relatively easy to cut out a short scene in a movie that amounts to a one-off visual gag. Movies cut scenes all the time anyhow due to time constraints or artistic decisions. Particularly if a scene is not integral to the story line or connected to a larger arc in the story it's easy to do.

    It would have been harder for disability rights' groups to get the makers of the "Scary Movie 2" to change any of their humorous depictions of people with disabilities because that would have removed 2 characters and changed a large source of the gags in the film.
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  5. #5


    While acknowledging that I haven't seen the joke in question, the request seems a bit silly to me, as most of this ilk do. If every group like this was taken seriously, we'd run out of villains and we'd run out of people to be the butts of jokes. It already seems like the only movie villains that don't cause some kind of protest are Nazis, Soviets and white racists.

    That said, I have no problem with the producers in this case "caving". If, like Cze Cze suggested, the joke was not integral to the story and the filmmakers didn't perceive it to be worthy of a fight for artistic freedom, why not show some sensitivity? As long as my hand wasn't forced, I'd be open to a discussion about it.
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  6. #6


    I am a big fan of comedy and hope to always be able to take a joke about myself. But I can imagine that having an ailment that is only ever referred to in popular culture in a manner that's exaggerated or negative would become tiresome to a sufferer. Like: leprosy, 3,2,1, joke. It's cool that an advocacy group can register their objections, I guess they can only do so and hope for the best. It's a nice gesture that the production made the change, I rather respect that in this instance.

  7. #7
    Superwoman Array Red Herring's Avatar
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    This reminds me of an entire episode of Monk that is centered around a leper and people's reactions to leprosy. The makers really tried to educate the audience about the desease and it was a running gag that all the adults reacted hysterically and couldn't shake off their preconceived notions while the only child in the show showed the most sensible and humane reaction.

    The episode was very PC, but they managed to make people who are scared an uneducated about leprosy the butt of the joe irather than the lepers (and by spreading ancient misinformation no less).

    I can see how this would be an obscure issue to fight over and sond like a weird request. On the other hand, leprosy associations seem to really work hard to educate people and fight prejudices and discrimination. I can imagine how frustrating it could be so see such a harmless joke and bang your head on the table thinking Oh no, not again!!! It is not that they are feeling offended by the joke (which is on the pirate anyway) but frustrated in their constant struggle against harmful misinformation that can reenforce hostility or at least lack of understanding for those affected by the desease.
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