23 February 2007

A Bag Made of Skin

Good intentions. Road to hell. Throw in a lawyer and bronchitis, and the resulting gap since my last promise to catch up seems virtually foreordained.

It's always amusing to see the posturing that comes from censorship battles. On the one hand, violence doesn't seem to be that much of a problem for anyone; consider all of those "true history of [insert favorite war here]" books that can be found in even low-end (by which I mean small schools that serve K-4) elementary libraries. Neil Gaiman's attitude seems a lot healthier: "Then again, I'm English, a country in which 'the dog's bollocks' is an expression of approbation and unconditional approval." (I never heard that in Suffolk; London was another story.) Debate on substance is a healthy thing, but this isn't a debate: It's a virtual surrender to the Authority.

But then, acknowledged classic literature is hardly bereft of much more disturbing images than a bag made of skin hanging off a dumb beast.

SATURNINUS   What, was she ravish'd? tell who did the deed.
TITUS ANDRONICUS   Will't please you eat? will't please your highness feed?
TAMORA   Why hast thou slain thine only daughter thus?
TITUS ANDRONICUS   Not I; 'twas Chiron and Demetrius:
   They ravish'd her, and cut away her tongue;
   And they, 'twas they, that did her all this wrong.
SATURNINUS   Go fetch them hither to us presently.
TITUS ANDRONICUS   Why, there they are both, baked in that pie;
   Whereof their mother daintily hath fed,
   Eating the flesh that she herself hath bred.
   'Tis true, 'tis true; witness my knife's sharp point.

William Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus, Act V, scene iii.

Oh, well, I suppose it beats pissing on a palace fire to put it out. Yet Gulliver's Travels has been made into at least three "children's films." On the other hand, I suppose I'm being unjust in requiring censors to have some rational basis for their ill-consider'd killings.