Censors, many government-appointed and others elected to school and library boards have long found reasons to ban certain books or films because of their themes, their portrayal of people, or language or because they somehow offend the political or religious sensibilities of the censors. In hindsight, many if not most of their decisions appear ridiculous, and such bans are often pointless because the works are available in other areas or at other times in people’s lives. Banned works stimulate curiosity, and when students or other young people are denied the right to see or read something it piques their interest, and they often explore those works when they get older. Here are some examples of banned works of art:
The movie Wonder Woman was banned in Lebanon because its female star, Gal Gadot, who was born and raised in Israel, was once a member of the Israeli Defense Force.
George Orwell’s 1984, about a dystopian future ruled by a totalitarian regime was banned in the Soviet Union for forty years because of its anti-communist themes. Ironically, it was banned in one county in Florida because its was purportedly pro-communist. One wonders if the censors in both cases read the same book.
The Steven Spielberg classic E.T. was banned in Sweden, Finland, and Norway because censors felt the film portrayed adults as heartless and believed it might convey to children that it was okay to disobey their parents.
The 2016 remake of Ghostbusters starring Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig was banned in China because, according to Chinese censors, its ghost theme promotes cults and superstition.
1985’s Back to the Future, starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, and Lea Thompson, was banned in China because it featured time travel, which in China considered disrespectful to history.
Censors in Nazi Germany found the Laurel and Hardy comedy The Bohemian Girl offensive because of its positive portrayal of gypsies. It was banned at a time when the Nazis were trying to exterminate gypsies.
Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl has been banned in several countries for supposedly being pro-Jewish propaganda. Some censored argued that Anne Frank never existed and that the book was actually written by Otto Frank (her father—had she existed!). It’s been banned in parts of America for being too depressing for young readers.
In 1957, L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was banned at the Detroit Public Library because it supposedly was of no value to children, was negative, and brought children’s minds down to a “cowardly level.”
Nobel Prize Winning novelists John Steinbeck’s book Of Mice and Men has been banned in many states in America for its profanity. Never mind that children routinely hear profanity at home and at school.
Those who censored these works are gone. The works live on. New crops of censors appear all the time because some people feel its their duty to shape children’s minds by not allowing them to see or read themes, people, or ideas they (the adults) find offensive. In free and open societies, censorship is a fool’s errand. However, it might work to some degree in North Korea.
Photo credit: scene from The Wizard of Oz: Photo 48570384 © Wisconsinart | Dreamstime.com