I was watching a couple of back episodes of The Blacklist last night on PVR and I was left bewildered by the censoring of certain parts of the audio.
Before we continue, let me point out that I am well aware of my responsibilities as a parent. I am also aware that I can switch the “family” audio selection (which silences “naughty” words) on or off, and that actually, I’m glad that we have that option: I don’t want my kids hearing the f-word every two minutes on the movie channel (or whatever).
I’m also happy to acknowledge that it’s my fault that I always forget to switch the “family” audio selection off before I start watching my stuff.
But those things are not really what this post is about.
Last night’s first episode (S01E09: “Anslo Garrick”, for the purists) centres around the main character, Raymond ‘Red’ Reddington – a successful, and seemingly untouchable “fixer” now turned FBI informant – being cornered by the horribly-scarred, revenge-seeking soldier of fortune Anslo Garrick, who we are told: “almost exclusively works with a group of heavily armed, highly skilled mercenaries who call themselves The Wild Bunch: former flag wavers made over in Frankenstein-like fashion into bloodless, country-less killers”.
As Reddington states:
Why not let them have me, Donald?
I’ll likely be tortured for weeks and left to rot until they finally deign to put a bullet in my skull.
And within the first 5 minutes of the episode, The Wild Bunch have stormed the secret FBI facility, using silenced sub-machine guns to graphically tear apart the bodies of about 20 guards, and Garrick himself has needlessly shot a truck driver in the head at near point blank range, spraying his brain all over a truck window.
Another main character, Agent Ressler, has been shot in the leg and we can see the mix of blood, expensive suit, muscle tissue and bone, as he screams and writhes in agony on the floor of the bunker.
Now Garrick speaks to Reddington (who is trapped in a room, but currently “safe” behind blast-proof glass), his voice slow, hoarse and menacing:
Red, Red. Did you really think there was a distance you could cover or a hole deep enough that you could hide in? There is nowhere in this world that I cannot reach you, Red. Fortification be damned.
I heard you made yourself some sweet little immunity deal, Red. I heard that you fitted the FBI with strings, and now they hang upon your hip like a hatchet.
But they can’t keep you safe from someone like me, Red, someone who sat in blackness for five years.
Five years thinking about the pain I was going to inflict on you while slowly breaking your will, your body… and finally your mind.
That day is here, my friend.
And it will end with your screams, as God is my witness.
One almost completely forgets the multiple implausibilities of the scene as one is gripped by the unfolding drama.
Except, after all this, DSTV silenced the word “God” out of that last line.
You know, just in case anyone got offended by it.
Now, maybe some people are offended by the use of the word “God” there, and, while I think that’s rather silly of them, that’s their right. But why on earth are those people watching this programme with its repeated and graphic portrayals of mindless, callous violence? The insidious psychological effect of the threats and description of torture?
At what point are they offended by a three-letter word and not by the scenes of spraying blood, the screams of dying young men, the emotionless brutality depicted time and time again as someone else’s son or daughter is torn apart in a hail of bullets?
Who are these people and why do they not find themselves offended by that?
The dichotomy leaves me bewildered.
The episode we watched last night was rated 13 VL by DSTV. That is: “containing scenes of violence, and language which may be unsuitable for viewers below the age of 13”.
The violence even had my [redacted] year old wife looking away. But again, that’s another story.
The language… well… the only word in the entire 45 minutes which was removed was that one “God” above (and by “above”, I mean above in this post, not “Who art in Heaven”, ok?).
I’m not quite sure why a 12 year old shouldn’t be allowed to hear the phrase “God is my witness”, given that in any decent Christian school (like the one mine go to, incidentally), they’ll surely read (for example) Romans 1:9 and/or Philippians 1:8, which both, as I’m sure you’ll be well aware, feature that very phrase. Does it come down to context? Are those references in the New Testament considered somehow sacred just because they appear in “that book”?
In which case, maybe I’ve answered my own question. Perhaps the violence bit is ok, simply because there are no Biblical references to soldiers’ bodies being ripped apart in a spray of automatic gunfire?
Who on earth are we trying to protect in censoring the word “God” here, and what on earth are we trying to protect them from?