Pauline Kael on Censorship

Pauline Kael did not like “A Clockwork Orange.” No surprise there – she did not like a lot of movies, and a lot of people did not like “A Clockwork Orange.” I love the music, but when I saw the film, in a theatre, I was somewhat bored, and dismayed by the pleasure some of my fellow viewers took in the film. When I saw the film a second time in a film class, it was a chore to sit through.

Although Canadian film boards generally give more weight to violence than the American MPAA, to my knowledge no film has ever been banned due to violence. Cuts have been made, but only to achieve a lower age classification. The logic appears to be that adults can handle any amount of violence. I’m not so sure about this. Towards the end of her “Clockwork Orange” review, Kael spoke about violence in movies, and I think her words are worth repeating.

“There seems to be an assumption that if you’re offended by movie brutality, you are somehow playing into the hands of the people who want censorship. But this would deny those of us who don’t believe in censorship the use of the only counterbalance: the freedom of the press to say that there’s anything conceivably damaging in these films – the freedom to analyze their implications. If we don’t use this critical freedom, we are implicitly saying that no brutality is too much for us – that only squares and people who believe in censorship are concerned with brutality. Actually, those who believe in censorship are primarily concerned with sex, and they generally only worry about violence when it’s eroticized. This means that practically no one raises the issue of the possibly cumulative effects of movie brutality. Yet surely, when night after night atrocities are served up to us as entertainment, it’s worth some anxiety.”

By trc

Freelance writer, freelance editor, web consultant, and film studies scholar.

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