The Washington Post has a piece on the battle between “family friendly” editors who sanitize films for conservative family consumption and film directors, which poses some interesting political questions. On the one hand, I reckon that leftwingers should be supporting conservatives on principle in this fight. As I wrote at the beginning of this year (in one of the worst-titled posts of all time), there’s a strong argument that conservatives should have the right to ‘remix’ bits of the culture that they don’t want to consume. Why shouldn’t they be able to take the sex out of Hollywood movies that their kids watch (just as leftwingers might want to protect their kids from rampant consumerism)? On the other, there are clear costs to this:
Family Flix, which claims to have the toughest standards, removes “sexual innuendo,” including suggestions or depictions of homosexuality. It recently edited “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie,” an animated film with a PG rating, to eliminate a scene in which a male starfish character sings and dances while dressed in fishnet stockings and high heels.
I’m strongly attracted to what might be called, for want of a better term, BoingBoing socialism. That is, I buy the argument that some of the key goals of the left can best be achieved through maximizing individuals’ control over the conditions of their consumption (and, by extension, maximizing their ability to remix and re-produce cultural goods). But what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Empowering people to make cultural choices we might ‘like’ is also going to empower them to make choices that we might dislike too – to separate themselves from what many of us would consider to be a minimal shared social consensus on homosexuality. There are some extremely vexing questions about the appropriate relationship between the common culture and dissenting sub-cultures like the one that Christian conservatives have very successfully created, a difficult balance to be struck. As individuals’ ability to remix their cultural consumption increases, so too will these questions become more urgent. At the moment, I don’t have any very good answers to them.