I just finished watching a Netflix series called 13 Reasons Why, about a teenage girl who kills herself. Some people wanted the series banned because it might spur individuals to suicide. I say no to banning the show because I believe in freedom of speech and because I think the net effect of the series on suicide will be nil. However, I am sure the series is banned in many countries because of its sexual content.
I have read books that have been banned by governments or schools. I liked Catcher in the Rye by J. D Salinger and Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence. But Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses seemed like gibberish to me.
I have also watched banned movies. Long ago I watched Deep Throat along with hundreds of other students at the University of Colorado. Last week, as I wrote this column, I assigned myself to watch another movie famed for once being banned: I Am Curious (Yellow). I checked it out of the town library. How times change.
I am proud to say that I teach a course, Behaviour Modification, that was once banned. A university administrator eliminated it from the curriculum over my strong objection. I then told students it was being offered for the last time, and the course had by far its biggest enrollment ever.
A student who had already completed the course put together a petition to keep it being offered. Dozens of other students who had completed the course signed the petition. The students sent it to the administrator, who responded that he had terminated the course because “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” I told the petitioning students that the statement would make a memorable motto for the whole university.
After a year or so the administrator left the university, and I went back to teaching Behaviour Modification. It is hard to ban something forever if people want it. Think of marijuana and the oldest profession.
Now I want to write a book that gets banned. The banning would make me a literary outlaw and trigger mega-sales to people who want to see what all the fuss is about.
But it is not easy these days to write a book that gets banned. I don’t have enough hate inside me to write a book condemning a specific ethnic or religious group. I lean more toward mockery, but mockery does not get banned in Australia — there are too many irreverent Aussies. My evidence: The book “Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure” by Sarah Macdonald.
[Photo by Getty Images]