| Angie Counios
Snip, snip, snip
Last step (first)...
Dave and I completed our final read-through of the book.
Next step (the editor)...
It felt great to have reached another milestone in our journey to The Goal.
And then (Oh-oh...)
Our editor, Nathan, did (as always) a thorough job but this time he left a comment at one point that said, "Is this character going to go there?"
The trouble was that one of our characters was trying to mess with his friend, and it came off, well, racist.
David had his concerns and asked Nathan, who responded, "Out of context, yes it is racist."
Dave messaged me and told me Nathan's concerns. We wondered whether we should edit the line out. We considered the implications of the line, going back and forth on it, and he sent back and forth exchanges that he had with Nathan.
The funny thing is that I don’t remember who wrote it, Dave or I.
I know this is all very vague. I’m not going to tell you the phrase. But I'm going to tell you how it made me struggle with the idea of censoring things, even if they may offend.
How things change
In my Fine Arts degree, it was all about the artist making his or her statement. No question—almost nothing was censored.
Then as a high school teacher of visual art, I had to ask the students to remember that I was their audience (and evaluator) and to keep their sensibilities when creating work. If a piece was outstanding but walked the line of inappropriateness in school, I would simply not display it.
We see the way we look at things.
For me, the choice to censor became a matter of perspective.
While working on a student play, I had a choreographer come in and work with the cast. She was a dancer and she moved like a dancer.
Later, the cast came to me and said they didn’t feel comfortable doing the choreography because it was too sexy. Here's the thing about teenagers though: they are awkward.
I went to the Principal (a woman) and asked her to watch that part of the play. I did not say, “look for sexy moves or inappropriate gestures” I just asked her to watch and see if anything jumped out at her. She watched and then turned to me and said "that looks great."
She wasn’t looking for something specific and because it wasn’t pointed out, it was overlooked.
My reaction (defensive, no matter who wrote it)
When it comes to this book, I guess I love our ‘baby.' I'm proud of what we have done.
I don’t really like being told what to do, but I also don’t want to be offensive.
I got defensive. I dug my heels in to keep the line because I knew the intention behind the words was playful.
I asked Dave to sit on it for 24 hours so I could poll the students and some teachers where I work.
The students found nothing offensive. They spoke eloquently about the idea of stereotypes but that it wasn’t a bad stereotype.
One kid said, “Counios, you should hear how we talk to each other. We string together nasty words like poetry”.
I asked some colleagues, including a member of the maintenance staff, who is a visible minority, and the First Nations advocate.
No one thought it was bad. Some thought it was funny.
Is it me?
I started to worry that I was too offensive or raunchy.
In my writing with Dave on our feature films, I have often done sex scenes and pushed for certain violent scenes that could upset a person.
There will always be someone who finds something offensive. Our editor’s job was to point it out and it was our job to decide what to do about it.
Since this incident, a student loaned me a book to read called Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews. She warned me that it would definitely offend, so I’m going to read it this weekend.
In an earlier post, I said that what I want is to please the majority and offend the least amount of people possible. However, thanks to the internet there are a lot more people out there.
If we appease everyone's concerns, our work could be pretty bland. There is balance in creating a work that is interesting but not over the top filled with R-rated or offensive content. A good story doesn't need to be sensational.
As Dave and I talked about this issue, he said: "The goal of Along Comes a Wolfe is not to confront racism , but to entertain."
I hope we've accomplished this in our choices.
In the end, the line was changed and I’m good with it and I stretched my muscles around the idea of censorship, what purpose particular content serves, what to keep and what to cut. Great and necessary lessons for me.