Last Wednesday, I wrote a post reviewing the documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated. The film explores the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), specifically examining the controversial rating arm of the organization and questioning whether their practices amount to censorship. The filmmakers are especially concerned about the NC-17 rating, which is applied to films that are deemed to be unsuitable for youth based on content that they feel is outside of what is considered to be “culturally acceptable.” Filmmakers that receive this rating have the option of accepting limited distribution or editing their films to the liking of the ratings board in order to earn an R rating. In my review, I called into question the seemingly sexist and homophobic “standards” that they use in rating these films and the culture that determines these standards, citing my personal views on the matter.
Upon reading my post, the esteemed women in my life (Wifey and Mom) cited concern about its content given my employment as a public high school teacher. They were worried that if the “wrong person” stumbled onto my public blog that my statements could be misconstrued, thereby threatening my professional reputation and position. They suggested I edit my post to make it more acceptable to the general public.
As much as I hated to admit it, they were right. And that REALLY pissed me off.
It saddens me that we live in such a narrow-minded and litigious culture that one must always fear social (and often professional) backlash for expressing one’s beliefs. My post dealt with issues related to artistic freedoms and integrity, matters closely related to the subject that I teach, yet I had to censor my thoughts lest someone take offense. We probably all know at least one person who has been fired from a job for venting about work on Facebook. We have probably all lost friends based on public comments regarding our views on politics or religion. When did our society become so closed-minded that expressing opinion has become a dangerous endeavor? Perhaps it has always been that way.
I know that in life we must always make choices about what we say and how we act with consideration of the repercussions. It is necessary in order to be successful, have job security, maintain friendships, and garner respect. I teach my students that in acting, as in life, we must wear many masks depending on the company we keep at any given moment. But how far is too far? At what point am I sacrificing my integrity to put on a socially acceptable mask?
Truthfully, I can deal with losing social relationships based on my opinions. If the people who I’ve chosen to count as friends feel that we are too different to continue, so be it. But when it comes to the aspect of my life that puts food on my table and allows for a roof over the heads of my children, I am scared to offend. I hate bowing to these pressures and I wish it wasn’t a choice I had to make.
We spend so much time teaching our children to be “who they are” and to “not be ashamed” of their opinions and beliefs. But, in fact, it is just a lie. What we should really teach them is that it is only okay to be themselves as long as who they are cannot be found to be outside the limits of “cultural acceptability.”
So I deleted my post to protect myself from backlash as opposed to editing my views. Apparently, my opinions are rated NC-17.