Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Celebrity Apartheid Week: Alice’s Adventures Into Censorship

Variety reported Friday “Just days after the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA) expressed concerns over potential stereotyping in the pilot for ABC Family’s ‘Alice in Arabia’ and requested a meeting with execs, the network has decided not to pursue the show that had been announced Monday.”

What had potential to be a nail-biter among the thirteen to eighteen year old set has now seen the inside of a dustbin thanks to the Islamist-related CAIR.

This wouldn’t be the first time CAIR has directly involved itself in matters of the small screen. It met with representatives from Fox with concerns that “24” would foster negative stereotypes about Muslims. CAIR even had removed aspects of episodes deemed offensive and ran pro-Muslim public service announcements. It was lukewarm (at best) when creators of “South Park” were threatened for the (non-) depiction of Mohammad in one episode. It co-hosted a pro-Muslim writers’ workshop with Fox. CAIR has been quite the busy bee making sure that any depiction of anything Islamic goes through them first or not at all. The Islamic equivalent of the National Legion of Decency has a far more pernicious and permitted foothold in media matters than anything prior to it.

There is virtually no taboo left to break in Western media. Immorality and banality have been stock trade since the Sixties (earlier maybe?). Hollywood has gone out of its way to wear its politics on its sleeve and unoriginality can never go out-of-style as long as there is money to be made and an audience that can’t remember a TV show or movie a reboot is based on. Let’s not forget what great educators TV shows and movies can be (SEE: Titanic, movie, idiots who had no idea it was actually a ship)! All this being said, it would fruitless and dishonest for any writer or producer to claim that theirs is a unique with a unique and damn, if they don’t get it out there! This is not to say that such writers or ideas don’t exist. They do. They now are just few and far in between. But these are not ones with whom one can be concerned. One should be concerned with the fortitude a writer has to carry out his vision even in the face of adversity and those who should stand by them.

Can one envision a world without John Locke and his wisdom? One’s own expression, free from fear and interference, was an idea that deserved to take flight. Imagine a world rejecting Locke’s words. It already has and has been allowed of one’s own volition.

Did it ever occur to ABC Family to defend its premise? Perhaps not without fear of legal repercussion but therein lies part of the problem. How did it get to be like that? Why give power to people afraid of legitimate criticism or realistic portrayal in a fictional setting? Does CAIR honestly think that every viewer is devoid of a brain and cannot determine truth from fiction? Insulting, not completely untrue and not quite the point. Their honour and perception of themselves should not be everyone else’s problem. Why this has been pointed out to CAIR et al remains a mystery.

The empowerment of the other end of the political spectrum has been going on for decades and Islamists are one in the long line of those who want a chance at the brass ring. The results have been absurd to say the very least. CAIR objected to Islamic terrorists on “24”. Well? It objects to what it thinks are negative stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims. Shouldn’t the Islamic community clean its own house rather than deflect and deny? Whose fault is it that the House of Saud funds and promotes Islamism or that Saudi nationals are complicit in slave labour? Why should honour killings either never be discussed or be neutered of their horror so as not offend? It’s offensive that murders rooted in an emotionally backward culture even exist at all! Is it unfair to even mention these things? One should ask if one would hesitate to talk about honour killings or the slave trade if the culprits were Baptists from the American South. The last time I checked it was a group one was permitted to question and attack.

Did ABC Family ever think of ignoring CAIR? Would it sit down with a Catholic special-interest group and let it excise things it found offensive? Watch any TV show or movie and count the myriad of things it gets wrong about Catholics, the Church and Catholicism. Strangely enough, there are no Vatican envoys attempting to correct the crazy things that are just blurted out. Like the aforementioned Baptists, Catholics are a group that can bear offense. It’s not like (insert own big-wig or celebrity here) is going to have a fatwa put on their heads. That kind of safety breeds not boldness but a craven cowardice that is beneath contempt. Moving and shaking is only noble when one really challenges the status quo. No one cares if you attack Catholics. They don’t attack back. Ruffle CAIR’s feathers if you want to be gutsy.

Above all, there is a failure on the writers’ and producers’ parts to own their work. It’s a lack of pride, vision and professionalism that has become acceptably vulgar. Whether deliberately offensive, thought-provoking, stupid or clever, there is no willingness on the creators’ parts to stand by their work and let the viewers decide for themselves whether or not there is a story or character with which one may genuinely interested or turned off. It is this self-censorship and subsequent grovelling apologies, not born from real reflection or furtherance of the story, that is cringe-worthy. It’s that sort of thing that made me avoid “Stargate Universe” to begin with. The creators of the show could have owned their plot, even in the beginning, but instead apologised for whatever hyper-sensitivities were stoked and sought to remedy the situation. If they wouldn’t stand by their own creation then, why watch it? It looked watchable, too. 

History, it seems, has repeated itself here. A TV show that may have been promising (or contrived or unoriginal or funny- we’ll never know now) has been scrapped in its beginnings. 

I await the next unoriginal yet very acceptable claptrap to come in its place.

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