Thomas Bowdler (1754-1825) was probably a man of many talents and experiences. But he suffered the fate of any person who plays one small part in history books--his life became known for one thing. For Bowdler, that thing happens to be censorship. Bowdler created bowdlerized versions of Shakespeare's words, redacting any text that didn't fit within his puritanical beliefs. He also did this for History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and the Old Testament.
So it is kinda like Censorship Day today. Which is a strange thing for me because I'm pretty far down the free speech hallway--like knocking on the door which reads "anything goes".
But I also sympathise with Bowdler. And not just because he got the history curse (I feel for individuals with rich, beautiful lives who get reduced to one line of text in a history book), but because he believed in what he was doing. He thought that censorship was the right thing to do. That's the thing about censorship--people attempting to change art believe that society would be better without certain influences. And I appreciate believers, even if I disagree with them.
The part of censorship that I struggle with is other people making those decisions for me. Although it would have been helpful for someone else to decide for me that I didn't need to see the rape scene in A Clockwork Orange--that still gets to me.
As a YA writer, I battle with this constantly. Is there a difference between age-appropriate and censorship? Some teens just aren't ready to experience certain things. Heck--I'm not ready to experience certain things. As a reading teacher of fourteen-year-olds, I had to make those decisions for some kids. I hated it. It always felt like censorship, even if I applied the less evocative term "age-appropriate" to what I was doing.
I'm glad to be on the other side--no longer doing the deciding for others, but doing the writing. Now I get to decide what, if any, age-appropriate boundaries the text should have. I'll leave it up to others to make the decisions about what they should/shouldn't experience.
So, I leave you with a thought...Don't worry about censoring yourself because there will always be someone to do it for you.
Happy Bowdler's Day.