Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z Vol. 3, No. 5.
The Sincere and Able Penalized:
The Sincere and Able Penalized:
The extreme inconsistency of its application is also hard to defend on moral grounds. Earlier in this course it was claimed that the press will publish accounts of crimes and misdemeanours but will not allow an honest discussion of their nature and causes. The same criticism applies equally well to the theatrical censorship and, to a lesser extent, to the censorship of books. On the stage, and in the film also, sex themes may be presented without danger of censorship if the treatment is light and humorous. Under these conditions references to adultery, prostitution, lapses from virtue, and so on, may safely, and successfully as far as the reactions of the audience are concerned, be made. But let the serious artist present the same themes with some of their main implications as they appear to him, and the chances of the censor's interference, and of objections from the audience about "immoral", "disgusting" and "obscene" plays, are much increased. Especially with the drama the experiences of the last fifty years show that the serious works written by some of the ablest of modem authors (Shaw, Granville Barker, O'Neill, Edward Garnett, Maeterlinck, Pirandello) have suffered more from the censor's ban than have the flippant, lightly-written ones that skate skilfully over the surface of sex without raising troublesome thoughts in the theatre-goer's mind. As one who has suffered from the censor, Bernard Shaw expresses his strong disapproval of the way the censorship works. "The Lord Chamberlain (i.e. the British Censor) dare not attempt to exclude from the stage the tragedies of murder and lust, or the farces of mendacity, adultery and page break dissolute gaiety in which vulgar people delight. But when these same vulgar people are threatened with an unpopular play in which dissoluteness is shown to be no laughing matter, it is prohibited at once amid the vulgar applause, the net result being that vice is made delightful and virtue banned by the very institution which is supported on the understanding that it produces exactly the opposite result". Shaw's statement of the position is not quite fair, since only a few of the ably-written and truthful plays are censored; it is not true to say that all such plays are "prohibited at once". But that the capricious operation of the censorship has done something to cow both good dramatists and good novelists, and dealt more lightly with the treatment of sexual themes when it has been flippant than when it has been sober, are facts the evidence will not permit us to dispute. A law that is not consistently and fairly applied cannot be considered a good law.
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The meeting closed with questions and discussion by the audience and an appreciative vote of thanks was passed for a very interesting evening. It is to be hoped that the Phoenix Club can arrange more talks as worth while as this one. The audience on Wednesday suggests that there would be support to justify the effort.