How Censorship and Limitations Breeds Creativity

For the purpose of this article, I will be mainly focusing on film because that is the medium where it is most often seen, but these standards can be applied to any medium of art.

I’m going to come right out and say that I hate censorship. I believe that censorship in any form goes against our much valued freedom of expression. This goes for any form of expression, whether I agree with the message or not. We live in a world now where there is almost no limitations on the messages that we want express; the sky is practically the limit. However, with this freedom of expression comes the artist’s responsibility to use it appropriately. Believe it or not, censorship and limitations has a great track record for breeding creativity.

I am anything but a prude or pacifist; I enjoy seeing boobies on screen and heads being blown off as much as the next guy. It’s up to the filmmaker to paint a vivid picture of the what is happening and to create characters that are real living breathing human beings and with that comes all the animalistic instincts we all share: sex, violence, and lots of swearing (or basically Samuel L. Jackson’s entire career).

Samuel L. Jackson from Pulp Fiction.
“You better not be tryin’ to censor me, mothafucka.”

If you go back and look at the movies and film that were made during the days of heavy censorship, you’ll see the amazing things that the filmmakers were capable of doing with the limitations of the time. Take Casablanca for example, where the most of the plot revolved around the affair between Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) and Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman). There is not a single sex scene in that movie. It is heavily implied that they’ve been intimate with each other through dialogue and creative editing, but the viewer doesn’t see this, nor do they need to. Instead, the story explores their relationship with each other and the tension built from being trapped in a love triangle within the confines in a German occupied Morocco.

The same goes for violence. Now, I will complain as much as the next guy whenever I watch an old movie and a guy is shot and there’s no blood. He just covers his heart and falls over. There are times when violence is not only realistic, but it supplements the message of the story. A good comparison here would be The Longest Day and Saving Private Ryan, which both portrayed the D-Day Normandy Invasion, but with some stark differences.

Tom Hanks from Saving Private Ryan.
The most notable being the inclusion of Forest Gump.

When Spielberg made Saving Private Ryan, we wanted to portray the war for what it was. War is gruesome and scary. People don’t just fall over lifeless when they’re shot or filled with shrapnel; they cry in agony, screaming for help, trying to cling to life for as long as possible.

With us being in the digital age, there is an issue of pure laziness in film. There used to be a time where filmmakers had to spend weeks or months planning a shot based around the technological limitations at the time. John Carpenter’s The Thing and the 2011 remake/prequel by the same name exemplifies this perfectly. The Thing (1982) relied on practical effects to create the monsters. This required weeks of planning, whereas the 2011 film used CGI, because it allowed for more freedom to film the shots. The result was what can only be described as a slightly gorier version of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Monster from The Thing 2011 remake.
“I’ve come to earth to build highways and shopping malls.”

This isn’t to say that CGI is bad, it can be used greatly to supplement practical effects, but its use as given filmmakers this false premise that there are no limitations. When Stephen Spielberg created Jurassic Park, CGI was still a new phenomenon. He realized that it wasn’t going to look as great as practical effects when looked at directly, so he made sure to plan his scenes in such away that your perception of the effects were limited. This was accomplished through various lighting techniques, fast movement, and wide shots. The end result was a film with CGI effects that still hold up to this day.

Conclusion

Whether you’re an painter, filmmaker, or writer it can be tempting to limit yourself. After all, we are always to told that our creativity is only has limited as we allow ourselves to be. However, as creative minds, we are naturally puzzle solvers and with no limitations, there is no puzzle to solve. If you’re struggling with your creativity, maybe try peaking one theme and pretend that, that theme is not allowed and you will find yourself astounded at how creative you can be at finding ways to express that theme subtly and indirectly

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