April 8, 2013

As an American living in South Korea, I have noticed some big differences in censorship policy while watch TV in my apartment.

In America, when an R-rated movie is shown on cable TV, the elements for which it is rated are edited. Offensive words are either cut out or replaced with a similar sounding word. Usually word-replacement sounds silly, like dubbing “fudge” over the other f-word. This is something we have all learned from watching A Christmas Story every year. Yes, you say to yourself in Ralph’s articulate narrative voice, “fudge” certainly does not carry a very negative connotation.

Violence is a very common element in American TV. Instead of not showing a violent act, there is a warning at the beginning of the show, and the mature rating at the top right-hand corner of the screen.

When a movie that contains nudity comes on TV, the editor works his magic and the audience sees the person from the knees down or the shoulders up. The genitals won’t be blurred or covered with a black bar. The most you will see is the person’s butt, like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2 or Demi Moore in G.I. Jane.

In Korea, it’s a different story. Vulgar language is not cut or dubbed. During a nude scene, the genital area is blurred, and that’s it.

If a character is being stabbed, the knife will become blurred upon puncturing the skin.

One reason some movies in America receive an R rating, is drug use. It may be traumatizing for a child to witness a character shoot heroin between their toes because they’ve run out of veins elsewhere.

That’s reasonable. In Korea, however, cigarette smoking is censored. As if it isn’t weird enough to blur out an act so ordinary that you could catch your neighbor doing it on the way to check your mail, they only make the cigarette blurry when it enters the character’s mouth. The moment it leaves their lips, you can clearly see it again.

I assume this is the censors taking a stab–a very blurry stab–at the tobacco companies. Surely they can’t influence our children to start smoking if the cancer stick sort of disappears for a second and then reappears. It’s the same thing as saying Clark Kent can’t be Superman because he wears glasses and Superman doesn’t.

I thought that guy was smoking, but I guess he can’t be, because I can’t quite make out the cigarette anymore. I thought that newspaper reporter was a super hero, but I guess he can’t be, because how could he see?

In conclusion, I hope my perspective on this cultural difference has been informative. Our entertainment says a lot about our country’s values. I hope Americans, Koreans, and their censors read this f#@%ing article and learn from each other.