Thoughts on Censorship and Bravery when people want to throw you in the trash

I ordered a burger that I’ve been craving for two weeks and I’m mildly satisfied. I mean it fed me, it was just more money with delivery and tip than I wanted to pay. :/ Next time I order food I’m getting a bunch of stuff.

ANYWAAAAAY! I am nearly done the super busy part of my life (for a while). I finished that 2 Spirit video last weekend, and yesterday almost finished a video that is due tomorrow. It needs some more visuals, the talking head stuff isn’t interesting on it’s own. I mean for sure all the audio is getting used, I just think maybe something to intercut to would be good. It’s also constrained to four minutes, so like, I’ve been SUPER brutal in my editing. Some funny stuff got ditched just because it didn’t fit. Some funny stuff stayed tho! But yeah, it needs SOMETHING and I only have a day to figure that out because I need to send it by Wetransfer tomorrow at the latest, and I also have a ticket to go see Phillis Nagy talk at TIFF Bell Lightbox about the process of writing Carol tomorrow night. So I’m busy! And Wetransfer might take a while to upload, it really depends.

Then the rest of the week I am writing, or rather, rewriting. Which is going to involve more problem solving of my storyline. I’m at this weird part of my script/project where I really need to push it because it’s horrific and talking about real things going on that are horrific. And I’m so nervous people aren’t going to like it, and that they’ll be SUPER offended and like “You AND your film belong in the trash!” And there are so many people out in the world who want to vet creative projects and art, and it’s really difficult because it’s (to me) a kind of censorship. And I mean if something sucks then yeah, you don’t have to program it/watch it/curate it, etc. But I kind of think the feeling in the Aboriginal art/film world that we have to get approval from elders/cultural gatekeepers/etc is hindering us. I think the community doesn’t need consensus for someone to make projects. Especially for people who are also on the margins of the Aboriginal community, like 2 Spirit artists/writers/etc.

But shit man, even I feel it sometimes. When I was an emerging video artist I made some pretty “edgy” (read homosexual sex) stuff and it definitely offended people, of all ages. And in fact one group of youth started talking about how Indigenous artists needed to start a censorship committee which was totally shocking to me. It flies in the face of contemporary art practice and activism from the last 100 years. But that thinking has kind of stuck around trying to find ways to assert itself in the guise of being honourable and traditional. Like we have to ask for permission now to express ourselves because we are owned by this community. And I can see why people talk about community accountability etc. etc. But I still think it can head in a really problematic way towards outright censorship. And censorship has historically been levied against queer/2 Spirit/trans/women/POC artists and writers. So I have issues with it, especially since I fit under all those (and other) marginal identities.

And especially since the Aboriginal community hasn’t always treated 2 Spirit people well, especially since residential school and Christian indoctrination that brought homophobia and transphobia into our communities. And fuck, pre-Columbian Indigenous art often had very explicit homosexual imagery and stories, so claiming it’s not traditional is not true.

But anyway. Yeah, so my story editor is being a really good sounding board for the work I am doing on this script. I think if I had to seek out community consensus on this project, it wouldn’t turn out for the best. I think it would get really watered down and palatable and so not me.

I never really thought about having to be brave just to write/make something before. I mean people have said some of my stuff is brave, but I never really felt it was, even the super personal stuff. But this project really makes me nervous. Like I’m stepping out of my lane. It deals with violence against Indigenous women, culturally specific phenomenon, vengeance, and just happens to have a rocky relationship between two queer women in the middle of it. It’s a lot to juggle and a lot to think about. And I’m writing from my own position as an Indigenous lesbian and still feel nervous! I think part of it is that people are always harping on about wanting “positive representations” and while I can see how those are needed, they also get boring really fast. Film is all about conflict, so a positive representation doesn’t go too far.

Anyway, ha ha I don’t have a real good answer for all of this. Except I am going to be writing most of this week and trying to stay brave and bold and fearless. Not sure if there’s a ceremony for that.

One thought on “Thoughts on Censorship and Bravery when people want to throw you in the trash

  1. Wow! Well, if you’re nervous about it then there must be something good about this project. It just means that it potentially could be good.
    I think it’s better to be real than to be safe. (And really when it comes down to it, it’s only art. Most people consider art to be unimportant and are not necessarily even aware that anyone does art.)
    I think that since there are no native tanks that will drive down your street and native culture police officers at your door with guns telling you to not make this art that you can do whatever you want. Your experience as an individual, an aboriginal, a human, an earthling, etc. is real and comes from you. If it’s real and true to you then it will last longer than any nervous people that are scared of you airing their dirty laundry.
    They’ll just have to deal with it and they’ll be okay in the end.

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