Saturday, December 29, 2012

Correct Entertainment

"Inclusion of stories dealing with evil shall be used or shall be published only where the intent is to illustrate a moral issue and in no case shall evil be presented alluringly, nor so as to injure the sensibilities of the reader."

As stated by the Comics Code Authority, 1954

Recently, I wrote that D&D was widely played in a self-imposed sort of infancy.  I meant that for many, the playing of the game carries with it an insistence on childish plots, with childish themes, suitable for childish people.  Above is an example of how censorship in the 1950s whitewashed comics, eliminating elements of storytelling that removed the grey in criminal activities, imposing a black-and-white absolutism.  If you want to see the whole list, you can read it here.  The Comics Code was the thing that destroyed adult interest in graphic art, that had been rising through the 1940s - and made comics something only children would read.

But then, the statement was only based upon the Hays Code from 1930:

"The treatment of low, disgusting, unpleasant, though not necessarily evil, subjects should always be subject to the dictates of good taste and a regard for the sensibilities of the audience."

I don't begin here to argue that censorship is a bad thing.  Obviously, it's a bad thing.  Nor am I here to write that in the long run, after 40 years of hard censorship in the movies (affecting your parents and your grandparents), and an even longer time in the television industry, you and I and everyone we know are polluted with a sense of decency that has been imposed upon us.  It's in the blood of the culture, like a disease ... and it remains ever-present with the "solution" the Hays Code that was imposed in the 1970s: the MPAA rating system.

No, I am here to argue that if you want to enliven your D&D campaign; if you are a writer and you ever want to do serious work; if you are human being who wants to comprehend the difference between shit and art ... you must set yourself to work breaking these codes, which have been written to make you think like a child.

These are 'uncomfortable' subjects like brutality, addiction, slavery, sexuality, vulgarity, religion, race, politics, cruelty and so on ... the very aspects that make us uncomfortable, but also define what we are willing to do and what we are willing to fight against.  These are the guts of culture ... which the film industry and others decided that you were not grown up to see.  And note the argument they used:

"Reasons supporting the Preamble of the Code:  I.  Theatrical motion pictures, that is, pictures intended for the theatre as distinct from pictures intended for churches, schools, lecture halls, educational movements, social reform movements, etc., are primarily to be regarded as ENTERTAINMENT."

The reader can investigate and see that in the portion of the Hays Code quoted above, the capitalization was not mine.

How often has it been argued in blog after blog that this shouldn't be tolerated or that shouldn't be mentioned or what shouldn't be done because D&D is supposed to be FUN?  Where is the difference?  It is just another set of voices in the world defining for you what is "fun" and what shouldn't be.  Not what isn't, mind you, but what "shouldn't be."  As the Hays Code puts it,

"Mankind ... has always recognized that entertainment can be a character either HELPFUL or HARMFUL to the human race, and in consequence has clearly distinguished between a) Entertainment which tends to improve the race, or at least to re-create and rebuild human beings exhausted with the reality of life; and b) Entertainment which tends to degrade human beings, or to lower their standards of life and living.  Hence the MORAL IMPORTANCE of entertainment is something which has been universally recognized.  It enters intimately into the lives of men and women and affects them closely; it occupies their minds and affections during leisure hours; and ultimately touches the whole of their lives.  A man may be judged by his standard of entertainment as easily as by the standard of his work.  So correct entertainment raises the whole standard of a nation."

There it is.  Correct entertainment.  D&D is about having fun.  When D&D is played correctly, it is fun.  When it is played incorrectly - that is, according to the standards of people who define 'correct' - it cannot be fun.

Just as all the art in the world that has been created in defiance to codes were, by definition, destructive to the goodness of mankind.  It's all bullshit.  It's all a control mechanism purported by people who want to demand that this game never changes, so that their campaigns are never touched by anything that they're uncomfortable with.  They never want to find themselves out of their depth, so they keep that depth no more than a foot or so, just enough to wade in.  These people never, ever want to swim.

Break all the codes.  Play all the elements of human experience, not just the ones set for the wading pool.  It's time for D&D to reach adulthood.

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