Editor’s Notebook: July 2008

July 3, 2008

Greta Belanger deJong

"Banned": Laugh, eat, squirm
by Greta Belanger deJong
My first encounter with censorship, of any sort, was in junior high when my dad picked up a library book I was reading. “Girl On a Baggage Cart” is the title that comes to mind, and to this day I associate it with Frank Sinatra singing the then-popular “Strangers in the Night,” which means it probably involved a one-night stand. Somewhere in there, someone says “Screw you.” This is the line my dad read. He took this to my mother. They discussed it. Daddy drove me to the library and I had to return the book. It’s okay; it wasn’t that great.

Funny thing was, I had no idea what “screw you” meant. I don’t recall getting an adequate explanation from my parents, but I was the kind of kid who didn’t want to embarrass anyone; nor did I wish to threaten the status of my special-issue library card (I was underage but nonetheless had a card to the full library). I have no problem with parents taking an interest in what their teen is reading, and making decrees as to age appropriateness. I share this because it illustrates that censorship has a lot more to do with the censor than the person being “protected.”

“And the Banned Played On” is a grand and (usually) hilarious annual fund-raiser for Salt Lake City’s Plan-B Theatre, and a paean to the first amendment. I’ve had the privilege of participating in two of the past five performances. Last year the focus was banned children’s and young adult books. I got to read from “The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things,” by Carolyn Mackler. Another year it was all banned music—which goes to show there’s always somebody who wants to control somebody else, with top 40 hits such as Neil Diamond’s “America” and the infamous “Short People” by Randy Newman right up there with Prince’s “Darling Nikki.”

Sometimes songs and literature in these performances push my buttons and I think, “Yep, I’d ban that one, too.” It’s interesting to contemplate, and a good topic for discussion afterward in the lobby with your friends.

This year’s Monday, July 21 performance includes five former SLC mayors, representatives from various SLC media, and professional actors and musicians, hosted by Doug Fabrizio and Bill Allred. The topic is theatre. Reserved seats are $35, and it always sells out. This year’s eats are by Cali’s Natural Foods, and there’s a cash bar. Come see for yourself: What, if anything, pushes your buttons?

It’s good to test ourselves, decide what that voice inside is saying. It’s good to stretch. It’s okay to squirm, to be indignant, then examine why.

And that, too, is usually good for a good laugh. Come if you can.

— Greta Belanger deJong

Greta Belanger deJong is the editor and publisher of CATALYST. greta@catalystmagazine.net.?