Books · Discussions · literature · reading

Do you self censor when reading?

This is something I’ve been pondering for a while now. I touched upon it in my review of the film adaptation of Gone Girl which is probably where it really struck me. I was taken by surprise by the discrepancy of what I had read and what I saw in a particular scene. I don’t believe it was any less graphic in the book but it definitely was in my mind. You might suggest that it is a lack of imagination and I have considered that, however, I pride my self on my imagination! So I can only think that my mind creates something easier for me to digest.

It is often discussed in terms of children’s literature, that children have an instinctive ability to self censor. So, do we all unknowingly do it? This came up in a conversation not that long ago when I was discussing Harry Potter with someone. We were talking about the werewolf Fenrir Greyback, how he specialises in children and asks Bellatrix if he can have Hermione when she is done torturing her. As a child he is a scary character, as an adult you might see something far more sinister in his interests. But is this self censoring or simply a naivety to certain things. As we become more aware of the world do we still have the ability to ignore, well, the bad bits, shall we say.

The more I think about it, the more I notice the way I can’t watch certain things on TV or in a film and yet I can read about them. Does self censoring mean that we subconsciously adjust a scenario so that it is easier to process? And if that is true then in the same way that we take different meaning from a book, we might also view certain things completely differently depending on how much or how little we self censor.

I have had a particular trilogy of books sitting on my shelf for I don’t how long and I have yet to read them and am unsure if I ever will. I’ve been made aware of a particular event in one of the books that I don’t think I will be able to cope with. I know for a fact that I would not be able to watch it on film, however, if my theory of self censoring is correct, would I be safe to read it?

Maybe our imaginations know our limits. Maybe that’s why some people can’t watch a scary film but can read a scary book. Or maybe it is simply to do with our experiences. We are only able to self censor if we have no personal experience of an event or a scenario, meaning that we simply can’t imagine it because we have never experienced it happening.

What do you think? Do you have any experience of self censoring that you can think of?

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