Article Title:Chief Censor Bill Hastings
Category:Hall of Fame
Author or
Published on:1st August 2003 - 12:00 pm
Story ID:90
Text:Of course being openly gay attracts more than its share of battles, but I view these battles as opportunities to demonstrate in public that intolerance, fundamentalism and bigotry will never win in the long run. Who are you and what's your background? I grew up in a happy suburban nuclear family with my mum, dad, sister and a cat named Scratchy. For 2 ½ months every summer, we moved to our cottage on a lake in what was then wilderness, about 100 miles north of Toronto. My sister and I became deeply tanned amphibious wild children. There was no telephone, and my father would bring us supplies from the city every weekend. This was in sharp contrast with my cousins, who were part of my father's extended family, four generations of whom lived together in an old rented house downtown. All of them later moved, together, to a sparkling new detached bungalow in our suburb. My father's family is of working class English-Irish descent, my mother's of rather more landed Irish-French-Canadian descent. I was the first born of my generation, as was my father, my grandfather and my great-grandfather. I was also the first to go to university. I ended up going to law school, largely because I could talk a lot and was too squeamish to be a doctor. I decided I wanted to teach law when I was at the London School of Economics working on my third degree (I think my parents were quietly becoming exasperated with my seemingly endless enthusiasm for tertiary education). Not knowing how to go about getting a teaching job, I found a directory of Commonwealth law schools, wrote to every one of them cold, accepted an offer from Victoria, got married and emigrated. I became a censor by accident. The poet Stephanie de Montalk, wife of my Victoria colleague John Miller, was an overworked video censor in 1988. She recruited me as a part-timer to help clear a backlog at the now defunct Video Recordings Authority. I quit after two weeks, but my inability to resist flattery of any kind, merited or not, caused me to return. My inability to say no also caused me to become a member of the Indecent Publications Tribunal, Deputy Dean of Law, Deputy President of the Board of Review, and Deputy Chief Censor (my kids started to call me Deputy This 'n Deputy That) in addition to my "real" jobs as a senior law lecturer, barrister and father. What have you hoped to achieve by your work with the censor's office? Of all people in society, members of minority groups should know the power of words and pictures to damage, and to heal. It is hard to grow up in a society that places a premium on conformity to a white heterosexual Christian norm, knowing that you can never share in that premium, or that you can only share in it at great personal cost. We are all influenced by words and images that consciously or unconsciously reinforce this premium on conformity. Messages conveyed by mass media do this by routinely ignoring difference, or by implicitly or explicitly deriding it, or by ignorantly underestimating the power of rote words and images to silence alternative expression by reinforcing attitudes that are intolerant of difference. I don't think I can change the whole world, but I'll do what I can to limit the power of words and images to injure people. I see the Classification Office as a sort of environmental regulation agency, except that the environment we regulate is psychological and social. We don't touch expression that does society good, nor do we touch expression that does society neither good nor bad. By banning only expression that is toxic to a tolerant society, and by educating people about how to limit the power of damaging expression that isn't caught, eventually we will create a society that places a premium on tolerance and difference rather than on conformity. What characterises the New Zealand GLBT community for you? It is very small, especially in Wellington, and it seems to be in a permanent state of flux. Just as you get to know the new ones arriving to study or to take up a job or a posting, they leave for greener pastures in Sydney or London. What is the worst thing for you about being GLBT? I get frustrated when people in a gay bar or a dance party recognize me as "the gay film censor". Being gay adds novelty value to a public position. In a way the recognition is flattering, but it also engages a public expectation about the role of the Chief Censor in society, which makes me unnecessarily more circumspect in my private life than I might otherwise be. I also never know if a person chatting to me is attracted to me, or to my office. I realized how much my public life has affected my private life when I found myself one night at Studio 9 dancing alone in a room full of people, all of whom knew who I was. What is the best thing about being GLBT? For me, the best thing about being gay is more about being out than being gay. Being out allows me to show anyone who wants to see that being openly gay will not stop you being the chief executive of a Crown entity, being the Chief Censor, being a father, raising a happy family of three kids, having a wonderful stable relationship, trying to live a life that makes the world a better place, or being a good person. Of course being openly gay attracts more than its share of battles, but I view these battles as opportunities to demonstrate in public that intolerance, fundamentalism and bigotry will never win in the long run. Relationship status? I have been in a very contented, happy and fun relationship with Jeremy for nearly six years. Favourite food biting my nails; not paying enough attention to family and friends. Most noble feature? Not really for me to say, but I have become less judgmental as I have grown older. I am getting better at defending the right of my critics to criticize me too, and in not moving off the middle ground to engage them. I would like to have more ability to forgive, but I think my forgetfulness begins to compensate for this failing. Favourite TV programme? TV is so ephemeral that I can barely remember what I watched five minutes after I watched it. When I was little, I liked Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Time Tunnel, Lost in Space and on radio, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. These days, I'll watch anything that is quirky and intelligent, doesn't have a laugh track, and that has a high number of words per minute. I suppose The Simpsons, Queer as Folk and Six Feet Under qualify. Watching Fear Factor satisfies what few masochistic impulses I have. Qualities you most appreciate in a GLBT person? Courage and self-expression. It takes courage to wear your difference on your sleeve. It takes a lot of soul-searching and personal discovery to get to the point of accepting that you are different, and to be happy to be who you are. You may leave people behind. But once you realize that you don't need to conform, and that being different and a valued member of society are not mutually exclusive concepts, the door of enlightenment opens and will never close. Out gay people always choose the red pill. What are you reading at the moment? A book I've been asked to review for NZ Books - Gay Men, Sex - 1st August 2003
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