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Professor, Instructors, Teachers- Where Do You Draw the Line?

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Professor, Instructors, Teachers- Where Do You Draw the Line?


I was wondering where folks draw the line in their classes in regards to content.

When does a project cross the line?

When do you say..."that's in bad taste?"...or do you?


Larry L.'s picture
Larry web site http://tooninst[URL=] [/URL]blog: [U] [/U] email:

I taught many years ago at the Art Institue in Chicago. They defend the artists right to make any statement. While I was there a couple of cases made national headlines (the mayor in ladies underwear and a flag on the floor). The school defended the work. The work was intended to be provocative and it succeeded in that.

On the other hand, the artist/animator has to take responsibility for their work and it's affect on the audience. Students who choose to do particularaly offensive work may suffer consequences later and they should certainly be made aware of the risks.

This logic applies to college students. I would not allow the same lattitude in HS especially if my job were at stake, although what I call 5th grade humor seems to be popular in film festivals and even some years at SIGGRAPH (Gas Planet, that one about the dog pooping and eating the poop, ya da ya da).

On the whole I don't judge on the particular content, but rather on the students ability to communicate their idea (what ever it is) well to the audience they have chosen to address. They definately have to defend their choices.

- Marla

I am none of the above, but since this is a discussion forum, I'm going to reply.

Drawing the line-a euphemism for censorship. Let them say what they want, isn't the artist the one who needs to take the heat or praise or...whatever? I don't remember any of my instructors passing moral judgements on my work.

I've drawn the line a few times but I can't remember any specific circumstances. Most of the time it's male students going for a laugh by doing something crude or sexist.

Usually I can go the route of if you put this on your demo reel you can be certain to offend someone and you will not to get hired then they usually see the light. If they don't I have no problem telling them they can't. Sometimes you need to save them from themselves.


Department of Computer Animation
Ringling College of Art and Design
Sarasota Florida

I teach high school multimedia (and mostly English these days). The kids start messing with Flash and the first thing they want to do if they have the chops for it is some type stuff, or very often, something worse or more violent. I've even had a few pretty rauchy attempts at sexist stuff.

I don't even have a discussion about it beyond if they want to do that kind of work they can get their own computer and buy Flash. I'm not interested in promoting the creation of Least Common Denominator material, especially when the LCD for 14 year old boys amounts to random acts of sex and violence. I don't see it as censorship, and I don't really see it as censorship that if I let them do it, I'd probably be fired. At their age there are some non-technical, non-academic lessons I have to find opportunities for that have to do with common respect and and recognition for what to and when to do it.

This week a fairly intelligent and respectfull kid with no training in Flash (we're not quite there yet) worked out a frame by frame animation of a short gunfight with simply drawn shapes and figures. I encouraged him and saw what a great thing he was learning, but I also said that this would not be appropriate for his online portfolio on the school web site. It seems almost against what I say above, but while it doesn't belong online with the school stamp on it, in the moment it served great learning on his part that led to me teaching him how to use Flash more effectively.

On the other hand, a few years ago I had a student who created something in Flash that was highly sexist and demeaning. Not cool at all, and he was dealt with appropriately. The basic message was that there if is a time and place for that, it's not in my classroom, my lab, on my watch.

Cartoon Thunder
There's a little biker in all of us...

I've had students do work that made me gag--in the literal physical sense.
That's rare, though, most attempts to be crude often fizzle, and being clever enough to pull off "crude" properly is rare amongst students.
There common sense as a giude here.
Showing a adult couple copulating CAN be considered offensive--depending on portrayal--showing a person copulating with infants DEFINITELY is offensive, and will be seen as such by others regardless of intent by the artist. line is simple: if anotherSTUDENT, or STAFF, objects to material then a line has been crossed, no matter what anyone says. If that happens then its time to talk to the "offending" student and A] see what the goal of the work is, and B] see if there is room for compromise.
There usually is.

If I find the material personally offensive. then I start asking questions. I'm pretty open-minded and my own sense of humour can be quite ribald--so I know when things have gone too far.

There's one thing to consider here: most schools have a contract regarding student works--particularly summation works like a final film. Those contracts assign responsibilites and limits, if properly drawn up and are meant to deal with this kind of issue. Issues of artistic expression become moot at somepoint because the student is not creating in a vaccuum. There's other people around and equipment being used that they have payed to use, but that doesn't belong to them--hence their responsibility to the work.

If the material is not offensive in a racial, sexual or religious way, then the offsense at it can be subjective and needs to be explored.

I DO NOT subscribe to arbitrary censorship without grounds, but I do think that there is a responsiblity on the part of students to adhere to a defined standard of presentation and professionalism.
That said, there are tremendously wide pararmeters that fit that definition.

The rule of thumb has always been: would you show the film to your parents ( chances are they are footing the bill) and family. If no, then rein the work in.

"We all grow older, we do not have to grow up"--Archie Goodwin ( 1937-1998)

I guess I came up in the world more 'hippified' than I thought. My rule of thumb for presentation was not 'would I show this to my parents' (they didn't foot the bill) but rather, 'is this what I want to show the world'. That was enough incentive to edit myself-I didn't need an instructor to tell me something was offensive or not.

Im in film school right now, majoring in film (emphasis on screenwring) with a minor in fiction writing and in 5 semesters, no one has ever told a student their work has crossed a line before. ive had teachers say that work was too big for a short film and wouldnt work, one teacher who said one of my ideas was the worst she ever heard and a one teacher say another students project was too big for a feature film, but as far as i know nothing has ever been killed because of content (though it could have been privately).

Not Always


To be fair- it does not happen often. I have been teaching for 4 years where I am now and only a handful of students - maybe less than ten have presented crude work.

They get a chance to redo it or take a fail on the project.

The great majority of the students present great work.

in the uk you have 2 things to consider.

will it cause harm or offense?

and also, what is the schools policy. as a student you may find that you have signed a declaration that you will not produce anything that will/might bring the schools name into question. alot of schools have an equel right over your work and you do not exclusively 'own' anything you produce whilst on the course. (this excludes work which you produce in your own time but does not exclude work produced for an assignment)
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