What is late – is still coming.
After many years of indirect and roundabout ways, the Hungarian media council finally resorted to good old-fashioned censorship, cutting scenes out of an animation movie.
It is a well-established historical fact that power is like gas: it will always expand to fill every available space – and then some. So the fact that the media council, that was created to police the media for non-Fidesz leanings, is finally resorting to hard censorship should not surprise anyone. Only that it didn’t happen earlier.
I take it back, this incident was only accidentally leaked so it could have happened before for all we know.
The show in question was a 13-episode animation series, a creative adaptation of Voltaire’s Candide. The main characters are placed in contemporary environments such as migration-Europe, Steve Jobs’ empire, or on Mars. It is also relevant to mention that the creators accepted money from the media authority to realize their project.
But this is what you get when you accept money. It always comes with strings attached, whether you are a starry-eyed startup, an artist on a mission, or a simple welfare-recipient. In this case, the money came with censorship. When the media authority saw the final animation, they ordered it to be cut – or the money be repaid. Obviously, the creators didn’t have the money.
The following scenes didn’t make it into the final cut:
1. Pangloss crucified
Pangloss crucified is something any clueless, touchy, just-to-be-on-the-safe-side religionist, or an offense-seeking, virtue-signalling snowflake would demand to be censored, not just an autocratic regime. But we never had snowflakes here. We have an autocracy.
2. An empty football stadium in the dictator’s birth village
In the other offending scene a football match between neighboring villages is shown – without any spectators. The theme is a very obvious reference to Orbán’s out-of-control football mania, that is also unfounded as Hungary has no football to speak of, no viewers who would fill a stadiums – but most importantly, no taxpayer money to waste on dozens of out-of-proportion stadiums, built by OfFidesz cronies, hugely overpriced, economically blighting the villages and towns they grace.
Orbán’s Kim Jong Un’s toy train
Another reference to Orbán’s birth village mania was ordered to be removed. In the scene Kim Jong Un is travelling on a narrow-gauge railway that links his birth village with the nearby villages – while the villagers greet him with tears in their grateful eyes. This had actually happened in Hungary, where an EU-funded narrow-gauge railway links Orbán’s birth village with the next one. Nobody travels on it – because what for?
4. A Virgin Mary tattoo and Candide’s freedom-seeking hamster
This is where things get weird. The third reported cut scene is a Colombian gangster who has a tattoo of the Virgin Mary on his forearm. (South Park could never have happened here…) The creators were also not allowed to call Candide a ‘migrant’, and list antisemitism as a football value.
But the fourth cut scene is the most intriguing. According to reports, it shows a hamster (representing Candide’s organs) escaping his underwear, crying “Freedoooom!” and if it’s true, I MUST see the uncut version.
Watch the pilot episode here:
After the article about the cut scenes came out, both the makers and the media authority issued a statement. The media authority basically claimed that they totally finance things and that they are great. They didn’t deny anything.
The fearful creators issued a statement that it is unfortunate that the media is talking about the censorship, because it was all totally consensual, and they only mentioned the cut scenes and the censorship during a private talk with the creators. And that the scenes had to be cut because they were against the media law and didn’t comply with the age-category of the show.
Read: Kim Jong Un on a train or an empty stadium is 16+
* For years, I kept fielding the same question about media in Hungary. Does Orbán’s 2011 media law create censorship? The answer was not that simple – as power, influence and yes, censorship is not that simple. Yes, it could, theoretically, resort to old-fashioned censorship. But until 2019 it didn’t.
It did instead resort to indirect forms of tilting the playing field towards Orbán. So much so that by 2018, nearly 500 titles were consolidated under his thumb, the EU’s biggest media conglomerate. All it took was allowing OfFidesz cronies to buy up as much of the media as they could – while blocking any other purchase or takeover requests. All it took was watching silently as all the state advertising money (on hate campaigns and Fidesz campaigns – the two being the same) going to OfFidesz media outlets – and nothing to non-Fidesz ones. There was even the odd fine – and of course the self-censorship by journalists who knew exactly what is not tolerated by the regime. (More and more, in case you wondered. Think gas…)