Moral Panic: “an instance of public anxiety or alarm in response to a problem regarded as threatening the moral standards of society.”
Children and their representation in the media has become a moral panic in today’s society, as well as ‘sexualisation’. Unfortunately, both have become intertwined leading to a greater moral panic. Arguably, we can take the view that the media is to blame, it is the way the panic is spread and how stories become escalated. In 2008 Bill Henson’s exhibit of adolescents raised many eyebrows and the 20 photographs were seized by NSW police. Henson was told he would be prosecuted but the Director of Public Prosecutions later decided against pursuing any chargers. But who’s to say this isn’t art? A statement on an awkward age for human beings? What is the difference between the images above which are considered as “art” to the ones below which are viewed as child pornography. If someone had never seen the painting of “Venus and Cupid” and we told them that it connotes ideas of pornography and child sexualisation then they would start looking at the painting in that way and possibly be able to draw the same conclusion. Thus, it isn’t until we associate words, which we often regurgitate from the media or overall ‘moral panic’ that we start looking at things in a whole new way.
So if Bill Henson’s photographs were a statement on the “awkward stage of adolescence” wouldn’t it be art?
Futhermore, what about the teenagers in this photograph? Don’t you think the harm to them wasn’t actually the photographs but instead the outpouring of negativity Bill Henson and the photographs received? Personally, I think the bigger picture is the “Moral Panic” and how we let that distort our views and opinions. I’m not saying that there isn’t child sexualisation in the media….. It’s just in the places we’re not looking.