Posters for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 have reportedly been censored in two Jewish cities, Jerusalem and Bnei Brak, with star Jennifer Lawrence removed to leave only the flaming “mockingjay” background.
Examples of the Lawrence-free poster, seen below, have been shared by the Israeli newspaper Ynet and on Twitter.
To outsiders, the censorship seems bizarre: Lawrence is, after all, the star of the film, and one of Hollywood’s most bankable actresses
But the decision was apparently made due to concerns that posters featuring the actress would be vandalised by Orthodox Jewish groups.
“Unfortunately we are subject to unofficial coercion that forces us to be more careful,” Liron Suissa, the vice president of Nur Star Media (the film’s Israeli PR company) told Ynet (via Haaretz). “We have had endless vandalisation and clients prefer not to take the chance.
“We allow everything but we recommend hanging another visual when necessary. The decision is the client’s.”
Why has Lawrence been removed?
Those most likely to object to the posters, according to the Isareli press, are Haredi Jews, who follow a notably conservative type of Orthodox Judaism, characterised by the rejection and exclusion, insofar as it is possible, of modern, secular life (in other words, probably not Hunger Games fans).
The removal of Lawrence, which appears to be a mainly precautionary measure, has been widely reported, with many observers expressing anger, disbelief and amusement.
But the decision seems far less ludicrous when previous examples of Haredi censorship are taken into account.
It’s not just female Hollywood stars who have been removed from media: female politicians, female holocaust victims, and even female shoes have all been subject to censorship.
In Bnei Brak – a almost wholly Haredi city , governed by Haredi leaders – images of women are rarely seen in public spaces.
For example, according to a blog published earlier this year by the Israeli paper Haaretz, pictures of female candidates representing the Israeli political party Likkud were removed by local Bnei Brak officials during election season, on the grounds that they could be seen as offensive. The article states that, for Haredi Jews, “any image of a woman is potentially sexually provocative”.
At the time, editor Avraham Dov Greenbaum claimed that the censorship did not detract from the article, which focused on the story of a man claiming to be the young boy in the picture.
“The article focused on the subject of the photo, and thus there was no reason to publish the entire photo,” he told Ynet. “We wanted to emphasize the story of the helpless boy. At the same time, we respect the memory of the Holocaust victims, and… also respect our readers, bringing them only what they need and want to see.”
Censorship across the world
Across the world, film censorship and film poster censorship takes place for many reasons.
In the US, for instance, posters for hard-hitting documentary The Road to Guantanamo were banned on the grounds that they depicted an act of torture. While this seems somewhat disingenuous – the film, as the title suggests, is about the torture of prisoners in the now-infamous American-run prison camp in Cuba – the reasoning was that the posters were simply too disturbing for display in public spaces.
Posters depicting nudity, or sexual acts, have also been banned in the US and UK – even if the acts in question are being performed by cuddly toys, as in the The Rules of Attraction poster below.
More recently, the Sin City: A Dame To Kill For poster was viewed as problematic on the grounds that Eva Green’s nipples were (just) visible, and was banned in the US for being "too suggestive". This particular example of censorship led to accusations of excessive prudery (dedicated Eva-fans were especially outraged), but elsewhere in the world, the lengths censors will go to to hide female bodies can be much more extreme.
A 2012 article from The Atlantic highlighted how in Iran, which is run by a strict Islamist government, Western films and television series are routinely digitally altered, to clothe female characters in more “modest” attire .
The results are often inadvertently hilarious, especially when random objects are digitally added in to hide “provocative” necklines, as in the still below. (Personally, we think they should have taken a leaf out of the George Lucas book of digital remastering, and had a lumbering space beast incongruously walk across the shot).