Another cartoon controversy

Monday, October 03, 2011
Still from Sita Sings the Blues
Several months ago I linked to a video clip from the movie Sita Sings the Blues. It featured an animated heroine singing the Annette Hanshaw song Who's that Knocking at My Door while a battle raged around her. A Blue Hero leading an army of monkeys eventually rescued her.

The film was the work of Nina Paley.  The film is the mixture of events from the Indian epic the Ramayana and events from her breakup with her husband. The film featured Sita singing with her songs being old Annette Hanshaw recordings. 

Paley had copyright problems with the film. The songs themselves were in the Public domain, but apparently some of the recordings were still encumbered with a copyright. Paley has since negotiated a fee for the songs use and released the movie under a sketchy sounding Creative Commons license, claiming her release is for promotional purposes only.

The film has recently garnered more controversy when, at a showing at the San Jose Museum of Art, it was protested by Hindu religious groups (some other works at the show were also targets of the protest).  To them Ramayana is a sacred text which describes the ideal father, wife, king and so forth and they believe Paley's version was a denigration of the themes and lessons of the epic. You can read about the protest at the Sepia Mutiny post The Fierceness of Janaki.

In this day and age, what immediately jumps out from the story is how civilized the protest is. Unlike the Mohammed cartoon controversy, there are no rioting mobs, embassies getting attacked, blood curdling threats and the other foaming at the mouth common to the Arab Street and their imams.