Tuesday, May 17, 2005


Torturing Daleks

According to this story, the BBFC have given a 12 certificate to a video of the new series of 'Doctor Who', because one of the episodes contains a scene in which a Dalek is tortured. Shocking! The BBC originally wanted a PG certificate, pointing out that under-twelves are very likely to have already seen the episode when it was screened in its early evening time slot of seven PM, but according to a post here;

'. . . the Board said it sets a bad example to children because it suggests that using brute force and cruelty is the only way to resolve a problem.'

Far be it from me to agree with John Beyer, but he does have something of a point in a bit of his statement:

'This is a rather puzzling judgement by the BBFC because the programme has already been shown by the BBC at an early evening slot when many under-12s will have been watching. No doubt the whole series has been recorded by Dr Who fans and so any BBFC classification seems pointless however well meaning the Board’s judgement may be.'

It has to be said that this contains some common sense, but it's predictably ruined by the following sentence:

'It is a great pity that the Board does not apply the same rationale to other material, such as the ‘excessive cruelty’ in 'Natural Born Killers' or 'Reservoir Dogs.'

Give me a break.

However, this case has provided some excitement, meaning that not just the extremes at either side of the argument have been commenting, as this shows.

I have to say, while I agree with Gove's general point, I'm not sure about his rather hysterical tone. I don't, for one minute, believe that the censors 'are faceless dummies whose Achilles’ heel is an inability to hit the right target.' Gove's view seems to be that because the BBFC have given the video a 12 certificate, it shows how they feel British parents cannot bring up their own children.

I suppose you could view it that way. My own personal view is that, in this case, the rather rigid rules concerning 12 certification on video have surfaced yet again, just a few months after the 'I, Robot' business. I can fully appreciate that cinema classification and video classification are different arenas, but the issues of material being seen in the home patently unsuitable for children is an issue of the higher classifications, not the lower, and once those issues are taken out of the equation, you have to bear in mind the fact that images are more, not less, visceral on the big screen.

All of which makes it surprising, to say the least, that a couple of months after the BBFC made the courageous, and correct, decision to grant 'Hotel Rwanda' a 12A certificate, meaning smaller children could see it on the big screen, they have made this decision. This means that an eight year old child could have seen rather distressing images of genocide this year, and yet have to wait another four to see Doctor Who knock a Dalek around a bit. A little more flexibility on the video classification front, of the kind shown on the cinema classification front, at the 12 level, would have spared blushes all around.

Innocent victims.

Not sure that works: video classification allows a parent (legally, as well as practically) to purchase a video of any certificate they see fit and show it to their child; whereas cinema classification sets absolute age rules on who should be allowed in even if they're accompanied by an adult.

So the eight-year-old will only have to wait another four years to see Dr Who if s/he's planning on buying the video his/herself, in which case it might well also take him/her four years to save up the cash...
You are, of course, completely correct, except for one thing:

"cinema classification sets absolute age rules on who should be allowed in even if they're accompanied by an adult."

In the realm of cinema classification, the 12A category doesn't do this. To quote from a BBFC press release of February 9th (which can be found on their website):

"We did consider whether a cut off age should be introduced to address the problem of very young children being taken to unsuitable films. But our current view is that imposing a mandatory lower age restriction on an advisory rating would only increase confusion."

This shows, as well as the fact that nobody ever taught the person who wrote this not to start a sentence with 'but', that the Board feel, at the moment, that given a comparatively high level of awareness amongst parents of the intended age range of 9 - 11 (about 40% showed good awareness, apparently), there is no need for lower age restrictions.

Of course, as you point out, it's a fairly moot point anyway given that there are likely to be few under 12s desperate for the video whose parents won't buy it for them. Your last point is particularly relevant - as an eight year old I'd never have had the cash for buying videos anyway. And, if I did, I wouldn't have bought Doctor Who . . .
Have you heard about the robots specifically designed for weeding and gardening?

They roll around and say "Extirpate, Extirpate, Extirpate" all day long.

The only problem is that the soil clogs up their casters.
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