Saturday, June 04, 2005


Censorship Updates

I realised today that I haven't commented upon censorship issues for a couple of weeks, so here is a brief round-up:

1) Ofcom rejected seven complaints about Channel 4's screening of the Lars von Trier film 'The Idiots' during their 'Banned' season. The issue was with the infamous 'gang bang' scene and the momentary glimpse of 'real sex' that that scene contains. I have to disagree with the Ofwatch comments on the film - 'The Idiots' being screened uncut hardly sets a precedent for R18 content on television, not least because of the brevity of the scene in question, and also the fact that 'The Idiots' is clearly and definitely not a sex film - indeed, the scene in question could hardly be described as titillating.

Still, Ofcom definitely made the right decision. And, as MediaWatch Watch pointed out, the fact that the screening received only seven complaints, one less than the number of people on the MediaWatch board for goodness' sake, suggests that the controversy is really very manufactured. Those complainants either had to stay awake until 1:35 in the morning (when the scene appeared) in order to be offended, or else they had to set their videos in order to be offended. Anyway, given how much the scene was flagged, in Tim Roth's introduction, before the start of the film, and after the advert break preceeding the scene in question, it would have been impossible to have not known what was coming.

2) Ofcom, having appeared a voice of reason in the 'Idiots' decision, promptly ruined that by continuing their nonsensical ban upon R18 rated content upon pay-per-view, PIN protected satellite services. The decision, announced in thir new code, is, in my view, the wrong one. The idea that R18 content should be banned because kids can get hold of PIN numbers is ludicrous. Kids can get hold of all sorts of things, from kitchen knives to hardcore porn, in many homes, yet that is no good reason for banning people from possessing them. Ultimately, Britain's regulatory bodies need to trust parents to be able to bring up their kids properly, and I'm sufficient of an optimist to believe that the vast majority manage that.

A decision in favour of R18 content would not have been to put R18 upon terrestrial television, or even upon free-to-air satellite channels. It would have been strictly pay-per-view, and that, in my opinion, is reasonable enough.

3) The 'Daily Mail' had a predictably ludicrous reaction to the news, writing about the viewers right to 'not be offended.' I do find it amusing that newspapers such as the Mail, who spend all their time dismissing legislation such as the Human Rights Act, can, when they want to, come up with an alleged 'right' that is clearly many times more preposterous than the ones they dismiss.

John Beyer of MediaWatch needs to wake up. The R18 ban was not just a snub to the 'pornography industry', but was also a snub to the consumer. It could be his best friends or next-door neighbours who suffer at the hands of the continual prohibition. Of course, he would be perfectly happy with this, but it's noticeable that pro-censorship campaigners always leave out of their statements the implicit view that it's perfectly acceptable for the consumer to suffer. After all, the consumer might read their statements, and if they said the full truth, the consumer might be more skeptical of organisations like MediaWatch.

4) Finally, the BBFC have made the right decision in passing Mark L Lester's film 'Class of 1984' uncut 18. The film had been banned on video in Britain after failing to pass the censors in 1987, who were concerned about the films unflinching portrayal of classroom violence. The link shows an IMDb review claiming the film is eerily prophetic because of its visions of high school security and metal detectors in classrooms just a few years before they became a reality. It has apparently received decent reviews, and I shall see if I can hunt down a copy now that it's legal.

Filming of the 'gang bang' scene in 'The Idiots.'

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