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The BBFC and Censorship

The Censorship Argument Continues

by Jamie McDonald

Within the last week or so the ideas behind censorship in cinemas, home releases and video gaming has be floating around the news. The two reasons why are with the outright refusal to certify a recent film and with the publication of the BBFC’s annual report. My involvement in cinemas, being a photographer and artist and a very keen computer gamer has given me a critical eye on the current coming and goings of censorship in our country. We are fairly lucky to have pretty solid freedom of speech and able to creatively portray concepts as long as they are not harmful to anyone. This is where the argument gets interesting. The recent decision to ban the horror film ‘The Human Centipede 2’ shows where the boundaries lie. This film has been refused a certificate for cinema or home release on the ground that it is too ‘obscene’. I am not a fan of horror films and have no interest in seeing this film, however I do stand by the argument that by banning this film they are doing more harm than good. This film will be easily accessible via the internet and will end up in the hands of most people who want to see it. By giving it an 18 certificate they could have given the UK people a choice to whether they would want to view the film on it’s merit and advise on it’s extreme content. This would also legally prevent it being sold to anyone under 18. Now however it will gain cult status, maybe one that the film doesn’t deserve, and has a big invisible label on it saying ‘watch me because your not allowed!!!’. At the end of the day this is simply a film. A piece of art. A story of fiction. One which is designed to shock and scare. The same thing happened with the likes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and one of my favourite films the legendary Clockwork Orange. I say lets give people the choice to make an informed decision instead of assuming that the content will offend and ‘harm’ people who watch it.

On the other side of this coin however I regularly see customers get offended themselves or have a child upset over a film which they have made no effort to find information on beforehand. I have been part of myself, or as a manager had to defend my colleagues in, heated (but professional) debate with the rare customer who feels that it is our personal fault as a cinema when a film may not be their cup of tea. One customer who I shall called Mrs. X, left the film Black Swan early and confronted me because she did not agree with the sexual deviation involved in the film. I went on to ask her what she understood the film was about before she made the decision to come and watch it. She informed me that she was told by a friend and read many positive reviews on how it was about swan lake and she is a fan of ballet. For those of you who saw this outstanding, Oscar winning film, you will understand how misinformed Mrs. X was. She carried on saying that when we sold her the ticket we should have said that it may not be her type of film, but to be honest, it’s not my job to pre-judge any of our customers, and I would never train my staff to do so. In my view Black Swan was given a 15 for it’s strong language, sexual scenes and complex story, therefore the BBFC did their part in restricting who may see it. Information about our current films is also easily found in our foyer and even more information is available if you ask our staff. I understand that Mrs. X didn’t appreciate the themes of this film, however I don’t agree that we should have to put more of an explanation into what may and may not offend. I will always offer a full explanation of a film to my knowledge and point people to further information, however if the person in question doesn’t wish to dig out this knowledge then they will always run the risk of being offended by some content.

The morel of this rant is that the BBFC Annual report is a very good read for those interested in films and gaming. It explains any advancements in law or how they certify films, it also goes through many major releases and why they gave it the certificate it deserved. They have an interesting section on what formal complaints they received about the classification of some films (including someone saying that The Princess and the Frog should not have been a U as it hinted at black magic…bonkers!)

To find this report follow this link = http://www.bbfc.co.uk/newsreleases/2011/06/bbfc-publishes-2010-annual-report/

Note – this report does use strong language in an example context, it also has some screenshots and posters from 18 based films. It is recommended that it should only be looked over by someone 18 and over.

For more information on the current film classifications visit here = http://www.bbfc.co.uk/classification/guidelines/the-categories/

For more information on the recent decisions by the BBFC visit here = http://www.bbfc.co.uk/recent/films/

For the BBFC website aimed at parents with extended film information visit here = http://www.pbbfc.co.uk

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