Friday Face/off: Censorship

Tash (happy to live in a 12A universe):

The thing about censorship in the modern age is that it doesn’t really exist. Not really. With global markets, the world wide web and BBM Bastard Messenger there’s simply no way from stopping anyone from seeing anything, if they really want to. In this day and age what film censorship really does – particularly the BBFC, rather than the more evangelical-slanted US counterpart the MPAA – is advise us, inform us and protect those who are not old enough to witness stuff that could be considered damaging. We allow professionals to advise us in all other aspects of our life – engineers, doctors, plumbers, lawyers – why not when it comes to what we consume creatively?

Flo (officially unshocked since 1988):

Because no! We rely upon doctors and lawyers to help us with important actual things happening in our lives. Like, if we go to a doctor complaining about having a broken arm and the doctor says “I advise you to not use that arm for picking up things” then fair enough! That’s good advice, thanks Doctor, you may have saved our arm from further hardship. But some snooty council telling us what films we can and cannot watch? Why? No matter how horrible a film is – and they can get pretty horrible – it is never going to physically hurt you on the arm or put you in prison (well, one would hope anyway). Also, the BBFC and the like don’t just ‘advise’ us, they do actually censor films properly. A quick glance at the list of notorious ‘Video Nasties’ (censored films) tells me that certain titles are STILL banned outright, including classics like Love Camp 7 and Mardi Gras Massacre. If I want to sit down and watch Gestapo’s Last Orgy, I think I should be allowed to.


The fact that we’ve continued to flourish as a society without the help of Gestapo’s Last Orgy is, indeed, pure luck. Look, if the BBFC banned films stayed banned NO MATTER WHAT I might be on your side – but the thing is, banned films are constantly being re-evaluated for artistic merit. The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Masscare, A Clockwork Orange (not technically banned, but withdrawn due to threats on Kubrick’s family, whatevs) – all of these films have demonstrated SOMETHING OTHER than a desire to shock, and were judged – and subsequently passed – accordingly. I’m happy to let history be the judge. If, in 20 years time, Tom Six is lauded as an unsung creative genius no doubt we’ll all celebrate as one, throwing our entrails around and smearing ourselves with poo. Until then, I’m pretty happy for him to just be that bloke who had one pretty distasteful visual, and was determined to use it to get rich.


Look, the beauty of living in a democratic society such as ours is that we are free to do what we feel like (I just got way political). Also, censorship will only ultimately draw more attention to a film. When The Human Centipede 2 was initially banned in the UK, there was a whole load of press surrounding the story which only means more ticket sales. If you don’t want your nine-year-old to watch a film, the way to get him/her/it to forget about it is NOT telling him/her/it that the film is banned and can never be watched and is evil. If the censorship people really wanted to put everyone off watching the films they ban, they would stick them on school syllabuses. Censorship will only ever help to create mystique around a film.


Ah yes, but part of living in a democracy (God bless it and all that) is abiding by the rules that ensure society remains standing. If you do away with censorship, if you toe the line of “if you want to do it, go ahead, why bother with the rulez” then why bother having certification ratings? Why bother having a watershed? Hell, why bother having gun licences, why bother making drugs illegal? The point is, there’s nothing wrong with having faith in an organisation like the BBFC. They’re not prudish, straight-laced maniacs, they’re a democratic group of knowledgeable professionals trying to ensure the safety of everyone by protecting the impressionable few. Is that such a bad thing? Just because something is shocking doesn’t mean it is worthy. Your argument hangs on the idea that every idea, no matter how sordid, how upsetting, no matter how utterly bereft of merit, should be accessible to all just because, well, sort of ‘just in case’. I’m just not sure, looking at the bigger picture, that that’s enough. I’m willing to give up my right to the dark, hollow recesses of the human brain – no matter what my opinion of my own impressionability – to continue to live in a society that looks out for the well-being its inhabitants.


I’m throwing down the gauntlet. Wham. That was my gauntlet. Look it’s on the floor now. Yes, of course democracy requires rules and guidelines to remain in shiny working order. But there’s a difference between putting a certificate on a film and effectively REMOVING IT FROM EXISTENCE by banning it. I think it is part of our culture that we must accept that having “Freedom” ( – Mel Gibson) means we must acknowledge that people do a lot of weird shit and have strange habits, like watching Nazi zombies cut up women dressed as pigs (I assume most banned films are on this theme). That is just some people’s bag. Also, I wasn’t suggesting that these banned films are ‘worthy’ but neither would I describe the recent Three Musketeers film as being particularly ‘worthy’. And as for arguing for a society that ‘ looks out for the well-being of its inhabitants’ – well, come on. That’s like the slogan of some dystopian Big Brother state. I have to say, though, that my main problem with censorship is that it can strike fear into the hearts of other filmmakers, that it can cause people to stop taking risks which is often the way that – as in the case of A Clockwork Orange, The Exorcist – great films emerge. It is part of our nature to keep pushing the boundaries and my fear is that continued censorship will stall the creative process. Or something to that effect.


Shit, I’ve got GAUNTLET all over my feet. I totally agree that Murdering The Creative Process is probably not a goal of filmmakers anywhere, but I’m just not convinced that some ideas deserve international airing. And actually, it’s not so much the BloodNGore stuff that gets me, it’s more dangerous ideas that worry me, ideas like – as seen in the original Straw Dogs and the recent 3D Sex And Zen – rape can SOMETIMES be fun for the woman, in the right circumstance. Know what I mean? It’s not cool that that idea might ever be A Thing, a Thing that people could think “psht, knew it! Knew them ca-razy bitchez were just fussing over nothing” It’s glorifying the innately Bad that I’m worried about, not so much the stuff that makes you go “EWW ITS IN HIS MOUTH OH GOD ITS SPLATTERING EVERYWHERE”


Fair enough. The glorification of amoral acts is bad, very bad. NOBODY LIKES BEING RAPED. Can we all agree on that? Should that be the new strap-line for the BFF website? It’s certainly true that there are a lot of ideas out there occurring in people’s brains that are crazy and potentially dangerous (although I don’t go in for all this “Rap music made me burn down the bus stop” business) and maybe our lives would be better off without them. I just hope that all this censorship doesn’t turn into book-burning and people-killing. Because that could well happen. YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST, PEOPLE.



By Natasha Hodgson and Florence Vincent

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