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Discuss: Is UK censorship too strict or too lax?!

Discussion in 'Movie Forum' started by PoochJD, Mar 19, 2002.

  1. PoochJD

    PoochJD
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    Hi,

    AndyP's comments about censorship differences between the UK and US, (in the Die Hard Trilogy Question thread), raised some interesting issues. As such, I thought that so my question didn't get buried there, I'd start a new thread.

    -----

    Whilst it is quite fair to say that in the UK, we have had a very tough time with a lot of films (since the inception of the 1984 Video Recording Act), things are a lot better now than they were.

    An example being the controversial French drama "Baise Moi", which is due out in the UK in May 2002. The title actually translates from the French for "F*** Me"!

    Now, for those who don't know, this film is essentially a rape/revenge movie, but with female protagonists. The things is, that the film was heavily condemned in France, and even some cinemas and cinema chains refused to advertise it, or play the film. In France, that's pretty rare, bearing in mind that most 15 and 18 certificate films here in the UK, tend to be classified less restrictively over there. (An example: "Last House On The Left" is still banned in the UK, though it is currently awaiting a possible cinema release. Yet, in France, it was given a "16" certificate!)

    In the US, the film was released, but a lot of material was cut from "Baise Moi". Having said that, the uncut edition only runs to apprximately 78 minutes anyway, so heavy cuts would have made the film very, very short, and also probably incomprehensible. At the moment, a DVD and video release has not yet been approved of, due to legal issues with the original French producers!

    Over here though, the BBFC have given the movie an "18", but have only asked for one seconds worth of cuts - to a scene of forced sexual penetration. So, in some sense, we are luckier than some countries, in that we will at least be able to see the movie, 99% intact.

    On the opposite side, let's examine what it might be like if we lived in the USA. Now in the USA, most people know that a film can be released to cinemas, home video and DVD uncut, but without a certificate of any kind. Hence, a lot of "banned" material is easily available in high street stores and online, as "unrated". However, the downside is that some material gets released, which I personally don't think would be appropriate to be on view to every member of the public, where anyone can see the item. Let me give you an example here, to illustrate what I mean:

    In the USA, it is possible to buy films on DVD like "Nekromantik 2" and "Faces Of Death", in a fair amount of US DVD stores, if you look in the horror genre sections. Anyone can look at the covers on these titles, and read what the films are about. Those who don't know already, "Nekromantik 2" deals with a man who has an interest in necrophilia. "FOD" deals with material about death. The title includes a lot of material of animals being slaughtered, which is very distressing to watch. Admittedly some of the footage is blatantly fake, but it's still a rather reprehensible movie nonetheless. (That's my personal opinion only!)

    How many of you would be happy to allow stores like Virgin, MVC or HMV stock these titles, here in the UK? Before you answer, remember that the cases would be on open display, and anyone of any age could deliberately or accidentally see and read the contents of these films. Would you be okay with that?

    In my personal opinion, I wouldn't. I'm all for freedom of choice for adults. I'm also against censorship for adults. However, I wouldn't be happy knowing that children could stumble on these two titles in their local video store, and be distressed or offended by them. Ditto, with parents who may then be put in a situation when a child asks them "What is that man doing to that women?" on the cover of "Nekromantik 2". (The female corpse is actually being dismembered by a man with a large hacksaw!)

    Now, at least online, to order most DVD's, you need a credit card. As such, that means whilst children could access DVD Importation sites, they are unlikely to be able to actually purchase the material themselves! So, for the most part, those who don't want to access material like that I have previously mentioned, don't have to worry about stumbling upon it, or their children doing so, either.

    In Japan, they have similar censorship (or lack thereof) to the US. As such, many, many DVD titles dealing with really distressing and explicitly degrading material, is openly available, even if it isn't purchasable. (Titles like "Mermaid In A Manhole", "Evil Dead Trap", the "Guinea Pig" series, and the "Rapeman" series, are just some of the more brutal and sickly titles available.)

    Would you folks, here in the UK, prefer to stay as we are, right now - whereby those who want certain films can still get them, as long as they know how and where - or would you prefer to be like the US and Japan, where everyone can see (but not necessarily purchase) any title they want? Alternatively, would you prefer something else altogether?!

    I look forward to reading your opinions.

    Pooch



    P.S. Addendum: Dirk2 has since pointed out that film posters for "Baise Moi" have been removed from London Underground for fear of offending people.
     
  2. LV426

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    My opinion: We do need censorship. However, I think that the current setup is lacking for the following reasons:

    1) Studios are often predisposed to pre-cutting films in order to gain a given certificate, or agree to cuts being made at the recommendation of the BBFC for the same reason.

    2) Whilst titles that are deemed to be "obscene" (not by the BBFC, but by customs, I think) are illegal to own, transport, watch, etc., these are few in number.

    3) There is a huge range of material available in the world which is not defined as obscene, but isn't BBFC certified in this version. Often for the reason stated in (1).

    I don't particularly want to change the standards to which the BBFC operate, nor to change policy on "obscene" material - I don't think either is necessary.

    What I would like to see is a situation where any version of any film which

    a) is not defined as "obscene" AND
    b) has not been allocated a BBFC certificate as a consequence of a review by that body

    - by which I mean the majority of imported material

    is automatically allocated a default rating (let's call it "unrated", "unreviewed", "21", or anything else you like).

    An age limit of 18 or 21 should apply for purchase or rent as with other ratings. But, from a Video Recordings Act perspective, trade in such titles would become legal. In other words, legislation should be amended to reflect what actually is happening.

    That then only leaves the issue of copyright (and region coding) to resolve. It seems to me that, given the above, studios could master their minority interest and/or back-catalogue stuff to include R2, set up official distribution lines and instantly increase the availability of these low-demand titles.

    I'm not talking violence or porn here (which might remain "obscene") - I'm referring to films like "Mannequin", "The Abominable Dr Phibes", (don't flame my examples please) - completely benign films that it probably isn't cost-effective to remaster and pay for a BBFC review (so we'll probably never see in the UK), but which are unlikely to offend anyone.
     
  3. Dirk 2

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    As a father with a 10 year old son, I have to offset my own views on censorship against the need to protect the vunerable. Here are a few points that I've considered.

    Firstly, I am in favour of the BBFC as a body to classify. I repeat, to classify. I am happy with the current range of certificates. I especially like the experiment that is currently underway, in regard of a PG-12. (This allows children under 12 to be admitted if accompanied by an adult). This puts the choice back into the publics hands. Clear classification is a valuable tool for the responsible parent. It allows them to make an informed decision.

    With regard to packaging, I believe this has to be approved in the UK. Again I support this. I would not like to see excessively explicit cover art, as seen on some US and Eastern products. This is not out of prudishness, just common sense and good taste. I like "Cannibal Ferox" but do not see the need to market it, with cover art showing hooks piercing a womans breasts. Is it necessary to rub others noses in it?

    As far as censorship of movies, I am predominantly against it. I would like to see the BBFC reduced to nothing more than a classification body. I think the whole of the obscene publication act needs to be redefined. I would also like to see sensible revision in regard to animal cruelty. For example, I do not want to see real animals hurt, but object to horse falls and stunts being cut, when they have been expressly overseen and managed by experienced stunt men and the humane societies. (EG cuts to The Wind & The Lion, Conan The Barbarian. Supervised by Terry Leonard, an expert in this field). I also despise censorship on financial grounds. IE to gain a lower certificate, thus more bums on seats. This shows such contempt to the viewing public.

    I would like to see pornography, wider available. Restrictions should only prohibit any depiction of underage, non consensual, or violent sexual acts. Gay and hetro material should be treated equally. Again on packaging, if it is to be public displayed then restraint may be required. If it was via mail order or internet, then why restrict?

    To be honest I do not consider violent movies, or the alledged "video nasties" (which are now readily available on DVD around the globe) to be a threat to my sons welfare. It is soaps and other programs of this ilk that have a far greater influence on young children. These depict subjects such as incest, domestic violence, drugs, racism, rape in as fashion that is far more realistic than movies. Because the context in which they are portrayed is far more easy to relate too. Do I advocate the censorship of these programs? No, because by and large, these are handled in a very mature fashion and inform rather than titilate.

    Music and some of the lifesytles in promotes, I think is far more damaging, but I feel that is a seperate debate.
     
  4. Rambo John J

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    UK censorship, while it still exists, will always be too harsh. I believe, like Dirk does, 110% in classification according to content but would disagree with censorship in any form. Who sets the censorship boundaries? Why should I, as an adult, be dictated to about what I can watch by a group that doesn't share the same ability to deal with a film within its own context? Why should a film be banned from these shores because certain groups don't like it and because they don't like it, think it will harm anyone that watches it? The rating system is already there to protect children from material they aren't intellectually equipped to watch, anything beyond that is in the hands of the parents, who know their own children better than anyone. Bringing up children isn't the responsibility of the state, there's a rating system that's workable (but in need of fine tuning) and if it's workable then there's no need to censor adult themed material just because children might see it. Taste and decency are subjective things - we don't all think alike.

    Classification: YES. Censorship: NO

    Having said that, censorship in the UK isn't actually an issue for me any more. With the age of the internet censorship boundaries are more or less non existent - whatever you want you can find, be it pornography, uncut horror films, extreme Japanese cinema or anything...even Shwartzenegger's Eraser!
    Yes UK censorship is harsh, but it's very easily circumnavigated and ultimately negated. I don't even consider it an issue in my own life these days.



    I take it the version of Baise Moi, freely available for some time now, from US DVD suppliers in either R or Unrated (uncut) form is a Canadian release rather than a US one.


    "However, the downside is that some material gets released, which I personally don't think would be appropriate to be on view to every member of the public"

    I'm afraid I disagree with that sentiment Pooch. In the same respect you could call for a ban on Disney product because good ol' Walt was an anti semite and you don't want to offend Jews, or remove Die Hard from the shelves because men in dirty vests offend you. One mans meat is another mans murder, and taste/decency issues are very personal and very subjective. Still, like I said, my own selfish view is that this doesn't actually bother me any more and I certainly won't be losing any sleep. Admittedly, I'm not a parent, so parental issues don't exactly sit at the forefront of my views, but I do believe parents can dictate their own level of internal censorship when it comes to what their children get exposed to.
    I'm old enough to make my own choices
     
  5. ashearer

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    I agree with elements of all three of the responses put above.

    The situation with video nasties in the eighties was a joke and films that were banned then (Driller Killer, Texas Chainsaw Massacre etc) have been released in the last few years and has society crumbled? No, of course it hasn't. Even something like I Spit on Your Grave is freely available in HMV. Does anyone care? No, of course not.

    My basic objection to censorship is that I object to someone else determining what I can and cannot cope with watching. I am an adult and more than capable of deciding for myself. The classification system exists and I believe does a good job in indicating to parents the content of a film. I do believe that films should be able to be released Unrated as they are in the US. I also believe that hardcore pornography should be available uncut. In the US, stores like Virgin sell hardcore pornography. To get round the fact that the packaging could be offensive to some people, they section off part of the store. This seems like a sensible decision to me.

    To be honest, the type of censorship above doesn't really effect me much these days due to the ability to order through the internet. The censorship that frustrates me more is that done by the studio to get a particular rating. We have had headbutts removed from the Matrix and you often get a overdubs to remove the word fudge. A 12 certificate film can have one fudge and so films like Hackers have the offending words removed. Dialogue changes like that annoy me more than normal cuts as it is so obvious when you are watching. In Hackers it actually spoils the best line in the film.

    I also get annoyed about programmes like Buffy and Angel being cut on Sky but at least with those I can get buy the DVD's to see the missing footage.
     
  6. Rambo John J

    Rambo John J
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    I don't care, it's terrible, and even worse with the 6 or 7 minutes of cuts it had to endure in order to gain a video certificate.:eek: :eek:
     
  7. PoochJD

    PoochJD
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    HI,

    Well, we have some interesting views here, don't we?! Before I respond, just a few minor things I want to clear up, from previous posts in this thread.

    Rambo - when I said: "However, the downside is that some material gets released, which I personally don't think would be appropriate to be on view to every member of the public", what I meant was that some titles depict artowrk or imagery on the cover that shouldn't really be on open public display, like in stores such as HMV or Virgin, e.g. the US and Japanese often show quite explicit details on their DVD covers, whilst here in the UK, all packaging has to be approved by the "VPRC" - Video Packagine Review Committee. So, I didn't mean I would ban titles whose content might offend, but only that the packaging for contentious titles, should be reasonably appropriate.

    Ashearer - You mentioned the title "I Spit On Your Grave". Whilst society hasn't crumbled, so to speak, the UK versions of a lot of the more brutal "Video Nasties" like this title, have been very heavily censored, so what remains is nothing in comparison to the uncut versions. If "I Spit..." was made available totally uncut in the UK, I suspect that a lot of complaints would be received by the BBFC and the government as well. ("I Spit..." in the UK, was cut by some 7 minutes, and "Cannibal Holocaust" was edited by some 2 minutes plus, and all the animal cruelty footage was removed.) I don't know if you were already aware of that, or not. However, I felt it needed to be pointed out.

    Okay. Now, lets say stores in the UK, did allow almost carte blanche the availability of "unrated" material, like that in the US and Japan. How would you then stop minors (of any age) from seeing the material, on purpose or by accident? Do you think that if stores did segregate horror and other adult material titles, off, from more mainstream materials, would you feel inhibited at actually browsing in these sections at all, regardless of wether your intention was to purchase "Nekromatik", "Texas Chainsaw Massacre", R18 version titles, or something even more salubrious?

    How would shops cope with having to "police" these segregated sections? What about proving you were "of age" to actually browse in these sections? How would you feel about paying for such material in stores? And how would you feel about the way society might "view" you, as a person, regardless of how little or not they actually know you, if someone saw you coming out of these "segregated" sections?

    Is it not more acceptable, all round, that those who want to access "unrated" or certain kinds of more "extreme" material can still do so legally, via importation (providing it isn't obscene material like that which might include child pornography, bestiality, the torture of women, puiely for entertainment, et al), whilst those people who wish to have nothing to do with it, can be safe in the knowledge that they are unlikely to ever to come into contact with it, unless they deliberately search for it?

    An easy example, to use, is the purchase of UK "R18" certificated material. Those who want it, have to go to special stores to obtain it. Now whilst some may not wish to know of this material, at least they can be safe that their children John and Jane Doe (ages 6 and 13) won't ever stumble upon it in Virgin or HMV by accident, because these stores don't stock it.

    Whilst I understand the thorny issues of censorship, as people have already said, it is easily bypassed. And I agree, in part, with some of what Rambo says about preferring "classification", but not "censorship", but isn't the fine line that divides the two an extremely difficult one to navigate, which can have too many problems to be easily resolved to everyone's satisfaction?

    If the BBFC were able to please all of the people all of the time, I think they would. Yet, we all know, that that isn't possible, no matter what. At least at the moment, whilst censorship should be less for adults, the fact that those who want censorship still get it, and those who don't can easily bypass it.

    I pray that all makes sense....! ;)

    Pooch
     
  8. Dirk 2

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    Okay, a few additional points, in reply to Pooch.

    Firstly I think that cover art approval is fine. I earlier suggested two levels of cover art. The more "racey" of the two could, only be available through website purchase. Howabout reversible sleeves as an alternative?

    Secondly, I do not think segregating stock would work in the UK. HMV in the Trocadero has a discrete adult section with the titles displayed spine facing out. The cover art is not extreme, so it could still in my opinion be displayed normally. Segregating, or worse still, only selling through certain outlets, stigmatises and sensationalises products and also in some cases generates more attention. The opposite of what you may want.

    I appreciate that some people would not wish to be exposed to extreme material. But, if it is sensibly packaged and not directly "dangled in your face", the oweness is on the individual to avoid and manage. It's a bit like the top shelf of some news agents. Some may or may not carry such stock. Some are higher profile than others. If it bothers you, refrain from shopping there.

    May be as online shopping increases in poularity, you will find more stores carrying less stock (like Virgin V shops). This would decrease the likelihood of accidental exposure. But frankly, I feel that this is an overstated problem. My sons accompanies me often when shopping for DVD's. He avoid the adult section straight away, because being 10 "girls are yuck". The lurid covers of some of the cheaper horror flics, don't particularly bother him. He doesn't like horror films per se, therefore shows no great interest in them.

    I see no problem therefore in marketing and stocking adult and extreme titles, in the UK, if appropriately packaged.
     

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