Ah, you have to love the Daily Mail. If it’s not foaming at the mouth about all those alleged "bloody immigrants" flooding into our country, or supposed "Benefit Scroungers" costing sensible, hard-working taxpayers lots and lots of money so they can just sit around all day watching daytime telly, or some other moral indignity, the Mail loves to stick its knife into the UK film classification body, the British Board Of Film Classification (BBFC) at every, feasible opportunity.
On Tuesday 11th December 2012, it published on Page 4 of its wrag, another excellently awful article entitled "At last, censors crack down on sexually violent films that corrupt teenage boys minds". (The DM don’t do short-and-pithy headlines like most papers, just tea-spitting vitriol.)
As I have many non-British readers, I know you folks won’t have access to the article, and as the article probably won’t be online by the time I publish this blog article, I am going to copy out the entire article in full, and then annotate it with my thoughts, opinions and other assorted ephemera. That way, you can all read the article here, and then see why I have such a big problem with the article and the Daily Mail as a whole.
This article was originally written by Liz Thomas and Eleanor Harding, though written seems a little on the extravagant side, to say the least! I would prefer to say "cobbled together very poorly" instead. All content from the article starts with a number. Everything else is either my own words, or I'm using direct quotes, which have all been named and linked.
1) Sexually violent horror films will finally face a crackdown by censors over fears they distort the way teenage boys view women.
Right, in that first sentence alone, their are numerous inaccuracies. The BBFC’s policy on Sexual Violence in film is dead simple and dead clear: if sexual violence shown in a film has the aim of getting audiences to sympathise or side with the aggressor, rather than the victim, then such material is likely to be cut. (See previous BBFC decisions on THE BUNNY GAME, GROTESQUE, et al. ) The BBFC does NOT allow material that breaches UK law. Such material will almost always be cut, unless said material is integral to the film’s plot or theme, or is shown in a restrained manner. That is why you can see the nine-minute rape scene in Gasper Noe’s IRREVESIBLE (199X) but you can’t see the rape scene in full in Meir Zarchi’s I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (1979).
Secondly, the BBFC are NOT primarily censors, but classifiers. The name is one big hint, and the other reason, is that the BBFC only intervene if a distributor is seeking a specific classification for their work (in which case the BBFC will say: "You can have the 12A rating, but you will need to make X, Y or Z cuts to gain it, or you can leave the film uncut and uncensored, but you will gain the more restrictive 15 rating instead. It is your choice".) or if the film breaches UK legal guidelines or is likely to prove "harmful" to the audience. (Harmful being dependant on the scene and the intended audience, e.g. depicting dehumanising and explicit sexual violcnce or showing dangerous acts in a film aimed at kids, being just two examples.)
2) The ‘long overdue’ decision comes following research which found widespread public concern over the increasing number of sexually depraved and barbaric films being fed to British audiences.
Which ‘long overdue’ decision are you talking about here? What research? Which ‘widespread public concern’? And wasn’t your article about sexually violence films that corrupt teenage boys minds, rather than British audiences as a whole, or are you just making this stuff up as you go along?! The Daily Mail fail to say that the "research" they are talking about here is an Ipsos MORI poll conducted earlier this year. (See the full research at this link here.) The "widespread pubilc concern" is research conducted by Ipsos Mori on a paultry 35 individuals! Yes, that's not a spelling error - a pathetic and embarrassing thirty-five individuals! Hardly "widespread public concern" is it? I have more people than that on my usual morning bus into work!
3) The British Board Of Film Classification has announced it will tighten guidelines over such films which will see more banned, or scenes cut from the content to protect vulnerable viewers.
The BBFC has made no such announcement of any kind, and I telephoned the BBFC to confirm this. In fact, the BBFC have simply said, and I quote:
The research carried out by Ipsos MORI in 2012 highlights concerns about certain depictions of sadistic and sexual violence to which the BBFC must respond. Much of the public believe that sexual and sadistic violence are legitimate areas for film makers to explore. But they are concerned by certain depictions which may be potentially harmful to some. Most of those involved in the research expect the BBFC to intervene to remove potential harm from such scenes. The BBFC may also intervene where a depiction is so demeaning or degrading to human dignity (for example it consists of strong abuse, torture or death without any significant mitigating factors) as to pose a harm risk.
And now the Mail is arguing that content is being cut to protect vulnerable viewers. I’m sorry, what? All films in the UK are classified with ratings, that stipulate who they are suitable for. If a film contains adult material, let’s say sexually-violent material seeing as this is what the whole article is pertaining too, then it will normally receive an 18 certificate. No one under 18 is legally allowed to see such films at a cinema, or in the home. The fact that some under-18’s do see these 18-rated films, is NOT the BBFC’s fault, but predominantly the fault of bad parenting/bad guardianship. The BBFC cannot patrol every home in the country. Parents, however, can, and should be checking what their youngsters are viewing! So maybe the real problem is why aren’t parents doing this, and why are kids being allowed to get away with seeing material that is clearly not meant or aimed at their age group?
4) Vivienne Pattison, director of campaign group Media Watch UK said: "This decision has been long overdue. Films have become increasingly more violent and the regulations have allowed that to happen. This is what the public wants. People are saying enough is enough."
Media Watch UK is a pro-censorship lobby group, whose sole aim is to ban anything that isn’t suitable for kids, from being released to anyone. This can include banning of certain books, certain magazines, and TV and films. So, even a film like SCHINDLER’S LIST for example, could be seen – in their eyes – as being a film that should be banned, because it contains graphically violent material, in spite of the fact that the film has a lot of merit in its depictions of violence, and is a 15, and is not-aimed at young teenagers.
Ms Pattison’s quote is also of dubious merit. Who has said this decision has been long overdue? Media Watch perhaps? And which regulations have allowed violent films to become increasingly violent? I know of none that have allowed this to happen. She also says this is what the public wants? Are they? Which members of the public have said this, Vivienne? Can you show me who you interviewed, when you interviewed them, and then I’d like to see or hear the evidence that proves that the "public" have said anything remotely like what you are suggesting. I suspect there is no such evidence, and she is merely using her place as a pro-censorship spokeswoman to be a modern-day Mary Whitehouse. Ergo, this is basically Vivienne Pattison saying "I want more censorship, because I personally dislike the films that are currently in existence." That’s not evidence!
5) The decision follows anger last year over the release of HUMAN CENTIPEDE II, a film which includes graphic torture, rape and mutilation.
Who’s anger? The anger of 35 individuals. Hardly a piece of groundbreaking research is it.
6) The BBFC initially banned the film (see this link here) but then agreed to reverse the decision if significant cuts were made.
Not quite! The BBFC banned the uncut version of the film, on the basis that it showed a disproportionate amount of empathy for the killer, and no sympathy nor empathy towards any of the victims, in the depiction of explicit sexually-violent scenes of torture. It was this, combined with the explicit violence that the BBFC said could not be accommodated at the 18 certificate level, because much of the violence was too explicit, and some scenes were potentially liable to breach the Obscene Publications Act. See this link here. However, the BBFC said that the distributor of the film (Monster Pictures, a branch of Eureka) was more than welcome to resubmit a revised version of the film, if they felt that they could cut it sufficiently, that the narrative of the film remained, whilst excising the worst, most repellent moments of the film. At the time, the BBFC didn’t feel this was possible, but Eureka did. So they did go back and re-edit the film, then resubmitted it. The BBFC then asked for a few more edits, and a total of 2m 37s was cut, before the 18 certificate rating was granted on 4th November 2011. Oh, and I should point out that in Australia, the film was originally classified totally uncut and uncensored with an R18 certificate in Australia, back in May 2011. This was done about six whole months before the BBFC even saw a single frame of the film. The fact Australia then banned it, after Minister for Justice Brendan O'Connor took exception to the film’s amoral content is moot. Likewise, the UK and USA are – as far as I am aware – the only two countries to legally have the film available to buy in shops, in any version.
7) Campaign groups welcomed yesterday’s move, branding such films as ‘torture porn’ which dehumanise victims of rape and violence.
I’m assuming that by "campaign groups", the Daily Mail is referring solely to Media Watch UK, and no other organisation. Again, I’d like to see who exactly welcomed yesterday’s move. Secondly, the term "torture porn" was originally coined by David Edelstein in January of 2006, in an article where he accused Eli Roth's HOSTEL of being nothing more than a horror film with "money shots" instead of scares. Film violence is not the same as real life violence. A film may depict a victim of a crime, in a dehumanising fashion, but that is not the same as a real-life victim being dehumanised by a criminal!
8) The report by the BBFC found: "[Audiences] are concerned about young men with little experience, and more vulnerable viewers, accessing sadistic and sexually violent content, which could serve to normalise rape and other forms of violence and offer a distorted view of women".
Which BBFC report would this be then? There is no such "report" in existance, only the Ipsos MORI research and a BBFC Public Relations announcement.
And which "audiences" are concerned? Adult audiences? Teenage audiences? Family audiences?
And by "little experience", I’m going to assume you mean young men who are sexually inexperienced or who may be virgins, yes?
And I can only assume that with the way you’ve worded that paragraph, it’s only a problem with teenage boys having a distorted view of women, but teenage girls don’t ever have a distorted view of boys, or that adults don’t have distorted views of other adults neither, yes?!
And by "sadistic and sexually violent content", you mean only BBFC-approved, 18 rated films, not the multitude of unrated, uncensored and unclassified pornographic and quasi-snuff clips that can be freely accessed by a few quick searches and mouse clicks, via any internet-capable device like smartphones, because that material is all clearly legal and acceptable, yes?! Oh, and such content "could" be harmful, but which there are no reports or evidence that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that such material is harmful!
9) It found that cinema-goers supported BBFC intervention – even with films rated 18 – to remove depictions of violence on the grounds that they may be harmful. Viewers were particularly worried about films which make scenes of sexual or sadistic violence look appealing which could reinforce the suggestion that victims enjoy rape.
Dear God, this is total junk! What about the fact that the BBFC already censors, edits or cuts material that even hints at a victim enjoying rape?! Any film that includes such scenes, is likely to find that scene cut! The only exception I know of, is Sam Peckinpah’s 1971 drama STRAW DOGS, and in that case, (featuring Susan George in a double-rape scene, in which it is hinted-at that she enjoys being raped), the BBFC took advice from legal professionals, professionals who work in the field with victims of rape and sexual violence, as well as medical professionals, and they all said that the ambiguity of the first rape is given context by the second rape. That is to say, whilst the first rape shows George appearing to enjoy it, the second rape clearly demonstrates that she does not enjoy the act at all. In fact, she is terrified by both rapes. So, no! No film can include scenes in which victims are shown to "enjoy rape"! If this is what the professionals are saying, how can the Daily Mail claim otherwise?!
10) The research is all the more potent in the age of internet, where youngsters can access 18-rated content online without having to prove their age.
Wrong again. If content has been rated 18 by the BBFC, then the website hosting such content has to include barriers and precautions to prevent under-18’s from accessing or viewing it. It’s a legal requirement. If youngsters are accessing material that is not 18-rated, but just clips on sites like YouTube, Vimeo or YouPorn, then I’m afraid that’s not the fault of the BBFC, but of those sites. In fact, anyone – young or old – can access some truly nasty material with just a few searches via Google, if they should wish to do so. However, the BBFC cannot (and does not) police the entire internet. Expecting them to do so, is both facile, stupid and utterly deranged. And dare I mention that the Daily Mail’s own site, needs no age-verification, and yet it contains pictures and articles that aren’t exactly wholesome, family-friendly fun?! Or should we just continue on with the BBFC-bashing?
11) The BBFC concluded its policy did not ‘capture all the issues’ and as a result has strengthened its guidelines for films by including a list of ‘indicators’ it has to assess the film against before suggesting cuts or classification.
What policy? You mean the policy that the BBFC always follow, that policy? The BBFC adjusts its policies in line with legal guidelines, and with the changing tastes of the public. If the public is happy to allow violence at a PG level, then the BBFC may allow some violence in some PG-films. If the public tolerates and accepts explicit sexual material in ordinary 18-rated films, then the BBFC may allow such material to be included in these films. However, the BBFC already assesses every single film for "suitability", both in the cinema and in the home, and has been doing this for around 100 years. Where has the Daily Mail been, to fail to notice this tiny, little fact? Policies are fluid: constantly evolving and changing with the people and places it finds itself in. There is no hard and fast rules that say X is acceptable, but Y is not.
12) David Cooke, director of the BBFC, said: "There is no "one size fits all" rules for any theme under the BBFC classification guidelines, as long as what is depicted is within the law and does not pose a harm risk."
Exactly! Well said, David. Shame the Daily Mail don’t want to listen to that statement.
13) "Once again the public have told us that context, tone and impact, and a work’s overall message, can aggravate a theme, or make it acceptable, even in cases of sexual and sadistic violence. The decision as to whether and how to intervene in scenes of sexual and sadistic violence is complex, but drawing out and applying these aggravating and mitigating factors in helpful in arriving at a decision which balances freedom of expression against public protection."
Brilliant! The very thing that the Daily Mail doesn’t do, and doesn’t want to do. This is the same paper that doesn’t want to sign-up to the recommendations in the Leveson Report, because editor/manager Paul Dacre feels that the freedom of the press will be censored and stifled. So, it seems it’s ok for the BBFC to stifle freedom of expression, but those same rules should not apply to the Daily Mail. Classic!
14) In recent years there has been a trend for increasingly dark, violent and sexually violent films including Lars Von Triers’ Antichrist, which had scenes of genital mutilation.
This would be the 18 certificate Lars Von Trier film (there’s no "s" on the end of his name, you muppets, and if you meant "Trier's" film, then you need to learn when and when not to use an apostrophe!) that more people went to see, once Christopher Tookey wrote a lengthy, heavily warped and biased rant in your paper, moaning about graphic violence in films, but which may have had substantially less of an audience if people hadn’t devoted pages and pages of press print space to its sometimes extreme and challenging content? (See this link here, to read the pricelessly awful original article, or here to read a good response from website MailWatch.co.uk.)
This would be the same film, in which many people found quite boring and dull, and to which you have to get through a good 90-plus minutes of heavy dialogue and pretension, in order to arrive at the metaphorical "money-shot"? This would be the same, 18-certificate film, that has the female character break the male characters penis with her hands, in an act of disturbed aggression, before she then proceeds to genitally mutilate herself, again, as an act of aggression and disturbance towards her own body and her own psychological breakdown? (For what it's worth, I actually quite like ANTICHRIST, but I know that many people find it a harrowing and horrible viewing experience.)
15) There has also been Michael Winterbottom’s The Killer Inside Me, which depicts brutal violence against women, and Wolf Creek, which showed rape, torture and mutilation.
So that’s two more 18-certificate films, prurient readers of the Daily Mail can now go and seek out from their local Blockbusters, watch in abject disgust, just so they can then write-in, and complain about, yes? Clearly in the Daily Mail’s world, there really is no such thing as bad publicity, when it’s not the Daily Mail that is being lambasted. While we’re at it, don’t tell the Daily Mail that there are even more graphic films out there, than these ones. Shush, keep it to yourself!
16) Mrs Pattinson added: "We know that it is easy for youngsters to access this kind of material, either via DVD or streaming it online. They are vulnerable to this content. I have issues with films like The Human Centipede. They are dehumanising the victims and treating them as lumps of meat."
So, Mrs Pattinson, because you don’t like these films, and presumably would never actually watch them in the first place, you want to stop everyone else seeing them, so we can go back to the good old Victorian days? The days in which there was abject poverty amongst many people. The days in which young children of ten and twelve years of age would be forced to do, hard manual labour, and get paid a pittance? The days in which children were torn from their families? The great days when child abuse and spousal abuse went on, and the law turned a blind eye? The days in which women were treated as second-rate individuals, who had zero rights, and to which the laws saw as subservient to their husbands and/or fathers? The days in which classic literature like Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus was performed – a play that features rape, incest and cannibalism? Or, the days in which Penny Dreadfuls existed for the masses? You mean, those days, in which there was never any sexual violence of any sort?! That lovely, wonderful time, when Jack The Ripper didn’t go around butchering female prostitutes, and he didn’t need films to get him in the mood to go out and perform such crimes? You must mean those great, old, days! How silly of me to misinterpret your quote!
17) Judy Reith, director of parenting organisation Parenting People added: “Anything that protects children and enables parents to manage what their children are seeing is a supportive move.”
In that case, can we ban all newspapers, all TV shows, all radio. In fact, let’s just wipe the entire world of the modern media out, in one, fell, swoop, and then there’ll never be any chance of little Johnny or Janey ever doing (or seeing) anything wrong. Let’s destroy all comic books, all books of any kind. We’ll ban all forms of advertising. We’ll shut down the Interent, ban smartphones, and then we’ll go on to banning vehicles, businesses we don’t like, and any form of anything that is not parent or child-friendly. That means we’ll also ban the Daily Mail too, and the Daily Mail website (which has an alleged audience of around three millions sad bastards every, single week)! In fact, let’s go back to the Stone Age, and see how long humans survive with just stone tools, a modicum of clothing, no modern medicines, and limited luxuries like lighting and heating, and take our chances. That’s a really sensible idea, isn’t it?!
18) "Violent material can frighten people, it can make people curious and it can make them feel that something like that is acceptable for one person to do to another."
Horror films, horror comics, and horror stories are meant to frighten people. Just as comedies are meant to make us laugh, or thrillers are meant to excite us, and weepies are meant to tug at our heartstrings. Such media isn’t made just for the sheer hell of it, you know, or are you implying that Tom And Jerry cartoons will also make kids want to bash each other around the head with cymbals, and frying pans too?
19) "It’s important to keep that regulation in there to protect impressionable minds".
You may want to tell that to idiotic adults who happen to be parents, who go into stores up and down this fair Isle of ours, and buy little Johnny and Janey adult-rated games and films, or who let Johnny and Janey unsupervised access to the internet, because these parents can’t be arsed to say: "You can’t watch that film, or play this game, because it isn’t suitable for you!" If such parents are willingly open to abuse such restrictions (like BBFC and PEGI ratings), then nothing the BBFC does will stop little Johnny and Janey from seeing something they shouldn’t. The buck stops with the parents, not the BBFC or any amount of legislation.
20) The BBFC has banned only two films in the past
Wrong! The BBFC have banned many films in the past. They have, however, only banned two in the past year or so. The BBFC, nor the Daily Mail, seem to care then, that these films can also be legally purchased online from any number of online vendors, including the likes of Amazon, with just a few clicks of a mouse, and Amazon has no age-verification processes in place to stop someone under 18 from purchasing these items. Any child with a valid Visa or Mastercard debit card, can simply purchase these (and other far, more abhorrent films) should they so wish to do so. But I don’t see the Daily Mail having a go at Amazon!
21) The BBFC rejects film only rarely, preferring to give advice about how appropriate cuts would achieve the preferred certificate. If a film is banned, it means it cannot be released in the UK and showing or supplying it is illegal.
End the article by stating the bleeding obvious, why don’t you! Jesus wept! I dare not call it journalism, for it is nothing more than opinion masquerading as investigative journalism.
Just to add insult to injury, there is a box-out on the same page, written by Christopher Tookey – a film critic who seems to openly hate many modern films, which does beg the question of "Why do you do this job, if you hate it so much"? In this box-out, Tookey has a rant about Tom Six’s THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE II: FULL SEQUENCE, the film’s content and how the BBFC seems to be failing Britain’s film-going public! It’s helpfully highlighted with a picture of the two main heroines’, but taken from the original HUMAN CENTIPEDE film. Mr Tookey can’t even illustrate his diatribe properly, let alone write anything factual. The fact that Tookey says about the cuts, and I quote...
A total of 2 minutes and 37 seconds, but these did little to disguise anything that was happening
...is a hoot in and of itself. If Tookey really meant what he said, then he would know that unless he has either seen the full and uncut version (in which case, how, where and why did he see this), or if he were psychic perhaps, there is no way he could know what actually happens during those missing 157 seconds. Unless, that is, someone told him what happened.
I haven’t yet seen the uncut version, though I have read and seen enough clips to know what does happen during the 2m 37s of cuts. In fact, I can probably tell you far more than Mr Tookey ever could! I know for a fact that if Christopher Tookey was really as clever as he thinks he is, he couldn’t possibly have worked out what happens during the censored scenes, just from viewing the BBFC-approved, cut version.
The box-out then goes on to mention A SERBIAN FILM (quelle surprise - see previous blog posts from me on this one) and CRASH, the rather average David Cronenberg film from the mid-1990’s. A film, which the Daily Mail famously demanded via full-page front cover articles and headlines, be banned from the entire country, because it was so filthy, depraved and would corrupt anyone who watched it. The irony, being, that most parts of the UK got to see it uncut, except for Westminster in Central London, who famously (and rather stupidly) banned it from cinemas in their jurisdiction. He then goes on to talk about Torture Porn, and laughably states:
"Many of these have had HOSTEL or SAW in the title, and as a film critic, I have had the misfortune to see them all."
Hopefully, from this blog post, dear readers, you will take away the following things:
1) Christopher Tookey is a total moron, and a film critic who doesn’t deserve the career he has chosen for himself. I would love to be paid to write about films, for a national newspaper, that sells about two million copies each day, but I should be so lucky. If he hates films as much as he seems too, then maybe he needs to re-evaluate his chosen career path!
2) The Daily Mail really does write a lot of tat in its paper, and doesn’t deserve the luxury of being labelled a "newspaper"! If you want to see what quality journalism looks like, don't go visiting the Daily Mail site!
3) Thirdly: never take anything you read at face-value. Learn to discriminate. Even if it’s someone you like reading, an author you engage with, yes – even someone like me – don’t count on everything they say being 100% truthful. Read other people’s views and opinions. Differentiate between opinions, commentary, and empirical evidence, and learn to read between the metaphorical lines. Just because I say something is so, doesn’t make it so. Evaluate everything, and learn to educate yourselves. Your brain will thank you for it.
4) Lastly, and I humbly apologise for the heavy sermonising here, but banning something won’t stop people from getting hold of it. If you are the parent of a child, make sure you supervise what they see, read and access online. Organisations like the BBFC or the MPAA, can only do so much, but there gets to a point where it is down to the parental supervision to make sure that little Janey and Johnny aren’t seeing things they can neither morally understand, let alone deal with mentally. It is down to you, to make sure that they are protected! Don’t leave it to everyone else to do your parenting job for you! If you wouldn't let your six-year-old son or daughter walk into a bookshop and purchase Lady Chatterley's Lover, because it isn't suitable for them, then don't let them access YouTube unsupervised, or buy them console games with PEGI 18 ratings on them either!
With that all said, I wish all of you the Happiest of Holidays, and I will return in the New Year, and be ready to continue with more of my articles, reviews and opinion columns, all dealing (in one manner or other) with extreme cinema. Thank You for continuing to visit this blog and reading my writing!