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Friday, 3 June 2016

The Daily Mail Is Up In Arms Again!

Hello Again,

The beloved (that's sarcasm) Daily Mail has got its underwear in a bunch again, over another forthcoming film, and - despite the journalist concerned not actually having seen the film at all - she wants the BBFC to ban it.

Should you wish to read the offending article, please click  here  . However, to avoid giving them even more traffic hits than they deserve, here's the article, along with my comments (in brackets and italics) debunking it in full. With Thanks to Dave at  Melon-Farmers,  for the original article links. Enjoy!
Headline: Has cinema ever been so depraved and the censors so amoral? Clare Foges on the extreme violence, cannibalism and lesbian necrophilia in new film THE NEON DEMON. (Cinema has been depraved ever since its invention, where film-makers depicted that extremely well-known work of literature The Bible. A title that features murder, mutilation, incest, rape, animal-slaughter, human and animal sacrifice, and much more. So if you're going to get wound-up about a work of art that's only about 120 years old, you may want to take a long, hard look at the world of literature, where much of film takes its ideas from!)

Booing, jeering, shouting at the screen: it was not the behaviour that’s normally expected among the glitterati at Cannes. (Actually booing and jeering is quite common at Cannes. Several well-known, and award-winning films have been booed and jeered, including IRREVERSIBLE from Gaspar Noe, and ANTI-CHRIST from Lars Von Trier!)  But in a screening at the film festival last month this was the reaction to a new film, THE NEON DEMON, which by all accounts is as gruesome and gory as they come. (So, "by all accounts", you actually mean what other people have told you, but which you yourself have not actually seen, yes?) Extreme violence? Yes. Cannibalism? Yes. Lesbian necrophilia? Yes. (And you know that the film contain extreme violence, cannibalism and lesbian necrophilia, based on what actual factual information, Clare?)

The story is of a 16-year-old girl who tries to make it as a model in Los Angeles — where she is preyed upon by various psychopaths in an orgy of violence. (Again, how do you know the film is "an orgy of violence"?)

One reviewer breathlessly describes how ‘corpses look like love objects’ and ‘beauty mingles with mangled flesh’. The film’s poster shows a beautiful girl, her chest slicked with blood. The guts and gore are given a glittery sheen and a cool electro soundtrack. (Actually, there is no official UK poster yet, but the only poster that I can find that will probably - and that's the keyword there - going to be the UK poster, is this one...

... and, - surprise, surprise - the UK poster absolutely does NOT feature any such imagery at all, whatsoever!) Not surprisingly, several critics in the press screening walked out, appalled by the level of violence. (But you have no idea if they walked out based on the level of violence, because you've already admitted that: 1) you didn't see the film at Cannes, and 2) we have to assume that you also didn't ask anyone who walked-out, why they walked out. So...)

THE NEON DEMON is now before the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) to decide on its UK release and an appropriate age rating. This begs the question: will the BBFC roll over, as usual, allowing yet more depraved content to appear on our cinema screens? (And by roll-over, you mean, approve a film with an adult rating, that you and all your cohorts at the Daily Fail can get all vexed over, and froth at the mouth, yes? Just because you find something "depraved", doesn't mean the rest of the UK does. I find most religions "depraved", but as long as religion doesn't impinge on my life - which it generally doesn't - then I usually let bygones be bygones. But I certainly don't stop other people from following a religion, just because I dislike or disapprove of it.)

For the fact is that over the past four decades, the BBFC has grown increasingly lax in allowing films with extreme violence — approving scenes that are disturbing for young audiences. (Actually, no the BBFC have NOT grown "increasingly lax". They have done many, many different kinds of research, with the young, adults and parents, and the academic and educational communities, to ask whether these people feel that - on balance - the BBFC is doing a good, reliable and honest job. The response, has been almost unanimously, a "yes"! Again, you say they're "approving scenes that are disturbing for young audiences", but - as we will see in the next paragraph - your examples are poor selections.

Recent years have seen some astonishing decisions. There was THE DARK KNIGHT (2008, Christopher Nolan)  the 2008 film from the Batman franchise, which was passed as 12A — suitable for children under the age of 12, with adult supervision. (Exactly! It was given a 12A rating that warns all parents that the film was NOT suitable for viewers under 12 years of age, but which, if parents decided their children were going to be able to deal with the themes and content of the film, parents could accompany them to a screening.) Any parents reared on the jolly old caped crusader might have innocently assumed it was suitable for a young child. (No, they wouldn't! Most sensible parents would have known that the modern Batman films - since 1989 - have been anything but suitable for a young child to watch, because almost all of them have been given a 12, 12A or 15 rating, for cinema and home viewing releases!)  Yet it contained scenes brutal enough to make any adult wince — such as the Joker skewering an unfortunate victim through the eye with a pencil. (From what I recall, you see the Joker stab someone with a pencil in the eye, but there is no graphical detail whatsoever. Also, the scene is very much shot so you think you see far more violence, than you actually do.)

In one sickening scene he relates how he came by his famous grin. His father had been attacking his mother with a knife, when he saw his son looking serious, so, according to the Joker: ‘He sticks the blade in my mouth . . . “Let’s put a smile on that face!” ’ Holy smokes, Batman: why on earth did the BBFC think this was suitable for 12-year-olds? (Probably because, most 12 year olds are quite mature to deal with this kind of slightly-edgy violence, whilst being wholly aware that no one is actually being stabbed in the eye, and that they are also aware that no one sane would commit such an act of violence. Ms Foges seems to be assuming that all 12 year olds still play with Tonka Toys and Barbie Dolls, and read The Beano. Some may, but most won't.

Then there are the HUNGER GAMES movies, with scenes of children forced to kill children and monsters eating people alive. The producer of the first film said even he would not allow his own young daughter to watch it. (True, they do show scenes of children being forced to kill other children, but it's all done relatively safely, and with a huge moral theme - something the BBFC themselves noted in their Insight information on the film, which can be read  here  as evidence. As for the producer, I can find nothing online of any cast or crew-member claiming to have said anything of what the Daily Fail claims. And even if they did, they probably said that they would not have shown the film to their young children, which - seeing as the films received a PG-13 rating in the USA, which means parents are strongly cautioned that the film really isn't at all suitable for anyone under 13, but some parents who feel their children can cope with the film's theme and content, just like with the UK 12A rating - are permitted to accompany them to see the film in a cinema, meant that their kids were under 13, and therefore they rightly would not let them see them.)

Indeed, some parents claimed their children were so distressed that they had to leave the cinema early. And yet despite loud complaint, the BBFC has happily given all the films a 12A rating. (Yes some parents did claim their children were distressed, but the key-word here is "claimed". The BBFC did receive some complaints, but most were from parents concerned about the film's content, before they'd actually seen it in cinemas, and basing their views on online previews and reviews of the books. And some complaints came from parents who took under-12's to see the films! Also, the BBFC actually gave cut versions of the films a 12A rating. The first film in the series, is actually certificated with a 15 rating, signifying that - in its original and uncut form - the BBFC did NOT feel that the film was suitable for anyone under 15. Fifteen year olds aren't children, but teenagers!)

It did the same for THE LOVELY BONES — a film about a murdered teenager looking down on her family from the after-life; and the WAR OF THE WORLDS — a fantasy with one scene of a ten-year-old girl watching dead bodies float down a river. (Both films contain some occasional thematic or brief instances of content that are more mature/adult in tone, but generally-speaking, both films feature content that - overall - should not, and probably would not, upset or distress most 12 year olds in the 21st Century! Any such mature content, would be brief, discrete, and only hint at something.)

Then there was THE WOMAN IN BLACK, considered suitable for pre-teens, with its story of a ghost manipulating children into hurting or killing themselves. One scene showed a little girl setting herself on fire. Oh, and for good measure, a woman hangs herself. (The film is based on a classic, and very popular ghost story, written more than 30 years ago. The film itself was cut for the UK, and the two scenes Ms Foges talks of, were heavily-censored in the UK, to tone-down their potentially shocking nature. Having seen the 12A rated UK version myself, the film is not that shocking at all. The girl who sets herself on fire, is accidental, and the hanging is toned down, so you only briefly get the idea that someone has been hung, without the graphical detail. That said, the film is a ghost story, and ghost stories are meant to shock!)

Now, I’m not suggesting children should be restricted to a diet of Enid Blyton and Thomas The Tank Engine. (Well, actually, you kind of are, I'm afraid.)  But I’d argue that such disturbing content is too much for 12-year-olds — let alone eight- or nine-year-olds, even if they are accompanied by a parent. (So you believe that you know more about most children, than their own parents do? Really?!)  And if the children have been failed woefully by the censors at the BBFC, what about adults? (No one has said that the BBFC has failed anyone - except you, in this damn article!)

In the Seventies and Eighties, the BBFC banned a host of films, from the TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (sic) to STRAW DOGS, on account of their gratuitous scenes of violence, rape and torture. (True, they did, but those same films were extremely controversial at the time of release, during a difficult time in British history. The BBFC still occasionally bans some films today. It's just that it's very rare, because most film-distributors want to see their films in UK cinemas, not banned outright. And films are only banned in 2016, if they really do breach UK law in some aspect.)

But material which would have been considered beyond the pale — even for over-18s — is now passed with barely a snip of the censor’s scissors. (Not entirely true. Material banned in the 1920's and 30's, was passed 30-40 years later. Material banned in the 1960's, was passed in the 1990's and 2000's. Time moves on. People and populations change, and the nature of people change, so that what was once banned is now seen as passable/acceptable. That doesn't mean that the BBFC are wrong in passing these films. We laugh at what was once banned. Watch the final few minutes of the acclaimed CINEMA PARADISO (1986, Giuseppe Tornatore) to see a good example of what we once banned, that we then unbanned and passed as acceptable.

Some of the films afforded an 18 rating are frankly beyond the pale: sick and dehumanising. (That may be your opinion, Clare, but that doesn't mean they should not be legally passed with an 18 rating in the UK. What one person is offended by, someone else finds perfectly palatable. You can't just ban something, based on one person's view. Which is why the BBFC don't generally ban films these days.)

For example, the BBFC saw fit to approve a French film called IRREVERSIBLE, which depicts, in close-up, a man’s face being battered into a bloody mess with a fire extinguisher. It also contains a 10 minute-long depiction of a rape taking place in an underpass, filmed in one unflinching take. The scenes were so disturbing that they were used by psychologists at University College London during an experiment into ‘intrusive memories’ and post-traumatic stress disorder. (Yes, the film does contain those two scenes, and yes, they are incredibly disturbing, but so they should be. They were meant to shock and upset and offend! Their point, was to show how violence and sexual violence has consequences, and can destroy people's lives, if it is allowed to pass by them, unchallenged. The film was meant to show that violence and sexual violence is repugnant, and is distressing and sickening. It was an antidote to all the usual Hollywood action fare, where violence was often shown, with little or no consequences - to the aggressor or their victims. If anything, IRREVERSIBLE is a film that puts people off rape and murder, because it is so harrowing and horrifying! That's a good thing!)

Another film given 18-approval was ANTICHRIST, showing scenes in which a man has his genitals beaten. There is also a scene of a woman mutilating her own genitals with a pair of scissors. In 2014, the film censors passed NEKROMANTIK for DVD release — a foul Eighties German film which had been banned for a quarter of a century for depicting a threesome between a couple and a corpse. There are also scenes of a rabbit being skinned alive. (In terms of ANTICHRIST, the BBFC stated, that whilst those scenes mentioned by Ms Foges, would be controversial, and potentially offensive, the serious nature of the work, and the fact the film deals with the clear, psychological decline of the characters, meant that the scenes should not be cut. And, to be fair, whilst the scenes are graphic, and repellent, and disturbing, they are there for a purpose. Anyone who "gets-off" on them, really has bigger issues at play. For NEKROMANTIK, the threesome, is clearly faked, with one of the ropiest looking corpses ever put onto screen, which clearly demonstrates the low-budget nature of the Jorg Buttgereit film. No one would believe it is anything other than a special-effect, utilising a fake corpse. Secondly, the skinning of the rabbit, was footage taken from a farming documentary, from what I recall, and as such, doesn't constitute a breach of the Cinematograph Act 1937, that forbids the inclusion of any material of an animal being killed, injured or put under duress for the sake of a film. Oh, and the rabbit isn't skinned. It's shown dead, and then being re-skinned and alive. So, technically, the footage isn't illegal.)

A host of films featuring so-called ‘torture porn’ or ‘gorno’ (a portmanteau of gore and porno) have been passed — movies such as the SAW and HOSTEL franchises, which show serial killings and mutilation in graphic detail. Perhaps worst of all is THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE series. It is difficult to convey the films’ full depravity — but basically they show a demented scientist who kidnaps people and stitches them together to create the centipede of the title. The characters are tortured without mercy, the human body brutalised in a depraved way. (So, whilst you can't convey the films' full depravity, you've still attempted to do exactly that, haven't you? The first film is actually nowhere near as violent as people think it is. There's very little violence shown on-screen. It's the concept and what you think you see, that disturbs people. That's one of the reasons the BBFC passed it uncut in the first place, with an 18 rating, because there was so little material that was going to cause a problem for most adults. The second film, however, was effectively banned, in its uncut version, and the BBFC approved edition, lost 2m 37s worth of the worst and most detailed material, to render it suitable. Again, whilst graphic and disturbing, it certainly does not show "the human body brutalised in a depraved way", as you claim.)

The film-maker has boasted of the effect of his vile work, proudly declaring that he ‘saw people vomiting, people left the [movie] theatre because they couldn’t handle it’. Cynically, his publicity material was splashed with the question: ‘Is this the sickest film ever made?’ It might well be — but what possible case can there be for allowing such hideous material onto British cinema screens in the first place? How is it acceptable for the vilest depths of human perversion and cruelty to be packaged up as entertainment? (Many, many films over the years, have proclaimed to be the "sickest" or "nastiest" or "most disturbing film ever made", and the vast majority are anything but. The few that are, are either banned, cut or not legally available in the UK. That said, people vomit over many things. That doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad thing. Would you be getting upset if cinemagoers were watching THE JUNGLE BOOK, or BAMBI, or MINIONS, and vomiting, because they were so sickly sweet? I doubt it. As for "the vilest depths of human perversion and cruelty to be packaged up as entertainment", you can't lay the blame at the doors of cinema. You need to lay the blame at the likes of Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Shakespeare, Robert Louis Stevenson, Charles Dickens, the Marquis De Sade, and many others. People who you would say have created some of the greatest works of literature ever! Film didn't create the horror genre. Literature did! Dare I mention The Bible again?)

Libertarians will argue that adults should be allowed to watch whatever they want. (That's correct, as long as the content is within the law!) Indeed, the BBFC argues that, ‘in line with the Human Rights Act’, they will not normally ‘override the principle that adults should be free to choose their own entertainment’. (Again, absolutely correct!) But there are laws that govern what people can watch. Images of paedophilia, for instance, are illegal — for fear they may corrupt, harm or inspire those watching. (Because paedophilia is a criminal offence, and filmed material of paedophilia is the filmed event of a real child really being sexually assaulted or violated! No one in their right mind would even consider hinting, let alone demanding, that such material be legalised!)

 So why are there not fears about torture, extreme violence and brutal rape inspiring inadequate viewers to emulate such depravity? (There are laws. These laws, for films at least, are governed by BBFC certification and classification. They stipulate who can and cannot watch certain films. Alongside cinema staff, it is up to parents/guardians of children to regulate what their children access. So there are laws in place, that you seem willing to ignore, to try and bolster your poorly-defined argument.)

Why has the BBFC abrogated its responsibility to protect the public ‘where material or treatment appears to us to risk harm to individuals or, through their behaviour, to society’? (They haven't! See my comments above!) The BBFC might argue it is taking its cue from changing social mores; that as society has become increasingly liberal and unshockable, its ratings are becoming more relaxed. (They have, and they do regular research with parents, teachers and children, to determine what they should or should not pass at each certificate level.) Hence we see rating deflation: video nasties become video normals, the Godfather I and II are reduced from an 18 to a 15; previously banned material is now shown on late-night TV with barely a raised eyebrow. (That is true, but that doesn't mean it's wrong. Time ages everything. Time softens what we once thought was shocking or scandalous. There was a time, when women couldn't wear skirts that were above the ankle. There was even a time, when it was legal to "own" another human being as a slave; to rape your wife, to hang another person for a crime. That doesn't make those times right. Or do you believe that we need to stick to archaic laws, to stick to your archaic view of what you want the world to be like?.)

But the truth is that film doesn’t just reflect our cultural climate and moral standards — it also helps to create and shape them. The more horrific the movies, the more desensitised British filmgoers become. (In your opinion...) Of course, in some cases, the depiction of violence can be essential to a great film. For example, 12 YEARS A SLAVE, the Oscar-winning work about a man kidnapped and sold into slavery in the 19th century, included a scene in which a slave girl was strapped to a stake and whipped. It was so nauseating I couldn’t watch most of it. But, yes, it was important to convey the reality of an evil trade and its violent masters. (So, some violence is acceptable, in some contexts then? You are cool with a film, rated 15, to feature a white man mistreating a "negro" slave, because that was "important to convey the reality of an evil trade and its violent masters", but you are not happy with a horror film showing violence, because that's just sickening, nauseating and offensive? Would this be double-standards, on the part of the Daily Fail again? Surely not!)

But this is a world away from the ‘torture porn’, desperate-to-shock drivel which the BBFC has allowed on our screens. (Except it isn't a world away at all. Violence is violence. The violent content in 12 YEARS A SLAVE was graphic, nauseating and repellent. So was the violence in THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE. And so was the violence in the 1930's version of FRANKENSTEIN, at one point in time.)

What art is there in people being eviscerated in the most graphic way without even the fig leaf of a proper plot? (And who are you to decide what constitutes "proper plot", Ms Foges? Have you made any films, or written any books? No, of course you haven't. You've just penned a shock article for a site/publication that just happens to peddle in the same violence, sexual material, filth and degradation, that you proclaim to be so against. Are you not aware of the Daily Mail website's own "Sidebar Of Shame", in which scuzzy photos of scantily clad women are placed online, for everyone to judge and condemn? Are you not aware of your recent article on BBC2's historical drama VERSAILLES in which Daily Fail journo's Unity Blott, Charlie Moore, Jo Tweedy and James Dunn complained vociferously about the sexual content, but then pepper the said article with "salacious" (your words, not mine) photos about the "debauched" content?! The hysterical double-standards that you operate on, is laughable. When you had a film reviewer called Christopher Tookey, who condemned a film - THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2 - he had not even seen, people rightly laughed at him. Yet your publication tried to list his work as credible journalism. On the one hand, you criticise sex and violence, and in the other, you peddle sex and violence to your readers and website followers under the guise of "investigative journalism" speaking as if you are on the side of "truth and justice", when you are doing anything but. Like Mary Whitehouse, who you adored, you say one thing and then do the exact opposite. If it wasn't for sexual and violent media, you would have nothing to publish! You revel in it!)

What kind of enjoyment can be derived from watching scenes of gratuitous sadism? (Plenty! I enjoy horror films, and find them cathartic. Violent films calm me down, and de-stress me!)

What corrosive effect is increasing exposure to violence having on young people’s imaginations? (Bearing in mind, you'd have banned some of the greatest pieces of literature human beings had ever created, the "corrosive effect" you speak of, is a pretty lousy defence, when - as I've just said - your entire publication wouldn't exist in the first place without this same content. As for "corrosive effect", you'd better not teach kids anything about the real-world. Don't tell them about terrorism, religion, politics, the media, or anything else, lest it warp their minds. And you may also wish to cease publication of your own esteemed organ, seeing as it peddles sex and violence to anyone willing to pay around 60p for it - irrespective of how young they may be, or how suitable your wrag might be for them, or even what physical, psychological, emotional or mental damage it might do to these innocent minds!)

When extreme violence becomes mainstream, this does not enrich our moral wellbeing — it diminishes it. (Well, it can do, but it depends on how you define "violence" in the first place.) Don’t hold your breath, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if the BBFC took a stance and banned films designed only to shock, sicken, corrupt and deprave? (And yet, they do take a stance, and ban films designed to shock, sicken, corrupt and deprave! So, what's the problem?!)


As you can see, the Daily Mail, is - as usual - trying to have its cake and eat it, and then be angry that its had its cake and eaten it! In the Daily Mail's eyes, no one should be allowed cake, except the Daily Mail, and they want the right to eat it, then moan it's awful on our behalf. Warped journalism at its finest.


  1. The article I read in the DM was unbelievable- how this "journalist " can write an article about a film she has never seen is beyond words

    1. This is just the norm for the Daily Fail! They did it with HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2, and they've done it with other films too! They demand accuracy from everyone else, but are happy to peddle lies, deception and fiction as "fact" in their disgusting organ that purports to be a newspaper!