F**K: Thoughts on Censorship in Film part 1

In any art form these days it seems that Censorship has grown up. Gone are the days of the Video Nasty, but now there is a further call of death. The dreaded NC-17. A rating that gives the creator 2 choices. Either cut your film to appease the MPAA. Or release your film unrated to almost certain obscurity. Not much of a choice if you ask me.Violence In Film:

Sometimes I’ll see a rated R film these days and be shocked by the amount of violence and graphic content that was passed through. Recently I saw Drive which featured a man being stabbed multiple times in the throat with a knife while blood poured from his mouth. Or take for example the scene in Saw 3 where a man is bound in a machine that slowly rotates his limbs until the bones shatter out of the skin while he screams in pain and the camera lingers on each impact. But on the other side of the spectrum you have a film like Hatchet 2 that got released unrated. Now the film, although not very good, is pretty graphic in some of the kills, it is also much less realistic than the previous examples. Saw and Drive center around ideas based in realism, whereas Hatchet is nothing more than a mutated swamp monster that kills people with a giant chainsaw or sometimes belt sander. Sure it’s graphic, but it’s also ridiculous. There is no weight to watching an overgrown latex beast rip someone’s head off than it is to see a human tortured by another human.

Saw and Drive are considered more Thrillers than they are straight up horror and therein may lie the rub. But it also may lie in what is equatable for the producers. A franchise (like Saw) that brings in decent box office, or a major star (Ryan Gosling) is much more likely to put asses in the seats than a low budget slasher film that doesn’t have a real marketability to the general public. When Hatchet was released unrated I thought that it took some balls for the studios to do something like that, however it was only a day or so before it was yanked out of the small amount of theaters it was released to in the first place, sending a firm message that if you don’t comply with what the MPAA deems fit for adults than you stand no chance to make a penny off of what you put time, money, and effort in to.

On the flip side of the coin you have those who demand the heads of the filmmaker for putting forth their ‘filth’ into the world. Mostly judged sight unseen, these people stand tall on their soapbox to declare that no one should ever see the depravity and debauchery of what was put forth onto celluloid for all the world. I am by no means a prude. I love horror films, I love gore. I am not a serial killer. I am a loving father, husband, and friend. I try to treat everyone I know with kindness and show empathy and compassion when it is needed. Just because someone chooses to make or watch a film with violence in it, does not mean that they are a bad person. It is fiction and nothing more. It may just not be the fiction for you.

There are films that cross the line for me. Things like ‘A Serbian Film’ or the faux snuff films ‘August Underground’. There are things in those films that I find disgusting. But instead of worrying about it, I do what others should: I don’t watch them. I know what my tolorence level is. I know what I think I should put before my eyes. If I read a description of something and it doesn’t appeal to me, then I simply refuse to give it the time of day. Does it mean the film should never have been made? No. It just means that it is something that is not for me. It may not be art to me, but where do we as a society draw the line on fiction? You can write the most deplorable things in a book but you can’t stop a child from buying it at a bookstore or checking it out of the library. So what is it about film that crosses that line? Is it the visual aspect that demands the attention, even though we know it is make-up or special effects.

Now I’m not saying that a 10 year old child is adult enough to know that ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ is an appropriate film for his age group. What I am saying is that there should be 4 ratings. G, PG, PG-13, and R. An R rated film is a stamp that should tell you (in most situations) that this film should not be seen by minors. Most parents aren’t taking their kids to see ‘Last House on the Left’ but they took their children in droves to see ‘The Passion of the Christ’ which most of the running time featured Jesus Christ being whipped, tortured, and eventually crucified and it was almost required viewing in churches across America. An insanely graphic film that was released, you guessed it, with an R rating. If a parent decides to take their child to a film, it is the parents responsibility for the child’s well being, not the filmmaker’s.

Almost daily you hear, most cases in graphic detail, some atrocity that has happened in real life. The parent who murdered their child, the drug addict found dead in a house weeks after passing away, a soldier being beheaded, or the disease eating away at a person until they are a fraction of what they once were. These are real stories that happen to real people and you can hear them all before primetime. Are there people who have gone on to do bad things because they were influenced by something they read, heard, or saw? Yes. But those people had serious mental issues before watching a movie or reading a book. When you start saying what someone can or can’t watch then you force yourself to become someone else’s moral compass. No one should tell you what they think is acceptable for you. You are an adult capable of making your own decisions about what is right for you. If you give away your freedom to make that decision then where do you draw the line? First it’s something simple like movies or music. But what if it turns into social rights, will you go with what someone tells you is ok even if it’s against your belief because they don’t like it?

Just keep repeating: It’s only a movie. It’s only a movie. It’s only a movie.

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9 thoughts on “F**K: Thoughts on Censorship in Film part 1

  1. The problem Kloipy is the rating system in America is irretrievably broken. Under some faux-libertarian banner, the situation of “self-regulation” has become a farce. When coupled with moron parents, it’s quite clear that a voluntary rating doesn’t work.

    I’ll tell you how to fix it in the cinema: Make the ratings mean something. No child should be able to get into an R rated movie with parents. By having a glorified PG13 as the highest rating, the system itself is hopelessly devalued.

    In the UK, where we’ve had a long and tortured debate over censorship for most of my life, a 15 means you have to be 15 to see it, and an 18 ditto. There’s no if’s, but’s or “I was with my mother”. Now this can be clearly circumvented (I saw Reservoir Dogs with my mother when I was 13), but as a rule, it means that nobody can claim to be traumatised from seeing an 18 rated film.

    To make matters more complicated, the local councils can either ban a film arbitrarily (see Crash) or release a film without certificate- Reservoir Dogs in Sheffield, for example.

    As for video- well, don’t blame the film-maker for your shit parenting skills. That’s beyond regulation, and has gone further due to the internet.

    There’s an interesting debate at the moment, because the BBFC outright banned The Bunny Game, and Human Centipede 2 (although they did relent on this one on appeal). I see no artistic merit in the Bunny Game at all- it’s faux snuff, again, and it should have got a limited cinema release at 18 to satisfy the freedom of speech crying.

    • Another Part of the problem Jarv is here in America we can get an R rating for a movie with swearing. Happened to Michael Moore with Bowling for Columbine, and it’s happening again for a documentary about bullying.

      • That’s almost precisely what I mean- why on earth is the use of the word “fuck” so scary? Not to mention that the MPAA doesn’t use the same standards for each film. It’s almost totally broken out there

      • I swear a lot of it comes down to what they think will pull in money. It ebbs and flows. That’s why we saw so many pG-13 films for awhile. I don’t have a problem with having a rating system, but just decide one way or the other if something is ok for general population or if something is going to be something that adults should just see. It’s pretty much worthless though because as soon as a film comes out on DVD any kid can get anything they want, people don’t card kids for buying R rated movies.

      • The use of the word “fuck” is normally about connotations. Fuck as in Fuck off, you can get away with one, maybe two uses in a PG-13 film. You cannot, however, use it in a sexual manner, like “Let’s fuck.” or “Go fuck yourself”. That will automatically get you an R.

      • it’s just funny to me that words, still in this day an age, warrant an adult rating.

  2. Drive features three instances of insanely graphic violence. But here’s the thing. The graphic violence is not only totally unnecessary, but it actually detracts substantially from the film because it takes you out of the moment. When a character gets shot in the head by a shotgun, you don’t need to see the head explode. When a character repeatedly stomps the head of another character, you don’t need to see the impact of the foot crushing the mans skull. You only need to hold the shot of the character doing the stomping to maintain the effectiveness of the moment. Seeing the gore removes you from the experience, and instead of considering the ramifications of the characters actions, you’re reacting to the graphic violence. And the stabbing scene is wrong for a few reasons. The biggest one is that it’s out of character. The character doing the stabbing firstly probably wouldn’t get his hands dirty, so he’d get a minion to do it. Secondly, if he did it himself, it would be quick, efficient, no fuss. A slice of the jugular, point made. He would certainly not stab the guy in the eye with a fork first, so that he’s howling in agony before stabbing him half a dozen times in the neck. He’s established as a no nonsense, cold, calculating person. He wouldn’t lose it like that. He’s vicious when necessary, but not blood thirsty. It’s a betrayal of the character and makes the film seem ridiculous.

    As for censorship, in Australia when I was growing up we had a mix of the US and UK ratings. We had G (General), PG (12), and M (15), which were all recommended ratings. R (18) was the only set age rating that we had. But in my teens they introduced MA (15) which was a set 15+ rating. A lot of your standard R ratings in the US, like the action films or gross out comedies are rated MA. It’s a good rating as it allows films that aren’t that bad to get a rating that won’t restrict a lot of the target audience from going, but also keeps out the younger kids. Some of the films being rated R was ridiculous. We also banned The Human Centipede 2.

    • Droid, I totally agree about Drive. It’s one of the most common ideas of horror is the thing you don’t see is scarier than what you do. I think the rest of Drive was so boring they had to put something in to break up the nothingness.

  3. You hit on the thing that winds me up the most; a group of people deciding what we can or can’t watch. I used to videotape films off the telly to build up a collection but gave up when, after watching one or two, I discovered it wasn’t the same film I’d seen at the cinema or on rental. Scenes were missing, ‘bad’ language was dubbed over, etc. And it’s for a variety of reasons ranging from not wishing to offend the pre-9 o’clock sheep, to fitting a film into the TV schedule. With the latter, you get a TV editor arbitrarily trimming here and trimming there so the movie fits around ‘X-Factor’ & ‘X-Factor Update’… and maybe the national news… not to mention the adverts.

    Films aren’t real. But the telly shows dead children in Syria on the early evening news. That’s real. You can show that at 6pm – but you can’t show a rubber monster biting someone’s head off till after 10:30pm and even then there will be a few frames cut out of it. I’m only talking about standard TV channels, I haven’t got satellite or owt like that so I don’t know how the movie channels work.

    I resent some no-mark deciding what I can and can’t see.

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