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.