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Responding To The Censor

Friday 16 November 2012, 16:27

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

I posted recently about the role of the BBFC these days and you came back with some great responses. Here is my pick of your comments.

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Celebrating The Censor

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    Comment number 1.

    Thanks for the broad based feedback (and honourable mention).
    I have to agree with those comments towards the end where folk are concerned with the choices parents make over which films to take their children to see. If I child is bored or upset by a film you've made a bad judgement over taking them to see, take them out of the screening. I think cinema staff are justified in asking someone to remove a distressed or disruptive child - and if they have to stop the screening to do it, that would be fine by me! I wonder if any cinema in the UK recently has had the guts to do it.

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    Comment number 2.

    The problem with the NC17 rating is the prudish attitude towards films that deal with sexual themes when violent films like the Saw series are routinely rated R. Shouldn't they all be rated NC17.

    As for the 12A rating, it seems that any film not aimed directly at a young audience is rated 12A. Seeing as 12A has a very broad scope would not a minimum age for each film be more practical, for example Spiderman minimum age 7 years The Dark Knight minimum age 10.

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    Comment number 3.

    Have you looked at daytime TV recently?

    You can watch various crime documentaries featuring graphic reconstructions of actual murders; you can see Criminal Minds, CSI, NCIS, (featuring garrotings, rape, disembowelment, evisceration, flaying, gouging, slashing, stabbing as well as autopsies featuring corpses in various states of disrepair) in the comfort of your own living room well before the watershed. But if you wish to watch all of the above in a darkened room with a bunch of like-minded adults - you need a certificate from the state, photographic ID and a urine sample.

    What a world, what a world...

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    Comment number 4.

    With the last part of this "Kermode Un-Cut", I couldn't help being reminded of The Dark Knight Rises Tradegy Shootings. I recall the news repoting that young children were present at that midnight screening?! That film was far too mature for their age group.

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    Comment number 5.

    I think the parental responsibility is a sticking point that needs to be more expressed when it comes to classifications. Moreso in the home environment, as in the comfort of your own home there is a certain degree of trust in the adults to monitor and verify the content their children and teenagers are exposed to is in fact appropriate or sufficient to hold their attention. And this does go across the board in all areas - movies, post-watershed TV shows, music, games etc etc.

    I'll add this anecdote; I have a friend I will call Jenna. She is much older than me and has two teenage sons, and a few years ago she bought them the Dead Or Alive movie. This was because her boys actually like the video game, although she wasn't really sure why. On sitting down to watch it, she said she was mortified there was fighting, blood and excessive shots of female breasts, moreso an entire segment of girls having a proper scrap in tight clothing on inflatable rafts on a swimming pool. She complained to me about it and said she didn't realise why the movie was so "sexualised." To which I had to ask her - you've bought your boys the games in the past. How can you NOT know the biggest selling point of these games is that the girls have ridiculously large breasts? You really expected the movie to be ANY different? The games are softcore porn with kung-fu. Why would you expect the movie to deviate from what is obviously a winning formula for them?

    Her response? She never checked the games. She didn't play them so she never really took the time to look at the back of the box, or watch her boys play the games, because they knew what they wanted and she thought they were sensible boys. They asked. She bought.

    She is not alone. Parents give into their kids demands nowadays and parents are shocked when they find out what it is they are buying. I have no sympathies. I am grateful my grandparents took such an avid interest in what I liked. My grandfather refused to buy me Mortal Kombat 2 for the Super Nintendo in 1994. He bought a games magazine, he read about it, he looked at the screenshots and he ended up instead buying me a game called Zombies Ate My Neighbours. He thought it was... well... better. Better quality, and a better use of 'horror'.

    Zombies Ate My Neighbours! remains one of my most treasured possessions. I did play Mortal Kombat 2 a few years later though, when I was able to legally buy it. Let's just say, my grandfather was absolutely 110% right not to buy it. Not because it was rated 15. But because it was... well... really rubbish, actually.

    Parents should take an interest in what their kids like and want. They should know their kids better than anyone, if they are surprised about the content that they have bought for their darlings... I think that should be raising alarm bells, and I wouldn't be pointing the blame at the movie, music or game in question...

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    Comment number 6.

    "recordings that have been refused a certificate, or supplying to someone younger than the certified age) is a criminal offence"

    I maybe wrong but that makes the bbfc worse. In the uk stuff is censored to the degree that distribution is illegal, in the us, the mpaa is a bit of a joke but at least if you decide to go unrated, you are free to do as you wish.

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    Comment number 7.

    On further considerations of censorship, its also interesting all comments for bbc stuff are either highly restricted, and kermodes own videos on youtube have comments entirely disabled for some reason. This seems far more common in the uk than the us.

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    Comment number 8.

    Hearing about the bored child running about has crystalised that an ever expanding age bracket doesn't do the trick. We need 'suitable for' or 'not suitable for' certain age ranges. Not some clumsy '8-12A' E.g. that film mentioned 'The Vow: suitable for teenagers and adults, not suitable for kids'.

    You could extend it to cover other groupings, e.g. "Pan's Labyrinth: suitable for the intelligent, not suitable for idiots' or 'Prometheus: suitable for idiots, not suitable for the intelligent'.

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    Comment number 9.

    Well said, Wetnap, I share your concerns about the comments on YouTube. You have to wonder what they're worried about. I mean, could a few acerbic rants from disgruntled geeks re: new Twilight movie contribute the BBC's current crisis?

    It's PC gone mad.

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    Comment number 10.

    Thanks for bravely including my particularly obscure Hayes Production Code joke. For those whose heads it blithely sailed over, an entertaining reminder of the rules that afflicted the golden age of the Hollywood Studios from the Broadway Cast of A Day In Hollywood, A Night in the Ukraine:


    While parents can't be expected to have eyes and ears everywhere, those that completely dump their own responsibilities and expect the gatekeepers and artists to vet content for them are ignorant. Parents are (or is it "should be" sadly) the responsible adults who should know their children well enough. Sensibilities vary, and a budding Kim Newman, or Kermode may not need the same shielding as the next Mary Whitehouse (alright, I couldn't think of a better analog). My parents in the allegedly permissive 70's took me to see the R rated likes of The Taking of Pelham 123, The Day of the Jackal, and Blazing Saddles (also, back then Walkabout squeaked a PG although there are a few pretty disturbing moments amidst the stark beauty of the rest of it). Parents should exercise judgement, without exercise, judgement gets flabby and stupid. What does that teach your children? (I really have to get my analogy meter seen to).

    On the other hand, where would we be without the whiff of the taboo that accompanies that candy we can't have until we're older. I'm sure there's a few horror fans whose fascination as a child began with the question, why can't I see that?.....

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    Comment number 11.

    I found it very very interesting towards the end of Kermode Uncut regarding very young children being taken to see 12A rated films.

    Years ago I reviewed films for BBC Radio Leicester's website and I can remember going to see Jurassic Park 3 and there were parents there who had taken a young child in with them to see this film (the child could not have been more than 3 years old). It still astonishes me how brainless some parents are when they think that they can take a child to see a PG or 12A rated film and yet wonder why their child has nightmares for days afterwards.

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    Comment number 12.

    I do wonder if we'd be better off losing the age ratings completely and just relying on the BBFC's excellent 'extended classification information'; some people (like the MPAA) are fine with violence but can't stand a hint of sex, some people (like my partner) don't have a problem with films having sex or swearing, but doesn't like violence above about a 12A, and some films (like Made In Dagenham) get an enforced 15 rating for less swearing than many twelve year olds will hear (or use) in a normal day anyway.

    Plus, if the easy spoon-feeding option of age ratings went away, parents might have to actually make a proper decision based on what was left.

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    Comment number 13.

    The 12a is the perfect example of people wanting to have thier cake and eat it too. Despite valiant attempts by the BBFC to ensure the films suitability is ensured, its regurually flounted by man who dont understand it or simply dont care. Whats extra annoying how some of them become up in arms about it after the fact, as evidenced by complaints about The Dark Knight in 2008.

    Honestly i'd make it clearer or abolish the certificate outright. For example, The Dark Knight Rises and Skyfall are not suitable for a 7 year old but some still insist on taking thier kids. You may know your child better than anyone but this still stands true. Apologies, not meaning to offend.

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    Comment number 14.

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    Comment number 15.

    The point about distributors acting as censors is oh so true. As a film festival goer, I often see films that have no UK distribution deals. This prevents me from watching them again, unless I can find another festival screening, and since it includes some of my all-time favourite movies, I am left eternally frustrated.

    I have seen beauty but can never again experience it.

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    Comment number 16.

    The issue with the 12A rating is a tricky one but ultimately it is down to the parents. If I remember correctly it was pressure from parents whose children would have been unable to see Spiderman that led to the introduction of the 12A back in 2001. I think the rating serves a purpose in that there are plenty of children under 12 who are mature enough to cope with films like this and it is nice to see the BBFC being so responsive.

    Although instances of children running around the screen should certainly be blamed on the parents, the cinema/multiplex is also culpable. Far too many cinemas seem more concerned with selling overpriced food and tickets than creating a pleasant environment to watch a film in. Refusing entry to parents with young children when the film is clearly unsuitable would go along way towards improving the situation.

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    Comment number 17.

    I went to see Skyfall recently and there was a baby in the cinema and a few really little kids. I'm not in the UK at the moment (which mean the kids were trying to read the subtitles) but it reminded me of seeing Casino Royale and sitting through the torture scene with a child of about 6 and his brother of about 10 in front of me. They were not happy.

    If parents were responsible enough we wouldn't need to have age classifications, just a suggested age, but they're not so we don't. The 12A rating is just trouble for cinema staff and responsible cinema goers.

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    Comment number 18.

    I saw this The Master in the 70mm. I haven't seen it in the digital print to compare, but I was blown away by it.

    Always think its worth making the extra effort to see the film in the way the director intended it to be seen, to be able to truly judge the film.

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    Comment number 19.

    Its interesting about how the BBFC charges £2,000, because ive been told by an independent film disturbutor that they have given up on cinema screenings because its too much hassle to get a rating from the BBFC. Not only that but the DVD etc also has to be given a seperate rating, and so does all the extra features of the DVD, so another few thousand pounds here and there has to be paid even though its the same film, and at the end its cost them £8,000 of which they then have to question is it worth it.

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    Comment number 20.

    The BBFC has improved remarkably over the last decade, that's for sure. But the shadow that looms over them is still this rather sleazy act of collusion where the studio and the censor (and there's no way around that - that is still what they are despite the difference in emphasis) will cosy up together for advice screenings about how to butcher the film before the actual submission so as to target the most financially lucrative demographic. That has nothing to do with art or morality - that's just destroying films for money.

    With the release of the latest Bond film Skyfall remaining unscathed by the censors due to a shift away from the palpable nastiness of Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, and towards something approaching subtler melancholy, it's probably a good time to reflect on one of the least well known hatchet jobs in the Bond series history. Back in 1997, Tomorrow Never Dies was extensively revised through this pre-cut process to the point where the BBFC almost become a second directorial hand brought in by the producers to completely alter the tone set by Roger Spottiswoode. Now whether one agrees with Spottiswoode's decision to make a much bloodier Bond film in a series that has huge appeal to tweens, that is what the man ultimately intended as his final vision. To reiterate, these are not changes made at the conceptual script level, rather the BBFC invalidating the director's decisions more or less DURING his editing process, posing the question, then what is the point of a director?

    A very through analysis of the troubled history of Tomorrow Never Dies is featured on a fantastic video by Gavin Salkeld called Cutting Edge.



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