Film and Video Censorship in Contemporary Britain

Film and Video Censorship in Contemporary Britain

Film and Video Censorship in Contemporary Britain

Film and Video Censorship in Contemporary Britain

Synopsis

Thatcherism and the birth of the domestic film industry shaped the late 1970s and 80s as a period of authoritarianism in film censorship. This book examines how modern censorship works in the UK and how the process began.

Filled with a range of case studies, such as ones on the Last House on the Left and sex videos in the R18 category, the book explores the role of the press in sensationalizing films such as Crash, and Child's Play III. Central to this investigation is the British Board of Film Classification and the book pays close attention to the legal and political context of film censorship.

Excerpt

Britain, along with the Republic of Ireland, has the strictest film and video censorship in the European Union. This book will attempt to explain how this situation has been maintained, and indeed strengthened, in recent times, how the censorship system actually works, and why it is maintained.

Part I examines the origins of the Video Recordings Act 1984 (VRA), and situates these firmly in the moral panic about ‘video nasties’ which commenced in 1981. Part II looks at how the Act was interpreted in the second part of the decade, and at some of its consequences for the video industry. Part III, the longest part, deals with the 1990s, and begins by focusing on why and how the Act was amended in the wake of the murder of James Bulger; it then goes on to analyse how the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) interpreted the amended Act. Much of the book thus far will have been taken up by accounts of how the majority of British newspapers played a key role in the processes that resulted in the Video Recordings Act coming about in the first place, and then being tightened. However, Chapter I0 shows how the Daily Mail and its stable-mate the London Evening Standard signally failed in their campaign to get David Cronenberg's film Crash banned from cinemas nationally. And Chapter II, too, charts the failure of an attempt, this time by government (albeit aided by newspapers), to impose stricter censorship on the already heavily regulated ‘R18’ category of videos (those which may be sold only in licensed sex shops). The contents of the videos concerned in this case may be absolutely negligible in themselves, but the light this affair sheds on the relationship between the BBFC, the Home Office and the wider state apparatus makes this one of the key chapters in the book. Finally, Part IV brings the story up to date, and focuses in particular on isolating the kinds of material which the BBFC refuses to pass today even in the adults-only ‘18’ and ‘R18’ categories. The final chapter, by examining events subsequent to the discovery in August 2009 that the VRA was in fact unenforceable — events . . .

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