Magazine article The Spectator

A Few More Issues like This of the Independent on Sunday, and Ms Boycott Will Suffer a Real Crash

Magazine article The Spectator

A Few More Issues like This of the Independent on Sunday, and Ms Boycott Will Suffer a Real Crash

Article excerpt

Picking up my Independent on Sunday last week and turning to its handsome review section as I always do, I found eight pages devoted to Crash, the new film which depicts sado-masochists deriving sexual pleasure from car crashes. I couldn't be bothered to read them. Apart from a brief introduction by Martin Amis, the article consisted of an excerpt from the script of much of the film. At the best of times, scripts can be boring things to read, with their long and detailed directions. The thought of wading through blow-by-blow accounts of perverted sex was more than the spirit could bear on a Sunday morning.

But on Monday several people telephoned me. Perhaps they thought that as the founding-editor of the Independent on Sunday I might be expected to have a view about my old paper publishing this sort of stuff. One person, a woman of progressive views, told me that she had been sickened by the descriptions of anal sex between a man and a woman. You did not expect to read that sort of thing in your broadsheet Sunday paper, she said. No adult could wander into the cinema and see Crash by mistake, but it was possible to pick up a newspaper in a state of innocence and find oneself drawn into a squalid and depraved world wholly against one's wishes.

I read the excerpt. I fear I cannot make my point without a brief summary. The hero, James, has been in a car crash. He `has sex' with the wife of the man killed in this accident. Also with his own secretary. Also with his wife, Catherine, whom he sodomises. The two of them are excited by images and memories of car crashes, as they are by a man called Vaughan, who literally lives in his car and arranges crash spectaculars. Inevitably, they both make love to this horrible person. James is particularly turned on by sex with a woman who has been gravely injured in a car crash, and he - no, I won't go on. It gets much, much worse. I really did feel sick at the end.

It is amazing that someone as intelligent as Mr Amis should not only defend this, but celebrate it as a work of art. The theme - that the idea of a car crash is sexually arousing - is rammed down our throats a hundred times. J.G. Ballard, who published Crash in 1973, argues that the film, like his novel, in its heart recoils in moral horror from the world it depicts. Judging by this excerpt - I have not seen the film, and certainly do not now wish to - this argument is very difficult to sustain. All the characters are depraved. There is no moral counterpoint. Most people will feel revulsion, but this revulsion derives from their own moral sensibilities and their own idea of what is aberrational. An already depraved person would find this film deeply arousing.

Let is here leave aside the question of whether Crash should go on general release. I am concerned that a newspaper - and, my God, a newspaper which I helped to found! - should have published such material. It is true that in its introduction to the excerpt the Independent on Sunday describes Crash as one of `the most sexually explicit and disturbing films ever made' (no kidding) and warns that `those who do not wish to be offended are advised not to read on'. At best, this is morally neutral: the paper should have the wit to see that this is an abomination, and not lead the reader into a moral wasteland while refusing to say what it thinks itself. …

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