Thursday, October 13, 2011 

The pornography of terror.

It's proving to be a busy three months for the good people down in Soho Square. No sooner had the BBFC rejected Tom Six's magnum opus the Human Centipede II, a decision which last week they reversed after the director offered to truncate his work, removing scenes of sandpaper masturbation and barbed-wire rape, than they're banning a slightly more serious work, Adam Rehmeier's The Bunny Game.

The two films, although both in the horror genre, could hardly be more different, despite it seems sharing the same black and white aesthetic. The Human Centipede is pure fantasy, albeit it "torture-porn" indebted fantasy; The Bunny Game is startlingly grounded in reality, to the point where the film's star and co-writer Rodleen Getsic, according to the makers, genuinely endured the treatment her character receives from the truck driver who abducts her, everything you see apparently being real. Agreeing to be branded with a hot iron for your art is not the only disconcerting apparent detail: Getsic according to some reviews has experienced abuse herself in the past, something alluded to in this piece she links to from her Twitter account.

If the making of the film was in some way meant to act as both therapy and catharsis, then it poses further uncomfortable questions for both censor and viewer: the BBFC, concerned as ever with the potential for harm, for once quite reasonably worries that "the lack of explanation of the events depicted, and the stylistic treatment, may encourage some viewers to enjoy and share in the man’s callousness and the pleasure he takes in the woman’s pain and humiliation". For the viewer, there's the knowledge that if this is part of an attempt by Getsic to turn her very real past pain into a performance while also emphasising the fact that suffering ends and life goes on, then by watching are you playing a role in something which very few therapists would advise? Are those attracted to such material complicit in deriving entertainment from the very real acts of violence committed by murderers and abductors?

Without having seen the film, it's difficult to be able to say for certain just how brutal the violence is, and whether it genuinely does break new ground in the horror endurance stakes. Unlike the also recently banned Grotesque, which fitted into the Japanese mini-genre of pseudo-snuff horror associated with the Guinea Pig series of films, it instead appears to bear a resemblance to the final act of the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre, where the character Sally endures almost a full half hour of terrorisation at the hands of her captors, before finally escaping and experiencing the euphoria of freedom. TCM was one of the few films that the BBFC's former director James Ferman felt could not be released in any form, with the organisation's student case study revealing he described it as "the pornography of terror". What it doesn't make clear is that Ferman overruled all those under him at the organisation who felt it could be released, with the unsurprising result being that almost as soon as he retired the film was passed 18 uncut.

It's this fear of the "pornography of terror" which it seems has returned to claim a new victim. Even considering the fact that The Bunny Game is far more graphic than TCM ever was, one thing that is absurd for the board to complain about is that there's no apparent explanation for the violence depicted in the film. The idea that violence, abduction and murder can always be given such an explanation is to ignore the fact that on some occasions there is no real reason; it's simply because the perpetrator can. They may well derive and sexual and sadistic pleasure from their crimes, but that is to only partially understand why. If the film's whole raison d'etre is to portray the grim reality of what some victims have gone through, then it appears the BBFC would rather that such accounts are toned down before they can be accepted as fiction. Indeed, in passing TCM the BBFC noted that

any possible harm that might arise in terms of the effect upon a modern audience would be more than sufficiently countered by the unrealistic, even absurd, nature of the action itself.

The implication appears to be that film-makers at the extreme end of horror can't win either way. Go for too much realism and you'll be banned, while you'll also find your work cut if you cast aside reality and stitch together multiple people from mouth to anus and put abrasive materials into the mix. That adults should be able to decide for themselves what they personally can stomach and experience seems as distant an ideal as it has ever been.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Share |

Wednesday, June 08, 2011 

The censoring of a centipede.


It's most likely a indication of my slow, all but unnoticeable declining interest in "extreme" cinema that I haven't seen the original Human Centipede. Like a good few films in recent years, the hype surrounding it was that it could well be the sickest ever made. Unlike those other, mostly flaccid entries in what became known derisively as the "torture porn" genre, it wasn't an unoriginal retread, remake or homage to either a 70s exploitation piece or an 80s slasher flick. No, here was something resembling an idea, even if it was being pulled off in the confines of a traditional mad scientist/maniac plot: you can after all only be brutalised or killed in so many ways. What's more frightening than being slowly hacked to pieces by an unknown assailant? It's surely not just being deprived of the ability of any means of escape on your own, but also being forced to share the experience with others, and when I say forced I mean literally. However ridiculous and scientifically ludicrous the idea is of three people being able to survive surgically joined together at, to put it in the nicest possible way, bottom to mouth, it's a concept so horrible to the average person that it just about works. For anyone else, well, there's got to be comedy lurking in there somewhere.

Opinions differ as to just how well director Tom Six pulled off his undeniably affecting conceit, with Peter Bradshaw in the Graun, notoriously difficult to please, giving it three stars, while Roger Ebert decided it was beyond his own star system of ranking. Kim Newman, the veteran horror journalist, declared it was odd and unforgettable but never quite as outrageous as it threatened to be. Indeed, discounting the gross-out inevitability of the lead person in the centipede failing to control his bowels, there was relatively little graphic footage in the film of the necessary surgery to construct the human insect, nor much once it had been created. Everything else was left to the over-active imagination. The BBFC, that august body tasked with the always onerous duty of deciding just what we can and can't see was similarly unmoved and passed it 18 uncut. There is however a clue to just how seriously they took the nastiness Six had put to celluloid, contained in their extended classification information:

The Board has taken legal advice which indicates that THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE is not in breach of the Obscene Publications Act 1959 or any other relevant legislation. In terms of harm, the scenario is so far fetched and bizarre that there is no plausible risk of emulation.

This is in contrast to the two most recent new submissions which the board has cut, the remake of I Spit on Your Grave and A Serbian Film, neither of which it seems they sought legal advice over before issuing a certificate.

The reason for rejecting The Human Centipede II (Now it's personal, err, sorry, I mean Full Sequence) then is not that anyone is likely to emulate what's portrayed, even though that's exactly what the entire plot is based around, for Six's concept this time is that someone has been so taken with his original that they put it into actual practice. This breaking of the fourth wall, or attempt at post-modernism ala Scream, call it what you will, is what it seems has really upset the BBFC. Sure, they've dressed it up as they always do in terms of sexual violence, about the only thing they still do cut non-sex works for containing, on always questionable subjective grounds, and make much of how the Full Sequence "presents graphic images of sexual violence, forced defecation, and mutilation", unlike the original, yet you can't help but feel that it's because Six has specifically shown someone doing just that which they said was so "far fetched and bizarre".

David Cox has pretty much hit the nail on the head in his piece for the Graun. The BBFC complains that since the principal focus of the film "is the sexual arousal of the central character at both the idea and the spectacle of the total degradation, humiliation, mutilation, torture, and murder of his naked victims" that cutting any one section will still fail to make the whole acceptable. This is rather odd, as it passes hundreds of works each year that while not necessarily arousing the characters in the film are clearly aimed at stimulating the sections of certain individuals that other parts can't reach. What is it about this fictional character that makes what he inflicts unclassifiable, when numerous serial killer films on the market are just as unflinching in depicting their crimes, like Henry or Man Bites Dog? Key it seems is this passage:

There is a strong focus throughout on the link between sexual arousal and sexual violence and a clear association between pain, perversity and sexual pleasure.

A link between sexual arousal and sexual violence? You don't say? Is it really so awful that this be shown, even in what is an exploitation film? As for a clear association between pain, perversity and sexual pleasure, it seems that this is still too transgressive, too beyond the pale for the BBFC to even contemplate that it exists. It's certainly not clear from the BBFC's justification just how truly graphic the lead character's sexual arousal is shown as: we're told that he masturbates with sandpaper wrapped around his penis, although not whether this is implied or actively shown. The same is the case with the scene in which he apparently rapes the woman at the back of the "centipede", this time with barbed wire around his member, excited at seeing his walking, living shit eating machine in "action" as it were. If any of this sounds just slightly silly, going beyond even what some of the good people over at Bmezine have done to themselves then congratulations, you are just a little more mature and well-balanced it seems than the BBFC.

The problem the BBFC have is that so much of what they object to presented in this context they've passed in highly similar or distantly related genre pictures. Many horror films present the victims of their protagonists as "objects to be brutalised, degraded and mutilated for the amusement and arousal of the central character, as well as for the pleasure of the audience"; what are the Friday the 13th pictures and many other knock-off slashers than exercises in showing how creative the writers can be at killing their teenage fodder off? Those characters exist solely as one-dimensional beings, so unappealing and impossible to emphasise with that the audience actively looks forward to seeing them getting chopped up. Sit someone down in front of Salo who knows nothing about the film whatsoever, and would they understand at the end that it's meant to be a vicious allegory of life under fascism replete with Pasolini's despair at modern society, or would they just remember the naked children being served up a meal of their own faecal matter as the degradation they're subjected to intensifies? As for rape, is there a scene more visceral, more agonising and extended than the ordeal which Alex undergoes for nine long minutes in Irreversible?

And so, inevitably, the board is left with relying on the Obscene Publications Act, that outdated and increasingly laughable piece of legislation. The United States has the Miller test, where three separate distinct clauses have to be satisfied before any work can be defined as obscene; we rely on a jury deciding simply if a film is liable to "deprave or corrupt". During the 1980s in the aftermath of the video nasties panic perfectly respectable men and women were brought before the beak for owning, distributing or selling copies of such films as Evil Dead, Last House on the Left and Zombie Creeping Flesh, with juries deciding that such tapes could indeed do just that. Almost all of those banned at the time have now either been passed completely uncut or with piecemeal edits: the most heavily truncated while still given a certificate is House on the Edge of the Park, shorn of an astonishing 11 minutes 43 seconds for its 18. Clearly when motivated enough the BBFC can slash a film into something they deem acceptable. Notably, one of the most notorious nasties, Cannibal Holocaust, has recently been passed with only 15 seconds of cuts, with just the on screen killing of a muskrat removed as required under animal welfare legislation.

Bounty Films and Eureka!, the distributors of Full Sequence plan to appeal the BBFC's decision, taking the film before the Video Appeals Committee, another collection of the great and good. They could well have a chance: Rockstar Games successfully appealed the decision of the BBFC to reject Manhunt 2. If not though, the BBFC instead of merely deciding that the film could be successfully prosecuted as obscene ought to put their case before an actual court: let a jury decide whether it really is likely to "deprave and corrupt", harm, or even slightly desensitise a significant majority of those that encounter it. What could they possible have to lose?

Labels: , , , , ,

Share |

Monday, June 29, 2009 

Girls (Scream) Alone.

The prosecution against Darryn Walker, the author of the story "Girls (Scream) Aloud", has collapsed without a jury even needing to be troubled by any of the evidence. Despite having had since last July to come up with a case, although it seems it didn't come to the attention of the press until last October, the Crown failed to offer any evidence after Walker's defence demolished any hope of a conviction.

It does now appear that as I wondered back then, the key factor in Walker being charged was that his story mentioned the very real girl group Girls Aloud. It's still unclear whether he first wrote the almost identical "Pieces of Candy", which has a fictitious girl group undergoing the same torture as the members of Girls Aloud do in their version, then adapted it, but regardless, it was his decision to make it "real" that led to his prosecution. According to the prosecution, it was undertaken under the fear that those merely searching for Girls Aloud might be unlucky enough to come across Walker's fevered writings, featuring the rape, mutilation and murder and all five members of the group, and so, presumably, be "depraved and corrupted" as the Obscene Publications Act requires for there to be a conviction.

The idea that either of those things was likely was always laughable. Walker's story was (and still is) contained on an archive for writing posted on the Usenet group alt.sex.stories, and even then is not easily found; search the website itself for Girls Aloud and it is not even on the first page. It is instead hidden away on the Kristen archives section of the website, which itself has a warning which states that it is filtered by most net nanny software, then on the "putrid" sub-section, which has a further warning. You won't find it on the list though, as it's been removed, presumably at Walker's request. The page itself though does still exist. Having jumped through these hoops, you then have Walker's own warning. However, by the simple fact that the CPS thought it was worth prosecuting someone for writing a bad story, the Streisand effect has taken over, with the story now mirrored and far easier to access. My post alone on the prosecution has had a large number of hits today, meaning that any intrigued younger reader wanting to read what all the fuss was about has had far more opportunity than they ever would have had before.

That truism alone, that when you try to ban something cultural you instantly make it more alluring and more desirable regardless of its quality ought to be enough to discourage the censors, especially in this age, from attempting to do so. Walker's story can hardly be defended on artistic grounds, but it can be on the grounds that it is highly unlikely, as the psychiatrist called to defend him argued, that it would turn anyone into a sexual predator. It's also completely true that it was only likely to appeal to those already interested in such material; if someone was simply searching for "erotic celebrity fan-fiction", which fills a rather specific niche on the internet for those who prefer words to pictures, they were likely to go for more easily available writing featuring the gorgeous pouting quintet, rather than that which also involved the sawing off of arms and breasts. Unpleasant as it doubtless is for those depicted to be written about in such a way by complete strangers who then share their fantasies with others, there seems to have been very little legal action taken against sites hosting such stories. Most will admit to the vanity of searching Google for their own name; whether stars themselves dig deep into the darker recesses of the internet and discover such writing is another matter entirely.

Walker though should certainly have never been prosecuted. It raises questions, not only of those who authorised the prosecution, but also of the Internet Watch Foundation, which initially brought the police's attention to the story. Supposedly, why they simply didn't block access to either the page or the site as a whole is because it's hosted overseas and because there is no international agreement on what is obscene, quite rightly, yet as we saw during the Wikipedia/Scorpions debacle, that didn't stop them then. Presumably the page was reported to them, unless they themselves came it across during one of their own trawls, and they decided that it was so terrible and so shocking that the police had to be involved. It certainly makes you wonder about those who are in charge at the IWF; if the likes of "Girls (Scream) Aloud" makes them rush to involve Inspector Knacker, what do they go through at the sight of "2 girls 1 cup" or even the video of the death of Neda? This is, it needs stating again, a completely unaccountable body that doesn't just censor child pornography, but also material that "incites racial hatred", potentially breaches the OPA, as Walker was accused of, and now "extreme pornography", since the law came into effect in January. The law has already been used, although it seems mainly to prosecute those selling beastiality DVDs along with pirated blockbusters.

Quite how much it cost for Walker to be brought to trial, let alone the police and CPS time dedicated to considering whether he should be charged over fantastical words he wrote is irrelevant when it comes to what it has done to the man himself. Regardless of his own sexual predilections and fantasies, and that he wrote such things is no indication whatsoever that he is partial to acting out anything like that his protagonists do in his stories, his life has quite possibly been ruined. Anyone now "Googling" for him when he applies for job, having lost his as a civil servant when he was charged, will soon discover he was up before the beak on the charge of writing perverted stories about a popular beat combo, which is likely to do wonders to his chances of finding employment. It ought to be ridiculous in 2009 that anyone writing fiction, even if it is fiction which features real people, should be charged with obscenity; that someone should be potentially ruined because of it is not just ridiculous, it's disgraceful. No thought however seems to have been put into this before charging was proceeded with, just as no one at the IWF presumably thought through the consequences when they boggled at the original submission to them. This ought to lead to a reform of our obscenity laws, yet if anything they seem likely to be tightened further still.

Labels: , , , , ,

Share |

Tuesday, December 09, 2008 

Wikipaedia part 2.

Almost as quickly as it was imposed, the blocking of the Wikipedia entry on the Scorpions' Virgin Killer album has been lifted. Don't imagine however that this is because the Internet Watch Foundation has suddenly decided that the image after all isn't indecent, or that regarding the context of it, it's ridiculous to now declare 32 years after its original release that it is. Their statement again says it all:

Following representations from Wikipedia, IWF invoked its Appeals Procedure and has given careful consideration to the issues involved in this case. The procedure is now complete and has confirmed that the image in question is potentially in breach of the Protection of Children Act 1978. However, the IWF Board has today (9 December 2008) considered these findings and the contextual issues involved in this specific case and, in light of the length of time the image has existed and its wide availability, the decision has been taken to remove this webpage from our list.
Any further reported instances of this image which are hosted abroad, will not be added to the list. Any further reported instances of this image which are hosted in the UK will be assessed in line with IWF procedures.
IWF’s overriding objective is to minimise the availability of indecent images of children on the internet, however, on this occasion our efforts have had the opposite effect. We regret the unintended consequences for Wikipedia and its users. Wikipedia have been informed of the outcome of this procedure and IWF Board’s subsequent decision.

In other words, the only mistake the IWF is owning up to is that they overreached themselves in blocking a site that was always likely to stand up to them. While admitting that they flagrantly failed to consider the contextual and extenuating circumstances surrounding the image, they make quite clear that if the image was hosted on a server in the UK that they reserve the right to demand that it either be taken down, and/or blocked. It is, after all, in their view, in breach of the Protection of Children Act 1978. That the "child" didn't object at the time and still doesn't object today is irrelevant, as is the context of the image when it isn't hosted on a encyclopaedic or shopping website.

The entire case highlights the secretive and undemocratic nature of the way the IWF operates. If, rather than Wikipedia, they had simply blocked a page on a Scorpions fan site, no one would probably have been any the wiser, and even if it had been noticed, seems unlikely to have spread beyond the tech based sites. It's only because they overreached themselves and completely failed to think through the consequences of blocking a site of the size of Wikipedia that they have come so unstuck.

It also highlights the disparity between the increasing tenor of our laws and those of our peers abroad. Once the ban on "extreme pornography" comes in, our own smut purveyors which dabble in such material will be essentially out of a job, unable to know what is and isn't illegal without running up obscene legal costs. Similarly, the same reason why there isn't much of a porn industry in this country is because of the draconian and ridiculous laws on, if you'll excuse the expression, "hard" copy distribution of the finished product. The only place you can legally buy a hardcore DVD from is a council sanctioned sex shop, again usually for an obscene price. This doesn't stop mail-order or internet companies from existing, but essentially they are breaking the law by operating in such a way. There is however no such ban on you importing hardcore material from abroad, although customs can still be sniffy about the more extreme material - meaning that our overseas cousins have a monopoly on the market. Some will think there's nothing wrong with that, as after all, pornography is without doubt exploitative, but it still seems ludicrous in this day and age.

The entire episode has also shown the haphazard way in the which the IWF was founded, and its rather curious legal position. As noted by Richard Jones in the comments on the previous post, the IWF or rather its predecessor, SafetyNet, came about primarily as an invention of ISPs to avoid direct government censorship, which our ever prurient media and police were advocating once it became public knowledge the delights that the internet could offer, with the Met threatening to raid an ISP over the contents of 132 newsgroups which it considered the ISP to be personally publishing by carrying. As laudatory as this was, this also means that there is no specific legislation concerning the IWF's legal status. Agreements between the government and the ISPs themselves effectively govern its entire being and what is and isn't censored. Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, has said that his first intention was to send in the lawyers - until they informed him that because the IWF isn't a statutory body it isn't even clear that they can be sued. That is remarkable in itself.

Moreover, the IWF has just more or less admitted that there is very little it can do about large foreign opponents complaining and attempting to get around the bans which it might well impose, come the 26th of January. They'll have no problems banning "extreme pornography" from UK servers, but considering very little of it exists as it is in this country, Longhurst's win might well turn out to be a pyrrhic victory. If the IWF shows the same level of intellect in blocking the likes of "Necrobabes" or other such sites as it has Wikipedia, it might well find itself being shown up as ineffective as well as unaccountable. That the IWF's blocks can easily be circumvented using anonymiser websites or open proxy servers should be irrelevant.

Again, it's worth stating that this is not primarily about child pornography, or "child sexual abuse images", as the IWF term them. No one has any real problem with what are clearly abusive images of children being either censored or removed from the internet, as images or video above the "level 2" scale are, with images at the "level 1" scale being very carefully considered before they are similarly removed. It's with the IWF's extending mandate and their apparent inability to exercise what appears to good common sense. After all, shouldn't a court establish what is and isn't material which incites racial hatred before they block it, especially when the IWF has no solid legal basis? You can argue that this is what it is doing in the Darryn Walker case, but should any fictional textual material now be considered to be potentially obscene in the first place? The IWF's whole existence is based on a compromise, one that we ought to be careful before we challenge, considering the potential to make things a whole lot worse rather than better, but shouldn't there at least be legislation put forward which sets up the organisation as a separate independent legal body, like the BBFC, which can be challenged and held to something approaching account, and so the organisation's current set-up can be discussed in parliament? By bringing itself into disrepute over something so apparently inconsequential, a whole hornet's nest has been opened up.

Related:
Wardman Wire - Privatised censorship
Frank Fisher - A nasty sting in the censors' tail

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Share |

Monday, December 08, 2008 

Wikipaedia.

Another erotic album cover pose?

It occasionally takes a decision made ultimately by an underling to expose the stupidity that often underlies some of the laws which govern us - and the moronic, for it can only be described as moronic, decision by someone simply doing their job at the Internet Watch Foundation that an album cover by an otherwise almost forgotten metal band from the 70s amounts to child pornography, although of the very lowest level, resulting in the blocking of the editing of Wikipedia for sections of the UK deserves to be one of those.

The Internet Watch Foundation's main work is blocking images of "child sexual abuse images" (according to them, terms such as child pornography "are not acceptable", as apparently the "use of such language acts to legitimise images which are not pornography, rather, they are permanent records of children being sexually abused", which suggests they don't just want to censor images but words also) which for the most part, with the exception more than ably illustrated today, is uncontroversial. Less well-known however is that they also block material which incites "racial hatred", although again how much of it they actually do block is impossible to know, but also material which potentially breaches the Obscene Publications Act. The OPA, notoriously, defines an obscene publication as something which is liable to both "deprave and corrupt", something wholly subjective and which juries, notably during the 1980s, could not decide upon when the "video nasties" were prosecuted. Some found some of the films brought before them to be obscene; others decided that the exact same films were in fact, not obscene. Most recently this remit resulted in the prosecution of Darryn Walker, author of a short story depicting the kidnap, rape and murder of the pop group Girls Aloud, apparently first reported to them and passed by them onto the police. His trial is upcoming.

That decision was one of the first to alert us to the vagaries of an apparently unaccountable organisation which still deigns fiction to be liable to bring out the inner Daily Mail reader in us all, but the blocking of the "Virgin Killer" cover is far more instructive of what might be yet to come. According to the IWF, the Virgin Killer cover amounts to level 1 indecent image of a child, as defined by the Sexual Offences Act 2003. Level 1 images depict "erotic posing with no sexual activity". Whilst all the successive levels involve actual sexual activity of one variety or another, level 1 is, like the OPA definition, utterly subjective. Is the girl in the image posing erotically? Quite possibly. Even if she is however, surely the extenuating circumstances surrounding the image should have been taken into consideration. Not only is the image over 30 years old, been available on the high street without causing any real high profile attention, but a tiny amount of background reading from the controversy that had arisen over it would have shown that the girl depicted was someone related to those behind the cover design, that she had posed willingly at the time and has no objections to it now still being used. That the image is not just available on Wikipedia, but also on Amazon (or at least was) and a dozen other places via a Google search, ought to have suggested that this should be a special case.

Instead what we have is an organisation which thinks that using a sledgehammer to crack a nut is both a good idea, and one which is only concerned by doing things entirely by the rules as set out before them. Image is, according to their thinking, obscene, therefore it must be blocked. As it isn't hosted in this country and therefore the ISP responsible cannot be ordered (surely asked politely? Ed.) to take it down, proxy servers and fake 404 pages are set-up to do the job. No thought is given to how this might affect what is after all a rather larger endeavour than a Scorpions album cover repository. The statement from the organisation doesn't even begin to delve into how the decision was came to be made in detail: instead, all they've done is added the URL to the list "provided to ISPs and other companies in the online sector to protect their customers from inadvertent exposure to a potentially illegal indecent image of a child". Protect is the key word; that's after all what they're doing. It doesn't matter that no one would ever be prosecuted over a single image, especially one in such wide circulation; the general public but most of all their customers needs to be saved from potential "inadvertent exposure".

Where after all does all of this end? As others have already pointed out, children have throughout art history been depicted naked, perhaps, it deserves to be pointed out, in more innocent, less hysterical times. Recently the London Underground briefly banned the image of a nude Venus lest anyone be sexually aroused by the advert for an exhibition. If someone for instance posted images of their children online in a photo album (not advisable by any yardstick), and one of these was reported by the same apparent busybody that reported this one to the IWF, and was decided by one of their employees to involve an "erotic pose", would that find itself being blocked too? If "Klara and Edda Belly Dancing" was reported to the IWF, would they demure from the police decision not to prosecute after it was seized from an exhibition and potentially suggest that it also involved erotic posing?

The real concern here though is not over idiotic individual decisions, but rather that from the end of January next year the IWF will also have the power to block "extreme pornography", the kind recently outlawed after parliament abjectly failed to prevent the campaign by Liz Longhurst reaching its ultimate conclusion. This will potentially lead to the blocking of any pornographic material, which is again subjective, which portrays the threatening of a person's life or which results or is likely to result in serious injury to a person's anus, breasts or genitalia, to say nothing of the ban it also places on apparent necrophilia or bestiality. The Heresiarch noted at the time of the Brand-Ross frenzy that the fragrant Georgina Baillie had appeared in material which could well find itself falling foul of the law and which the Daily Mail had republished. To suggest that the law in this case is nonsensical is perhaps to be too kind; the contradictions and lunacy of banning out and out pornographic material featuring necrophilia, for example, when "art" films such as Visitor Q, which features a man killing and then having sex with the corpse of his victim (although that's not by any means an adequate explanation of what goes on and it is a rather excellent film by the consistently outrageous Takashi Miike), Kissed and Love Me Deadly are considered fine to be seen by those over 18, despite the fact that what one man deems culture another deems beating off material have to literally (or ought to be) be seen to be believed. Who has any confidence whatsoever in the IWF making sensible decisions based on the current performance?

It would be nice to imagine that it ends there. But it doesn't. There are plans to ban drawn material which depicts "abuse" or sex between child and adult, which sounds fair enough, but which is likely to be used not just to ban "lolicon", as such anime-type material is known, but hentai and other anime where the age of those involved is not so obvious. Having therefore made those predisposed to sadomasochistic material potentially breach the law to otherwise further their perfectly legal personal habits, the government seems to wish to criminalise those that enjoy the likes of La Blue Girl (already admittedly banned or heavily cut when submitted to the BBFC) or other fantastical hentai as well. Along with the plans to prosecute those who have sex with prostitutes "controlled by others" with rape, with ignorance not being an excuse, you'd similarly be excused for imagining that the government was determined to diminish sexual freedom as a whole by stealth, all so that one-off campaigners and tabloid newspapers can sleep secure in their beds knowing that perverts aren't masturbating and potentially incubating deviant thoughts which they will subsequently carry out on others. Although whether someone will ever successfully create a tentacle monster remains to be seen.

If this sounds like a slippery slope argument, suggesting that child pornography isn't so bad really honest, then it isn't. It does however come down to whether you think that the likes of the Scorpion album cover is an image of abuse, as the IWF does. If you don't, then you have reason to be concerned not just that an organisation like the IWF which claims to be self-regulating has such a potentially chilling control over the internet in this country, but also that the government seems convinced that far less exploitative imagery must also be banned for all our sakes. Then we won't just that IWF to blame and attack, but ourselves also.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Share |

Friday, October 03, 2008 

Censorship, obscenity and Girls Aloud.

(This post links to offensive material which may well be illegal.)

Since the days of Lady Chatterley's Lover, censorship in this country has become something less of a cause célèbre. This is down in part to changing mores, but also down to the changing of the virulence of the material which some seek to censor. The last real outcry against censorship was during the 1980s video nasties debacle, when films which today look for the most part tame were banned after campaigns led by the ever loathsome tabloid press and Mary Whitehouse, resulting in the Video Recordings Act, and nigh on 16 years of films which upset the sensibilities of the British Board of Film Classification's director James Ferman either being banned or cut to ribbons. Hardcore pornography was only legalised in 2000, long after it had appeared, readily available on the internet. Even today pornography where consenting actors take part in "rough" sex is routinely cut from the DVDs submitted to the BBFC. "Violent" or "extreme" pornography has recently been directly criminalised, mainly as a result of a crusade by the mother of Jane Longhurst, murdered by Graham Coutts, a man allegedly "obsessed" with such pornography. Plans to make illegal drawings of naked children as said to be in the works. Few outside of those who enjoy such material bothered to raise their voices at this latest knee-jerk reaction to a terrible but isolated event.

The written word, as opposed to the moving image, has mostly fallen out of favour as a medium to censor. The biggest threat to it now is not the law, but rather the groups likely to be offended themselves, such as in the case of Random House refusing to publish The Jewel of Medina by Sherry Jones, a novel involving Muhammad's relationship with his youngest wife Aisha, with the publishers who picked up the slack having their offices fire-bombed by three men who have since been charged with plotting to endanger life and damage property. The last notable novel to be banned was Lord Horror by David Britton, a fantastical tale which imagined a post-war Britain in which the Nazis had won. Quite clearly a work which celebrated freedom of thought, and as fiercely anti-fascist as anything ever written by the current jokers who worry themselves silly about Islamic fascism, its ban was thankfully overturned on appeal.

It now seems however that we have an incredibly unlikely similar martyr waiting in the wings. According to reports a 35-year-old civil servant, Darryn Walker, has been charged with publishing an obscene article. His crime is to have imagined the five members of Girls Aloud being kidnapped, raped and murdered. Writing under the pseudonym Blake Sinclair, he submitted a number of stories to Kristen's Collection, an archive of erotic fiction posted on the internet, some of which are still available, including his piece entitled "Girls (Scream) Aloud". In it, in largely tedious, turgid prose, he describes the 5 women being hung on meat-hooks, performing forced fellatio on their kidnapper, and in turn having their legs and breasts sawn off, at times perversely enjoying their torture. Interesting perhaps is that there is another, almost identical story available entitled Pieces of Candy, which imagines a fictitious girl group going through the same degradation. Whether Walker adapted the original after requests or at his own endeavour turned it into describing the real group being killed might be something the court ought to know. Another story by Walker, titled Laura's Execution, involves a teenager being sentenced to death for "pre-emptively resisting rape", with her legs being sawn off the method of execution.

These stories are, to state the obvious, extremely unpleasant. They are however far from unique online. Indeed, the directory in which they are held on Kristen's Archive is entitled "putrid", and there is a warning and additional link to click before they can be accessed. Also contained in the directory are stories, perhaps typically, involving the Nazi concentration camps, one describing the mutilation of Britney Spears, castration, necrophilia, a killer who "grills" his victims while he has sex with them, and the raping and pillaging of a convent by knights, to summarise just a few. The ones by Sinclar, or rather by Walker, are pretty average fair: not horrendously badly written, but disjointed, repetitive, and not really very interesting. Doubtless, it appears, he has something of a leg fetish, but if these are the work of a supposed dangerous mind, it's one that is hopelessly banal. The definition by which the Obscene Publications Act convicts is if the work in question would "tend to deprave and corrupt". His stories are undoubtedly depraved, but are they likely to deprave anyone else, let alone corrupt? I find that incredibly difficult to believe. Offend certainly, with enough content to make someone worry about the writer's state of mind, but not deprave or corrupt.

Mark Stephens claims in the Mail's article that "'I think it is certainly the first fantasy case because nobody has been able to come up with a fantasy so bad before." This is abject nonsense, especially coming from someone supposedly a media lawyer. Far more famous, certainly far better written as well as imaginative is a story which has been floating around since the mid-90s, describing the slow and appalling torture of of all characters, the Pink Power ranger. Described in minute detail, it is far more effective than Walker's efforts, and despite its childish targets, fluently documents very real torture techniques. It too though is hardly likely to deprave or corrupt. This is without even beginning to consider the works of say, the Marquis de Sade, or any erotic fiction which strays from the pleasure principle into physical pain, subjugation, rape and murder.

One instead has to wonder whether this prosecution has been brought purely because of whom it describes being murdered. None of Walker's other works are apparently being thought likely to deprave and/or corrupt, including, it would seem, his story of a fictitious girl group going under the exact same treatment. Is it because he has described a very real band being killed that his work is considered potentially dangerous, or is it that he himself is considered potentially dangerous because of what he has written about the group? It doesn't seem he has attempted to actually contact them, or that he poses any genuine threat to them at all, or such information would likely have been additionally made available. Also of note is that the story was apparently either reported to or found by the Internet Watch Foundation, the body set-up primarily to block access to child pornography, although also within its remit is the blocking of "obscene" material, as well as that thought to be likely to incite racial hatred. It has long been feared that the IWF could potentially move from just removing child pornography to censoring other, far less instantly objectionable content, such as terrorist propaganda, as was seemingly proposed at the beginning of this year. That the body seems to be completely unaccountable is another legitimate cause for concern.

It has to be hoped that Walker will be acquitted of the charges against him. The Obscene Publications Act has long been far too vague a piece of legislation, although the alternatives, such as the Miller test in the United States, are also far from perfect. Fundamentally though, words themselves should almost never be censored; it is not the words that are dangerous, but the potential actions that come from. However warped Walker's fantasies are, they should not be acted upon unless he is likely to act upon them. As there has been no evidence presented, or likely to be presented to suggest this, he is until proven otherwise only the latest person to be victimised for what others decide is beyond the pale. His own words at the beginning of his pieces deserve quoting:

The following is a work of erotic/sadistic fantasy set in a world in which women are disposable sex objects that exist solely for the pleasure of men. It contains themes of extreme sexism, misogyny, torture, rape, mutilation, dismemberment, murder, execution and male supremacy over women. I cannot stress enough that this is STRICTLY FICTITIOUS and in no way reflects my own views or opinions towards women.

Under no circumstances should the violent situations of this story be re-enacted in any way. ALWAYS practice safe sex with consenting partners of a legal age.

The characters in this story are fictitious and any similarities between any persons living or dead are purely coincidental.

If you are easily offended by the themes I have described above then please read no further. If you are unable to differentiate between fantasy and reality and your actions are in any way likely to be influenced by these fictional events then you are not the sort of person that I want reading my work and you should commit suicide before an innocent person gets hurt because of your sick and perverted persuasions.


Hard to disagree with.

Labels: , , , ,

Share |

About

  • This is septicisle
profile

Links

Powered by Blogger
and Blogger Templates