I find there something pleasantly soothing about the BBFC, which is quite odd for something that is essentially a tool of censorship, or at least historically has been. Partly, I believe, this is because it has quite a large role in quelling moral panics. At least one ongoing debate I idly follow presses upon them quite often.
Basically, the board give age ratings to films that are going to be released or sold in the UK. They view all films looking for publication or showing, and decide roughly how likely to corrupt the youth of today, or the average citizen, and decide if its okay or not. Interestingly, they also do it with computer games, though I’m sure they can’t be playing every video game, so I wonder if they only bother with the ones that are likely to be controversial.
They’ve come up a few times recently because they barred some films from being shown here until they were edited of certain scenes (I’m thinking of the second Human caterpillar film, although, frankly, I’d rather not be). They are also constantly (and quite rightly) used by gamers in defence of pundits saying that violent video games cause violence in children. Essentially, the argument often boils down to ‘this will make children kill people’ versus ‘then read the fucking label that says 18 on it and don’t give it to your children’.
Of course, there are plenty of violent games not gory or realistic enough to get this rating, and then, there’s plenty of evidence that children know how to draw a line between fantasy and reality, but that’s probably another debate.
Except maybe it isn’t, as the question here, is is the BBFC worth it.
I reckon it kind of depends on whether you believe in the corruptibility of children and/or adults.
And also, whether institutions should be deciding that stuff for you.
I kind of feel a warm feeling for the BBFC. They let Life of Brian get a rating despite huge pressure not to, although this was then overruled by 39 local councils. The only thing I’ve heard of them banning in a long time was the aforementioned film about non-consensual coprophilia, which seems a pretty valid assessment of a horribly exploitative film with few to no redeeming qualities.
Even Clockwork Orange was actually let through, although Kubrick himself decided it wasn’t a good idea, and withdrew it from circulation.
A question remains about whether it’s worthwhile, particularly when it’s ignored most of the time. I’m pretty sure that every early teen school child starts showing off about how early they started seeing 18 rated films. I certainly did, and I generally consider myself only 40% damaged, with no idea what proportion of that is due to watching Alien when I was too young to have a clue what was going on.
I don’t think it matters that much, but it’s good to have guidance and obstacles. I think there’s something pleasant about such a liberally archaic organ of ‘censorship’.
Illustration by Jaime