Monday, 14 January 2008

Line-drawing & Censorship

"It should be obvious by now, to anyone who cares, that the principle of free speech is being gradually eroded in the West" - Fabian Tassano (Link)
"The ethos of making pain, suffering and torture acceptable entertainment isn't confined to the more obviously shocking horror movies." - Fabian Tassano (Link)
In my review of Fabian Tassano's intriguing work of political satire, 'Mediocracy' (Link), I wrote that "On-screen violence...seems to be a particular Tassano hot button". This post is intended to expand upon that remark, and explain why I felt the repeated raising of this issue in the book seemed rather strange to me.

Tassano does present a logical argument for criticising screen violence under the mediocracy banner (see this post at Inversions & Deceptions). However, it seems to me rather a stretch to talk about Quentin Tarantino and Rob Zombie as though they are part of a collectivist ideological hegemony*. Sadistic horror films have been around at least since the 1970s (Link) - the difference was that back then such films were banned by the BBFC. Film censorship has been almost entirely liberalised since then.

The consequence of this has been that more such films have been made. There is little commercial impetus to make a violent horror film if it is almost certainly going to be banned! Now, to a degree this brings us back full circle, only now we are considering the motivations of those behind the relaxation of censorship guidelines. That's an interesting discussion to have, but it doesn't detract from the point made here that there is an audience demand for these films.

So you might consider what gives rise to this demand. In the context of what is more generally an individualist libertarian polemic, it is incongruent to suggest that the clear (if niche) appeal of films like The Devil's Rejects (Link) is a product of some kind of social conditioning. So what is left is that, for one reason or another people enjoy watching such scenes, enough to motivate their making from a purely market-based perspective.

Fabio,
Do you believe that censorship guidelines should be tightened again to stop violent horror films reaching the mass market? A lot of people would say yes, but it seems an unlikely argument for someone who would write a post like this defending the principle of free speech to make.
Do you condemn other individuals for choosing to watch such films, even though they clearly enjoy them and are not harming anyone else by doing so? If so, why? Why do you raise this issue when it doesn't add to your argument and makes you appear rather judgmental towards a (loose) group of people who are not like yourself?**


* For those familiar with 'Mediocracy', here I am using these words in their original, not 'mediocratic' senses.
** This may seem a rather trivial issue to get worked up about. However, similar attitudes are currently threatening to bring about the passing of an exceptionally unjust law in the UK. See here for more details.

7 comments:

Saltburn subversives said...

I doubt whether a return to censorship could be seriously advocated.
Brutalisation of the population is a part of the new elite's pseudo-rebellion against bourgeois values. Convincing people they are no better than animals is to make them easier to control.
For another related view see here
http://awolcivilization.com/?p=4

Peter Horne

QT said...

Sorry I'm not convinced. I covered this kind of argument in the post. Are you really telling me that the likes of Rob Zombie are part of the "new elite"? This just seems to me like an attempt at intellectual justification for moralistic preaching.

Fabian Tassano said...

"Fabio, do you believe that censorship guidelines should be tightened again to stop violent horror films reaching the mass market?"
No. Though why bother to have censorship at all if you're going to let this stuff through?

"Do you condemn other individuals for choosing to watch such films, even though they clearly enjoy them and are not harming anyone else by doing so?"
I don't condemn them, but they probably wouldn't be the kind of people I'd socialise with, and I might caution them against watching too much of that kind of stuff as it probably seriously rots the brain. I also wonder whether some of them really 'enjoy' it or just feel they ought to.

"Why do you raise this issue when it doesn't add to your argument"
Which argument?

"... and makes you appear rather judgmental towards a (loose) group of people who are not like yourself?"
If I'm judgmental of anything, it's the ethos which makes it seem trendy and radical to show torture and degradation, and not just in movies. If people have a taste for that kind of thing, okay, but I don't see why it has to be passed off as art.

regards
Fabian

Saltburn subversives said...

Rob Zombie is indeed a member of the elite, in fact as an "artist" he fulfills all of the criteria. see Nick Cohen here

http://observer.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,2224658,00.html

He's got rich by brutalising the masses, what could br better.

Peter Horne

PS No-one's doing any preaching. There's nothing religious or preachy about being repelled by extreme violence.

QT said...

Did you link to the right article? That piece is entirely irrelevant to this discussion.

Saltburn subversives said...

Ha!
The article is about what Cohen calls the
"moral blindness of the intelligentsia,"and the pseudo-rebellion of so-called artists like Wallinger (or film-makers like Rob Zombie), rebelling against a mostly imaginary establishment whilst in truth, they are the establishment.

Peter Horne

Dorothea said...

For those who believe in that misnomer "the free market" it would seem to be tricky to draw any kind of line whereby individual freedom is restricted, so long as other individuals rights are not infringed.

Strangely, however, many of them appear to have their little blind spots.