Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Censor Senseless?

Here's my SX column for the week.

Oh, and just an aside: Don't you just want to stick anthrax-laced porcupines into Lleyton Spewitt's mouth? I do. Here's why. Fuckin' infant.


A censorship battle looms again, and again opponents of legitimate artistic expression are quick to launch blind offensives, condemning movies before they’ve had the courtesy to at least watch them first.

This time, the movie in question is Mysterious Skin, the latest work from gay filmmaker Gregg Araki, whose previous works include The Living End, Totally Fucked Up and The Doom Generation. Mysterious Skin tells the story of two youths coming to terms with sexual assault at the hands of their baseball coach.

Everybody’s favourite anti-queer lobby group, the Australian Family Association (who, incidentally, never lobby on behalf of two-mum, two-dad or single parent families, to name a few), are basing their desire to have this film banned on the bizarre notion that “being able to get hold legally of a DVD where (potential paedophiles) can play the scene (of the coach fellating an eight-year-old boy) over and over again…could prove very helpful to some paedophiles”. This is despite the fact that the film has initially earned its R18+ rating because the Office of Film and Literature Classification concluded that “the film takes the victims' viewpoint and presents the dark and bleak nature of the abuse to which they are subjected, and the resulting impact on their lives”.

It would appear, however, that the OFLC’s judgment is not enough for our federal government, with Attorney-General Philip Ruddock seeking to review the film’s R rating after his South Australian (and, sadly, ALP) counterpart, Michael Atkinson, contacted him having himself been lobbied by the AFA and the Festival of Light, SA’s answer to Fred Nile’s Christian Democrats.

And this is how the current political climate for a battle between artistic freedom and censorship varies from previous battles: our government is now, perhaps more than ever, willing to listen to, work on behalf of and appease ultra-right fringe groups who speak only for a tiny minority of extremist, “Christian” wowsers. Even though our Prime Minister is on record saying he doesn’t believe governments should ever act too much as a “nanny” to its citizens, as always his actions and those of his government stand in stark contrast to his own words.

Paedophilia is of course reprehensible and any film that may proport to legitimise abuse of minors as a valid sexual expression should be strongly resisted. However, one must wonder how the AFA could have determined the malevolent intent of the filmmakers to provide a “how-to” manual for paedophiles, based solely on reading a synopsis of the film.

It is more likely Mysterious Skin came to the attention of the AFA because it was directed by a gay man whose previous films have been confrontational and provocative on the subject of homosexuality, and as such lobbyists often believe paedophilia is synonymous with homosexuality, they have automatically assumed queer filmmakers like Araki will condone or even endorse paedophila in any film they may make where this is a major theme. For shame.

5 Comments:

At 19/7/05 6:43 pm, Anonymous Harley said...

"Paedophilia is of course reprehensible and any film that may proport to legitimise abuse of minors as a valid sexual expression should be strongly resisted."

I strongly disagree. Glowing depiction of paedophilia and adult-child relations has a place in valid and legitimate art.

Most obvious example at hand would be the Running with Scissors movie currently in production. The mind of a child legitimises the relations for a variety of reasons; the one most comfortable to the audience being self-preservation. If the film doesn't positively depict the child in control and enjoying the experience, then it will have failed to translate what was perhaps the most enduring (if not resonating) sentiment of the book on which it is based. The fact that the book remained in on the NYT best seller list for months suggests that the public doesn't have a problem with positive portrayals of paedophilia, at least in this context.

I have doubts, however, that the public would be quite so sympathic to defying the scenarios depicted in either film as art, had they been depicted from the adult's perspective. But that is merely the hypocritical world in which the battle between censorship and free speech wages.

"...based solely on reading a synopsis of the film."

Like the origins of all great debate :-)

 
At 20/7/05 9:56 am, Blogger Sam said...

I take the point, although there is of course mass debate to be had on what constitutes "valid and legitimate art". I don't know extended periods on the NYT bestseller list necessarily qualifies this.

 
At 20/7/05 2:15 pm, Blogger Zoe said...

In fact you could say, Sam, it argues against it.

Exhibit 1: The Da Vinci Code

 
At 22/7/05 12:35 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

“being able to get hold legally of a DVD where (potential paedophiles) can play the scene (of the coach fellating an eight-year-old boy) over and over again…could prove very helpful to some paedophiles”.

Have the film's opponents not heard of the internet? Regardless of whether the film is banned or reclassified, if paedophiles really want a copy of the DVD I am sure they could find it on Ebay.

 
At 24/7/05 11:23 pm, Anonymous maddy said...

Good post, valid points all :)

 

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