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Sex, violence and smoking.

Have you ever seen 'the House of 1000 Corpses'? It's not something any responsible adult would let a child watch - not unless said adult is fond of sitting up all night changing sheets and comforting nightmare-ridden infants. How about 'Hostel'? Even as an afficionado of horror films, that one made me wince. There's no way I'd want to be responsible for any child seeing that film.

I don't believe all the 'permanent psychological damage' claptrap. In real life, kids see things that scare them all the time. Sometimes they might get nightmares about spiders and wasps and imaginary monsters under the bed. So I don't believe any child watching horror films will grow up to become Freddy Kruger or Jason Voorhees. I do believe they'll have a few rough nights for a time, depending on how vivid their imaginations are and how sensitive they are. By the time they reach 18, or perhaps 16, they are old enough to decide for themselves what they want to watch and what they'd rather not watch. I know people who are approaching fifty, who won't watch horror films. They don't like them, so they don't watch them. It really is that simple.

Others won't watch films with blatant sexual images. As adults, they are entitled to make that decision and nobody forces them to watch films they don't want to see. Even if it's on TV, well there are a lot of channels now. It's not like they have to choose between BBC1, BBC2 and a single independent channel any more. If you're phoning in to complain about something, I want to know why you watched it. Was it solely to find something to complain about?

I'd agree with age restrictions on watching violence and sex on film, although that still leaves the argument of what age is appropriate. I'd say if you can join the army at 16, then you're an adult and everything should be open to you. After all, what could be more traumatic than watching your friends being blown apart before your eyes? It makes TV violence pale into insignificance, doesn't it?

Below that age, it's up to the parents to take responsibility. Nobody else. The parents are those who are wholly and exclusively responsible for the children they bring into the world and should they decide to harm those children, they must accept responsibility for that too. If they allowed their four-year-old to watch 'Hellraiser' and he now wakes up screaming every night, that is the parents' fault, not the film makers'. It's pretty clear from the cover what that film's about. There should not be calls to ban the film, there should be calls to explain to those parents why they are idiots.

Now, Liverpool's resident Righteous want to restrict films that show people smoking. That would include Watchmen, which is already an 18 so won't be affected. It also includes all the Marx Brothers' films, most of Laurel and Hardy, as well as 101 Dalmatians, Peter Pan, and Pinnochio. In other words, the kids will only get to see sanitised films with no sex, violence, smoking, and soon nobody eating hamburgers or wearing anything above a 32-inch waist or drinking beer or even fizzy pop or eating sweets or... anything at all. I don't think even Enid Blyton could get past that lot.

Well, I didn't start smoking until I was 21. So all those Marx brothers films had no effect on me as a child. The sight of Stan Laurel using his hand as a pipe didn't start me. Cruella deVille didn't force me out to get 20 Benson's. Jiminy Cricket's stubby cigar went unnoticed. In short, I didn't start smoking because of anything I saw on TV, nor because my friends smoked (none did, and few do even now). I started because I thought I'd give it a try (my choice) and decided I quite liked it. My choice throughout. The cough I wake up with some mornings is my responsibility. Nobody else is to blame. I'm not going to sue tobacco companies for selling something I chose to buy.

The concept of choice is lost on the Righteous. You find articles in New Scientist telling you that the only reason smokers don't quit is because they can't. The concept that many might not want to quit goes over their heads. People don't choose, everything in life is forced upon them and they must be saved from themselves. If they accept the concept of choice, then it's the wrong choice because it's not the one they would have made. Personal morality for all. Everyone thinks, speaks and acts the same, within tight Righteous-contolled guidelines. That's what they want for us all. Whether we want it or not is immaterial because we can't be trusted to make the 'right' choices. It's not your life you're living. You are only loaned life by the Righteous and they will ensure you don't deviate from the manual.

It does make a mockery of all this Righteous control when we have the recent release of the names of those who tortured a child to death, names everyone knew already, names of people who were under the gaze of the social services and the medical profession, none of whom managed to spot that the child's back was broken and that he had been systematicaly abused over a long period - then we have outcry because children 'might see someone smoking'. Priorities, people. These authorities claim they can't look after abused children because they are overstretched, yet they have time to wonder whether Cruella deVille's fifty-a-day habit might make a child think 'Hey, I could be just like that skeletal ugly cartoon lady if I had a cigarette, a four-foot holder, a mean streak and anorexia'. Oh, that's right, she's very thin. She'll encourage anorexia too. Go on, Righteous, I dare you.

In order to better reach a decision, Liverpool City Council has given the public their say with a public consultation exercise on its website.

And will they accept the opinion of those affected, the under-18s? Or will this be a consultation led by people who won't be affected at all by this ruling, and so don't much care either way? Compare with the adult-only screenings of films because a 'focus group' decided that under-18s all disrupt cinema audiences. Yes, because a few are a nuisance, they all have to go. With that, the adults are likely to say 'Yes, keep them out' and it will have nothing to do with smoking and everything to do with selfishness.

As for this:

Results published in 2003 by Dartmouth Medical School, New Hampshire, concluded that "youngsters who watch films in which actors are seen smoking are three times as likely to start themselves".

How? How did they find youngsters who had never seen any smoking at all in any films? Most cartoons have one or two cigar-chomping characters. Even Tom and Jerry have smoked. Popeye was never without his pipe (for which he has already been censured). There are few smoke-free films even now, and in 2003 you would have been hard pressed to find many. This would have had to be a long-term study too, which ended before 2003, so we're going back way beyond any smoking bans and Righteous howls. The entire premise looks dodgy to me.

Whatever the result, the new policy would be well received by medical authorities.

Whatever the result? I doubt they'd be pleased if it wasn't the result they want. So I have a suspicon the result is already in, and the 'public consultation' is just another sham. It wouldn't be the first.

Last year, the British Medical Association said: "Films that show smoking in a way that condones, encourages or glamorises the activity should be considered for reclassification."

When did the British Board of Film Censors merge with the BMA? Does anyone know?

This is why our childcare is a disaster. They are spending time worrying about minor matters in films instead of catching abusers. This is why our medical establishment is a mess. They, too, are messing about with matters that are outside their remit while patients catch new and exotic diseases in their hospitals.

I'd like to see film censors issue condemning articles on childcare and hospitals. See how they like it.

Go on, BBFC. I'll even write the press releases for you.
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( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
13th Aug, 2009 16:27 (UTC)
"I'd agree with age restrictions on watching violence and sex on film..."

Me too. But I think 28 is too old, even if this chap had wanted 'Hostel' instead of 'Firehouse Dog':


JuliaM (http://thylacosmilus.blogspot.com/)
13th Aug, 2009 21:11 (UTC)
Reading the comments on that article, there's a lot of it about.

I never get asked for ID which I find grossly insulting. Can I get compo for hurt feelings? That might stir the pot a bit.

Although, lately the effects of demonising smokers has become more apparent. Shopkeepers who are happy to banter while I buy whisky and groceries will freeze as soon as I ask for tobaccos. It's like 'Oh, I didn't realise you were one of those'.

Smokophobic, I think is the term. What would be the equivalent to 'racist'? Tobacconist? No, there used to be shops called that. Which reminds me of something else.

Has anyone seen any homebrew kits in the shops lately? Supermarkets used to stock them and anyone could buy them. Since they contained no alcohol as bought, they weren't taxed, licensed or restricted at all.

I don't recall their disappearance, nor do I remember when all the tobacconists vanished. One day, I might be wondering whatever happened to chip shops and burger bars.
14th Aug, 2009 04:48 (UTC)
Yes, I remember seeing homebrew kits just a few years ago too. Hadn't realised until now that I haven't seen any for a while...

JuliaM (http://thylacosmilus.blogspot.com/)
14th Aug, 2009 09:11 (UTC)
Boot's stopped selling homebrew some time ago, but Morrisons and LLoyd's chemists still sell kits in certain stores. You can get kits from Wilko certainly, as well as the specialist stores. Lot's more people taking the hobby up these days I'm told.

Moriarty (currently making blackberry wine, estimated cost £2 per gallon)
13th Aug, 2009 16:40 (UTC)
Will they be restricting gambling movies? Cowboy movies? Violent cartoons (Tom & Jerry)? Films not depicting blacks? Religious movies?

If their bid is successful, how soon before they ban the sale of such DVDs and demonise parents who own them? Perhaps fine them when snoopers visit to check for conservatories and pleasant views?

Most Liverpudlians smoke, so I guess the majority of Liverpudlians' viewing can now be dictated to them. Perhaps that's the idea.

After all, they could control the pub habits of nearly half the population, resulting in a mass closure of pubs - which the Scottish Mafia apparently don't care for.
13th Aug, 2009 19:07 (UTC)
Don't forget they are fitting spy cameras in houses now. How dare you show Tom and Jerry?
13th Aug, 2009 21:18 (UTC)
Tom and Jerry were sanitised a long time ago. Popeye has been slammed for smoking (not for the sexual harassment of Olive Oyl by Bluto, kidnap with intent to rape, abuse of the baby 'Swee'Pea', overall massive levels of violence and the wanton consumption of spinach). Just for smoking.

As JuliaM pointed out above, the age to buy PG videos is creeping up and already exceeds the age of a bank manager. If he'd tried to buy an 18 the shutters would have come down and armed guards would have escorted him from the premises.

So those scary films will have to be delivered to you in plain wrappers soon, emblazoned with the company logo 'Violent Lunatic Supplies', 'Porno Filth Inc' or 'Satanic Smokers Enterprises'.

'Snuff' movies will be replaced with 'Ashtray' movies and schoolkids will speak in hushed tones of rumours that the actors weren't faking, that was real tobacco they were smoking.

A ridiculous scenario, but unfortunately not an entirely unlikely one.
13th Aug, 2009 18:28 (UTC)
There are always someone worse...
Well, Norway and Sweden are soon putting images like these on cigarette packages:


I never felt an stronger urge to start smoking...
13th Aug, 2009 21:21 (UTC)
Re: There are always someone worse...
The tobacco companies will love that. They aren't allowed to advertise to children so the government will do it for them.

Soon we'll have plain grey packs for all tobacco apart from the horror pics. Manufacturers will compete for the most gruesome pics because teenagers, filled with hormones and macho, will want to smoke the ones with the most horrible image on the packet.

Hark, I hear the sound of more Righteous backfiring.
13th Aug, 2009 21:57 (UTC)
Hey, let's ban all films showing people drinking tea and/or coffee - after all, most heroin and crack users would have started down the slippery slope of drug addiction by using one or both of those.
13th Aug, 2009 22:40 (UTC)
Sex, Violence and Smoking
I agree with you 100% that these bans are already decided before there is ever any mention of consultation. Who do they "consult" anyway and don't they just ignore any consultation results they don't like or wish to hear?
14th Aug, 2009 02:47 (UTC)
some bloke, righteous backfiring
Nothing new there, one of the reasons I started smoking underage was because it was a bit illegal and a right of passage was to get served alcohol before your mates did.
I belive that Disney have been voluntarily censoring their back catalogue for some years but it is well known that some film makers routinly add a bit of gratuitous or irrelevant sex or violence just to ensure that their film gets an 18 cert so as to appeal to teenagers. Just as Ali Gs Bruno had a 15 cert version for the teens to avoid like the plague.

I personally avoid torture porn though the only thing that ever gave me nightmares as a child was Lon Chaney.
14th Aug, 2009 04:37 (UTC)
I'd agree with age restrictions on watching violence and sex on film, although that still leaves the argument of what age is appropriate.

And there's the big problem with age restrictions: you're restricting on the basis of age rather than maturity. Set the limit too low and you inevitably exclude mature young people for no reason, but set it too high and you allow access to many young people before they're ready. And if you try to take the middle line and set it in the middle somewhere all you achieve is that there will definitely be a fair amount of both. Besides, the whole idea of age limits depends on the belief that someone who is too young at 11:59 pm the day before the relevant birthday is miraculously old enough 61 seconds later. I think everyone would agree that there are lots of things that children shouldn't be introduced to until they're old enough but age limits are such a crude device that they really do next to nothing to help achieve this, and might even be counter productive if it means parents/guardians stop taking responsibility and assume that age limits will take care of difficult decisions for them.
14th Aug, 2009 15:50 (UTC)
It is a problem, yes, but at some point you need to find a way to set a distinct point where 'child' becomes 'adult'. As it is, you're adult enough to join the army, marry and have sex at 16, but you can't learn to drive until you're 17, you can't smoke or visit a pub or watch a sex film until you're 18, you can't buy booze in a supermarket until you're 21.

I wonder if the reason many adults act like children is that they can't tell when society has deemed them adult.

Then again, some are mature at 16, some not until 18, some at 21, and some never. What test can we apply that will work for everyone and determine 'adulthood'? As it stands, all we can do is define an age and say 'That's it, childhood is over. From now on it's all your own responsibility.' There is no age we can define that will suit everyone. I just think it would be better to have one single age rather than the random allowances at various stages we have at the moment. What that age should be, I can't say.

There is no easy answer to this, and if anyone can think of a solution, great. But I doubt it'll be me.
14th Aug, 2009 18:10 (UTC)
I think age restrictions should all be standardised with everything at 18. Your 18th is always traditionally associated with "coming of age", so make it legal. Everything is black and white then.

Oh, and a common misconception about age limits of the Army. You can join at 16, but are still considered a Junior Soldier, or Apprentice and you cannot serve in a adult unit until 17 1/2. At least, that was the case when I joined in 1989 at 16. May of changed now, of course.
15th Aug, 2009 00:04 (UTC)
The only way I'd ever be useful to the Army is if I fit in the barrel of an artillery cannon, so I've never been in.

If you were to put the Army limit for 'real' (ie actually dangerous) service to 18, and match everything to that, I'd go along with it. You could still have apprenticeships in trade jobs at 16, graduating to fully qualified (adult) worker at 18.

I think that kids might be more inclined to 'grow up' if they had a clear idea of when that actually happened. As it is, they grow up piecemeal and have no idea when they're supposed to be fully adult.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )