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.