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Wednesday, 15 January 2014

The Daily Fail Does It Again! The BBFC And Bad Language!

Hello Again, Everyone,

Yesterday, Tuesday 14th January 2014, the Daily Mail had the following article on its front page. The article by Paul Bentley and Laura Cox, was another in a long line of embarrassingly poor "articles", compiled by journo's who know nothing about what they talk of, and riddle the piece with lies and deception, to force their own blinkered view through to their readers.

As I have done on previous occasions, I'm going to type out the article in full (from the front-cover and Page 6 of the same day's issue), and then dissect it, in my own, inimitable style. As you will soon see, the article is a joke. My comments, are in italics surrounded with brackets.

Subheadline: Children can see films full of obscenities as censors relax rules.

Children as young as 15 are to be allowed to watch films filled with obscene language. (No, they can't do anything of the sort, and no, the censors aren't relaxing guidelines either. The BBFC is merely updating its guidelines on bad language in films, in line with new 2014 Guidelines, which have now been published  here  for everyone to see, AFTER public consultation, I might add. Secondly, at 15, children aren't young. They are teenagers - you know, not really children, not quite adults. Thirdly, a fair amount of swearing has been allowed in 15 certificate films for a long time now. It isn't something new, that the BBFC have suddenly decided to allow!)

Swear words are now so 'common-place' among teenagers that age ratings willl be relaxed, censors said yesterday. (Swearing isn't new. In fact, it's as old as time itself. Every teenager, for the past 50 to 75 years, has probably learnt language and/or words, that their parents disapproved of. It's known as colloquial language. Every generation has done it, and every generation will continue to do it. It's not something new. And again, the BBFC said nothing of the sort. What they did do, was announced revised quidelines on bad language in films, across the board from a U certificate, upto and including 18-rated films.)

The British Board of Film Classification claims parents accept it is 'game over' when protecting their children from bad language. (No, the BBFC didn't claim that at all. Parents have simply said that trying to stop children hearing bad language, is an almost impossible duty, because bad language is everywhere, in all mediums from TV and films, through to friends, family and people they see in the street. The BBFC Public Consultation Findings, which you can access  here  state that: "parents recognise that they face a challenge in terms of their ability to control what their children watch, from the age of 15".)

Under the new rules, even 12-year-olds could potentially be exposed to more profanities. (And the key words there, are "could" and "potentially".) Children's charities, parents groups and politicians reacted angrily to the move, which they said amounted to a free-for-all. "It is truly outrageous - parents and children are being let down by a regulator who is no longer interested in regulating" said Pippa Smith, of the charity Safermedia. (No, Daily Mail, children's charities, parents groups and politicians did NOT react angrily to the move. One individual spokesperson, for one specific pro-censorship lobbying-group, that the Daily Mail is actively supporting reacted angrily. The rest of the world, just got on with life, as per normal!)

Margaret Morrissey, of the family group Parents Outloud, asked: "If no standards are set by adults, what chance do our children have of being polite and decent grown-ups and parents?" (Yes, exactly. If parents don't parent their kids, and expect society and other outlets to parent their kids for them, then why should we expect kids not to turn-out badly behaved little shits?! So, in fact, what Margaret Morrissey is actually saying is "Parents: do your fucking job, and don't expect everyone else to do it for you, e.g. organisations like Ofcom, the BBFC, or Safermedia"! Hmmm... no wonder the Daily Mail print that translation in their article, as it doesn't chime with what they want you to believe!)

Updating its guidance for cinema films and DVD's, the BBFC said from February 24 it would be 'more flexible about allowing very strong language at 15'. (Yes, more flexible. That's not the same as the Daily Mail hearing "The BBFC are going to allow lots and lots and lots of very explicit language into 15-rated films for cinema and home-viewing!")

An accompanying report insisted there was evidence of a softening of attitudes towards the most offensive words, 'especially among younger respondants'. (That is true. Youngsters, and by youngsters, I mean 12-15 year olds, don't see swearing in the same way, that many adults do. Swearing to them, is just part of everyday, ordinary vernacular. Whether that's a good or a bad thing, however, is a different matter altogether, but the Daily Mail has deliberately blurred the two issues into one, and extrapolated the one meaning it wants you to believe, as being the one that was actually quoted - which isn't true, and reeks of lazy, tabloid hack journalism.)

The board's (subtle inferrance from the Daily Mail there, that the BBFC don't warrant being named by their proper title, with a capital letter "B", thus implying they are somehow unworthy of the reader's respect. Poor show, Daily Mail! Very poor show!) researchers sought the opinions of 10,000 people including, for the first time, 1040 children aged 13 to 18. (Thirteen-to-eighteen year olds are NOT children! Please learn this, Daily Mail! At 16, you can have sex, join the army, and get married with parental approval. At 18, you can go into armed combat, and fight for your country! These are not kids!)

Previously, films classified as suitable for 15-year-olds were not permitted to 'endorse discriminatory language or behaviour'. (That's not technically true. Discriminatory language and behaviour was allowed within 15-rated films, provided such language and behaviour was justified and contextualised. That is, it had to be under certain, very limited parameters, and had to be under certain situations that were age-appropriate. A good example, would be the current cinema release 12 YEARS A SLAVE (2013, Steve McQueen), which deals with the slave trade and racism in Africa and America. That film contains discriminatory, racist language, but is contextualised for the scenario and storyline that it is about. Thus, it is justified, and can be given a 15-certificate, as it is an appropriate subject matter for a film, for 15-year olds and over, to be viewing!)

While strong language was banned, (no, it wasn't. It was merely restricted and had to be "contextualised and justified" to be passed at 15) 'aggressive or repeated use of the strongest language' was unlikely to be allowed. (Exactly! So, what's the problem here?)

Now, however, the guidance states that 'there may be racist, homophobic or other discriminatory themes and language'. (And again, the keyword there is "may" include such language. Which to my mind, is perfectly acceptable, under certain contexts, such as in films about homophobic bullying, the Slave Trade, or in World War II films such as SAVING PRIVATE RYAN or SCHINDLER'S LIST, which deal with historical events and people.) It adds that very strong language may be permitted depending on the context. (Which goes against the thrust of the article!)

It said: 'Reluctantly, parents were accepting that there have been shifts in language in recent years and awareness and use of the word f*** in particular, is almost commonplace, even for primary school children. (We can't print the word fuck, lest our readers get offended! As for parents reluctantly accepting anything, I would have thought that's par for the course. Language evolves. What was offensive 20 years ago, may seem very tame by modern-day standards. But isn't that the entire point? We evolve, and thus what was censored before, may no longer need to be? As for the whole assertion that the word "fuck" is used by primary-school children, that's highly unlikely, though not entirely implausible. However, as primary-school years are from children as young as 4 through to 11 year olds, I would expect to see children aged 9-11 years, having heard of the f-word. I certainly knew of it by that age!)

'Even if their own children are not using language at home, parents are aware that it has become an accepted part of young people's lives and its use in the school playground as well as with social media, mobile phones and the internet is widespread. It said that especially among young boys of 14 and 15 years (that's not a young boy!) the c-word was 'seen to be part of their vernacular'. (Certainly in Scotland, the word "cunt" can be used as a term of endearment, in some areas. It's very dependant on who uses it, at what time, and with whom. Ken Loach certainly knows about this issue, as his 2012 film THE ANGEL'S SHARE had its language reduced to gain the 15 certificate for cinemas, but was passed uncut with all the strong language intact, but at the higher 18-certificate classification, for home viewing.)

Films rated 12A - which can be viewed by younger children if accompanied by an adult (Not technically true. The under-12 person can view the film in a cinema, with parental accompaniment, not just any random adult who accompanies the minor! Most UK Cinemas do check this, and will - and have - tested the adult accompanying the child, to verify they are who they claim to be. If in doubt, many UK cinemas won't allow the under-12 patron into the film, if they aren't satisfied that the adult is the parent of that child!) have always allowed 'moderate language' and 'infrequent strong language'. (That is true, although strong language used to be no more than one use of the word "fuck", and the c-word was verboten. Nowadays, two or three uses of "fuck" is accepted, under certain very limited conditions, and the word cannot be used against another character, or in an aggressive manner. With that said, the words "motherfucker" or other derivatives of the f-word, are generally not acceptable in a 12A rated film, no matter what the circumstances or context. The only probably exception, would be if the film was a documentary, and/or the offensive language was the only problematic issue in the entire film, i.e. that there was no violence, sexual material, or other uses of bad language at all. Then, and only then, might one use of the word "motherfucker" be acceptable, but that is almost unheard of, as far as I am aware in the history of the BBFC and the 12A or 12 certificate classification usage.)

Now guidance states that 'strong language may be permitted' even if frequent, with certain conditions on whether it is justified by its context. (So, no, frequent use of strong language generally will NOT be permitted in films with a 12A rating, no matter what the Daily Mail would like you to believe!)

The research report accompanying the guidance states: 'By aged 15, most parents argued that it was "game over" and they could no longer control their child's viewing. (Well, actually, a good parent, would be able to have some control over what their teenagers watch, but that does depend on how well the parent does their job overall. However, in theory, yes, by the age of 15, most teenagers will generally get to see what they want, irrespective of what their parents may dictate. Certainly, these days, it's easeir for teenagers to see things that 10, 15, 20 years ago, would have been all but impossible, due to the access of the Internet. But then, if you are a parent who lets your child have total and unregulated access to the Internet, then you are really not doing you job in the first place, are you?!)

The shock value of bad language is felt to be diminishing with each generation. But last night Phillip Davies, a Tory MP (who is the Conservative MP for Shipley; is a serving member of the Culture, Media and Sports Select Committee; and is a Parliamentary Spokesperson for the Campaign Against Political Correctness, I might add), said: 'This reflects the general decline in good behavioural standards'. (You mean, the good behavioural standards that so many British MP's follow, such as claiming for expenses, during the Expenses Scandal - see previous blog articles on this subject - or lying on video - see  here  - or perverting the course of justice, like Chris Huhne did, when he lied to try and get himself out of a speeding ticket - see here? You mean, those types of good behavioural standards?!)

'It makes children think it's perfectly normal and reasonable to use bad language. I would rather they weren't exposed to even worse levels of swearing. (Then you may want to have a look at rap music, from artists such as Eminem, or The RZA, or Dr Dre, and see what kids of today are exposed too, because - trust me - the lyrics make many 12A and 15 rated films seem like paragons-of-virtue by comparison.)

'They are still children at 15 (well, that's debateable) and are already exposed to things in films at a younger age that I would care for them to be exposed to. (So you'd prefer to keep kids wrapped-up in cotton-wool, forever, and then at 18, unleash them into the world, and see how far they got? That doesn't sound very sensible to me. Ultimately, this comes down to responsible and decent parenting. If you have children, they are your responsibility, not the rest of society's.) I would like them to think that people would want to bring up their children to know that that isn't acceptable. (Again, whether swearing is or is not acceptable, is another debate for another day.)

Mrs Smith added: 'Everyone except the BBFC and broadcast media knows children will copy the swearing they hear. Films make it cool. We dread to think what this latest announcement will mean for films deemed acceptable by the BBFC - an industry-funded body - for our children.' (The BBFC is not funded by film studios, but are ultimately funded through the fees they charge for classification. They are wholly independent from government and/or film studios, producers or film-makers, who have no sway over how the BBFC operate. If anything, the BBFC is one of the most accountable and open classification organisations in the world! As for Mrs Smith's assertion that children will copy swearing, again, that depends on parenting. I swear a lot, but I didn't copy it from my parents or siblings, who rarely swear at all.)

Vivienne Pattison of Mediawatch (an organisation who want more censorship on TV, and are a pro-censorship lobbying group anyway) said: 'Swearing is not tolerated anywhere else in life - kids can't do it at school, you can't do it in public. So it quite extraordinary that they're just saying "Well, it's a free-for-all in 15-rated films". There is this idea that you just have to accept obscene language because we've got an evolving contemporary society and that's just how it is. But, actually, no, we don't.' (Except society is constantly evolving, as I mentioned earlier on, and swearing is tolerated in many places - to varying degress, mind you. And no one is saying it's a "free-for-all" when it comes to swearing in 15-rated films, except you Ms Pattison, and the hacks at the Daily Mail.) Mrs Morrrissey said: 'Films and internet have done much to lower the tone and values of society. We must remember young adults are the next generation of young parents.' (But films haven't lowered the tone or values of society, nor has the internet. The only people who "lower the tone" are the people themselves. And that includes the people in charge of us, like government ministers, the police, heads of state, the Church, and other religious organisations - and to be frank - many of them are hardly embodiments of wholesome goodness!)

The new guidelines offer a subtle but significant shift - stating discriminatory language is 'unlikely' to be acceptable and that dangerous behaviour 'must be clearly disapproved' of, if shown. (Yet, the shift, is merely that: a tiny shifting of boundaries. It's not an absolute. It's not a definite shifting of the goalposts. The BBFC are merely saying things may change, not will change.)

There will be a crackdown, however, on words such as "crap" which parents complained about hearing in films, including the animated feature THE PIRATES! IN AN ADVENTURE WITH SCIENTISTS! (2012, Peter Lord and Jeff Newitt). (That is true. There were some complaints, but then that is one, relatively minor rude word, in an 80-minute movie, that - to be fair to Aardman Animations who made the film - didn't exactly break any real taboos. They're not the first kids film to included minor bad language, or minor scenes of violence. You only need look at films like the animated ANIMAL FARM (1954, John Halas and Joy Batchelor) or WATERSHIP DOWN (1978, Martin Rosen), both of which are aimed at children, and contain scenes of animal-on-animal violence with blood, that is quite adult in nature.)

Greater attention will now be paid by censors to horror movies and the psychological impact they can have on children, and to the sexualisation of girls, the content of music videos, and the ease of accessibility of online porn. (Only the first of those items, is under BBFC jurisdiction. The rest, are resolutely not.)

David Cook, director of the BBFC, said: 'Regular public consultation is crucial to continued public trust in what we do. Our new classification guidelines reflect explicitly concerns raised by the public during the 2013 consultation and will, I believe, ensure that we continue to be in-step with what the public wants and expects, in order to make sensible and informed viewing decisions. (There is also room for continued improvement.' (At least that's one part of the Daily Mail article that is correct. The BBFC don't do these consultations for fun. They do it, to try and keep pace with members of the publics' views, and so when tides change, on issues like sex, violence or - as in this case - bad language, they are there to alter and modify their policy accordingly. If the public deems bad language to be less of an issue, than violent of sexual material, it is not for the likes of the Daily Mail to try and suggest otherwise.)

So there you have it. Another Daily Mail article debunked! If you go onto their website, you can have fun reading the comments from readers. Some of them, are spectacularly awful, for all the wrong reasons of course. You can access the original article  here  should you wish.

Next time, the DEMONS and DEMONS 2 Steelbook reviews, I promise! See you back here soon!

P.S. Many Thanks to Dave at the Melon-Farmers for linking to this article.

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