Censorship: the great debate

The controversy of censorship has certainly come into the limelight recently, thanks in no small part to the release of Michael Winterbottom's 9 Songs, described as the most sexually explicit film ever to receive an 18 certificate, and no doubt fuelled by Channel 4's censorship season. Handled in their usual boisterous, tongue-in-cheek manner, the various programmes documenting the history of British censorship since the 1970s have been entertaining without being particularly earth-shattering, and the programmes in question can hardly be accused of presenting the matter in a balanced light (although one could argue that it's difficult to take any show featuring Mediawatch UK director John Beyer seriously, given the excellent job he does of making himself look like a prize ass). However, the excellent films that have followed these lighthearted documentaries, including The Evil Dead and The Idiots and, next week, The Last Temptation of Christ, are evidence enough in my mind that this season is a great thing.

In this writer's opinion, censorship can never be justified in a civilised society. The entire concept of suppressing certain images, subjects or opinions contravenes the notion of freedom of speech. Especially distasteful, to me, is the idea of regulatory boards analysing works of film and deciding what can be shown and what cannot. The notion that these boards are better equipped to decide what a viewer can "handle" than the viewer him/herself is patronising and reeks of abuse of power.

It may sound simplistic or naive, but I consider the only appropriate measure to be to open the floodgates and completely eliminate restrictions. To me, the debate of what is acceptable and what is not is an irrelevant one, because no one individual or group of individuals can decide the "limits" of an entire population. The public have a right to view anything, no matter how "distasteful" or "obscene" they might consider it to be, and then decide how they feel about it for themselves, rather than being deprived of such material outright. Any attempt to establish restrictions upon which certain materials are branded as "inappropriate" is, at the end of the day, destined to be unfair, since I fail to see how a system can possibly exist that suits everyone's sentiments. To tell an adult that certain material is not safe or appropriate for their consumption is, in my opinion, the height of indecency.

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