ONE MAN'S FAVOURITE FILM IS ANOTHER’S MOVIE OUTRAGE
The Scotsman, December 29, 1999, Wednesday, Pg. 3, 478 words, Phil Miller
In this article Phil Miller gives a light overview of the differing climates of censorship across time and around the world, and refers to some of the more famous individual films that were censored, banned, cut or delayed in their time. In terms of religion, he notes how Britain outlawed the showing of the face of Christ in any film until 1940, and how Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, a religious comedy, was denounced and picketed by religious groups around the world when it first came out. Similarly, the lighthearted Dogma was condemned by the US Catholic Church as recently as 1999. He briefly mentions the Nazi and Soviet propaganda of the 1930’s, and banned horror films such as The Exorcist – noting how what was once a terrifying scene has, with time, become somewhat laughable.
In terms of violence, Miller mention Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Saving Private Ryan, Natural Born Killers, Cronenberg’s Crash, and A Clockwork Orange. He compares western culture to that of the Gulf states, where sex is censored far more harshly than violence. It’s interesting to see the pattern in which almost everything that is censored at one time eventually, and sometimes immediately, becomes socially acceptable. Take Saving Private Ryan, for example. The dramatic opening sequence of the American troops landing on Omaha Beach is regarded by many as the greatest ever tribute to that significant day – but it potentially could have been censored for being too true to the actual events in its depiction of deaths and casualties.
It’s also not just the strictness of the censorship boards that change over time, but also the mentality of the filmmakers. Miller writes of Kubrick’s promptness at withdrawing A Clockwork Orange from circulation when rumors of a copycat-murderer came about. A few decades later, Oliver Stone did no such thing in similar circumstances, even after the news of a third young couple mutually participating in cold-blooded murder after watching Natural Born Killers.