Film sex and violence 'fatally eroding' society


Last updated at 23:33 01 March 2007

The Church of England yesterday warned that the spread of hard-core sex and violence in films is "fatally eroding" standards of behaviour.

It questioned the increasingly liberal decisions by film censors and accused them of allowing wider and younger audiences to see pornography and violence.

The Church called for new thinking "about the effects of negative and degrading images on public safety".

The concern about the effect of films, DVDs and TV comes at the same time as growing fears over violence among the young - highlighted by a series of gun murders.

The attempt to put pressure on film censors and broadcasters at the Church's parliament, the General Synod, follows efforts by senior bishops to defend marriage and to do more to uphold Christian beliefs.

The Synod heard that "standards of human behaviour are being fatally eroded by constant subjection to suggestions and images promoting the exploitation of other human beings".

Church leaders named a series of films, including Destricted, 9 Songs, Baise-Moi, and Intimacy, which they said had been allowed a wide adult audience by being granted 18 certificates, but which in the past would have been restricted under R18 certificates to being shown in private clubs and to being sold on DVD in sex shops.

They blamed the British Board of Film Classification for allowing such material to reach general audiences.

The Synod also heard criticism of Channel 4 over Big Brother in which Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty was subjected to racist abuse.

The Little Britain character Vicky Pollard was singled out - because she makes fun of the way in which some teenage girls speak.

Strictly Come Dancing was mentioned because its knock-out stages focus on the losers. Both programmes revel in humiliation and mockery, Synod members said.

The Rev Richard Moy said of Big Brother: "The message was that it is acceptable to abuse and bully people so long as you are not racist about it."

Mr Moy added: "There have been numerous cases where defence barristers have asked judges to consider in mitigation that the defendant's actions were influenced by watching pornography.

"And yet the BBFC is making pornography easier to access by giving hardcore material 18 certificates.

And material which previously would have been classified 18 is now being classified 15. And material previously classified as 15 is now classified as 12.

"How can we ask children and young people to behave in a socially responsible way if, through the media, we celebrate and revel in exploitation and abuse?"

The Synod voted unanimously to condemn the exploitation of "the humiliation of human beings for public entertainment".

The BBFC, headed by former Home Office civil servant Sir Quentin Thomas, has most recently come under criticism for its decision to give the James Bond film Casino Royale a 12A certificate, which means it could be seen by any child accompanied by an adult.

Sir Quentin's predecessor at the BBFC, Andreas Whittam-Smith, who passed two of the criticised films - Baise-Moi and Intimacy - is now a senior Church official in charge of the its financial wing.

He told the Synod that the films, "however they were marred by their sexually explicit content, they had something to say".

He said regulators felt bound to reflect what they believe is the public mood and added: "It is only the Church's teaching . . . which can have an influence and change things."

Last night BBFC spokesman Sue Clark said:

"Our definition of pornography is the same as that given in the Oxford English Dictionary - material designed solely to sexually arouse the viewer. That is not what the films they are concerned about were designed to do."

These are the BBFC certificates:

• 12/12A: To be seen by or sold to those of 12 and over. 12A films may be seen by children under 12 if they are accompanied by an adult. May have mature themes, but strong language must be infrequent and violence must not dwell on detail.

• 15: Strongest language if brief or justified; sex must not be detailed; violence must not dwell on pain.

• 18: Must not risk harm to inviduals, eroticise sexual assault, or be a "sex work".

• R18: Available only in private clubs or sex shops. Covers films with "clear images of real sex".

The images deemed to extreme

These are the films the Church of England says should not have been allowed to be shown in general cinemas or made ordinarily available in shops on DVD:


Certificate 18

Banned in France, where it was made, the film featured two porn actresses whose characters go on a killing spree because they feel alive and sexually excited only when they commit murder.

There are prolonged and very graphic sex scenes, bloody violence and the film features the anal rape and murder of a man with a gun. Daily Mail film critic Chris Tookey said that the film was without entertainment value or cinematic flair and was "massively exploitative".


Certificate: 18

Passed when the BBFC was headed by Andreas Whittam-Smith, it was the first film allowed on general release to show graphic scenes of real sex. Two hours of running time included 35 minutes of sex, including a non-faked act of oral sex. Publicised as art in which the script -again about an affair - made the sex scenes necessary. Mr Tookey said: "Hogwash".

9 Songs

Certificate: 18

Based around an affair between two young people and set to a series of rock songs. Publicised on the basis of lengthy scenes of real sex between actor Kevin O'Brien and actress Margo Stilley.

Described by critics as "hardcore pornography being normalised". The BBFC said that although the sex scenes might be shocking, they were "exceptionally justified by context".


Certificate: 18

Compilation of seven short films involving various bizarre and perverse sexual activities. One eight-minute contribution by artist Sam Taylor-Wood showed a man masturbating in a desert.

Miss Taylor-Wood said of the film:

"Well, my brief was porn and I think I made porn so therefore it should be porn." Premiered at the Tate Modern gallery.

The certification for the following film brought accusations that the BBFC was lowering the thresholds for the amount of violence that can be seen by children.

Casino Royale

Certificate: 12A

Much-praised Bond film which nevertheless contains a scene of torture and numerous scenes of violence of a kind not included in previous Bond films. Critics said it should have been a 15.

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