Human Behaviour

Friday, December 14 2012
Human Behaviour

There’s been something of a storm this week, swirling around Soho Square, the headquarters of the BBFC, as the organisation unveiled its  latest research into sexual violence in films.

The seemingly uncontroversial announcement – that it was, in effect, toughening up its stance on material of that ilk, although it would still be viewing each instance on a case by case, or film by film,  basis  –drew fire from all quarters.

As you might expect, particularly given its previous form for criticising the BBFC, the Daily Mail and its film critic Christopher Tookey, savaged the organisation. He brought up Crash, not unsurprisingly, as he’s mentioned regularly since the the BBFC passed it uncut more than 15 years ago, and then some newer betes noires, such as A Serbian Film. But he reserved most scorn and bile for The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence), although he got the title slightly wrong, although let’s not quibble about that, seeing as he launched into a  diatribe against “one of the most repellent exercises in sexual sadism that I have ever witnessed in a cinema”. He excoriated the film and its director Tom Six, a thoroughly affable chap (we interviewed him here before concluding: ” Several questions need to be answered much more honestly than they have been. Should the opportunists responsible for films like this be ashamed of themselves? Yes. Do films like this help to brutalise some of those who see them? Of course. Does the British Board of Film Classification care? Not sufficiently. Do we all have to live with the social and criminal consequences? Yes.” Quite what the consequences are we’re not sure, but nevertheless it was potent stuff. Many other news outlets mentioned The Human Centipede franchise.

The Raygun approached Eureka, the film’s UK distributor (it looks after the titles on behalf of rights holder Monster), for a comment. Had it had any beneficial effect on sales? What did the company think of Tookey’s invective?

The reply, from the company’s sales director, Ian Sadler, was priceless; a genuinely witty, vibrant response.

We liked it so much we printed it in full. So here’s Sadler’s words of wisdom:

“Once again The Human Centipede has hit the news as the epitome of all that that is evil in our industry and three cheers for the BBFC who have announced that there is to be a clampdown on such material. Or have they?

“Certainly they have in the eyes of the populist press and defenders society’s morality and virtue the Daily Mail and the Daily Star. Never ones to let the truth get in the way of a good story, somehow they have managed to elevate the BBFCs statement to a call for a ban on such hideous naughty material that is corrupting, interestingly enough, teenage boys minds.  

“While ranting about the ‘lily-livered’ BBFC, Christopher Tookey manages to neatly summarise the plot of The Human Centipede 2 while wrongly crediting a scene from the first film. Interestingly enough, Mr Tookey gets invited to all our screenings but as far as I am aware has only ever bothered to turn up to one – no prizes there, it was Centipede 2.  

“Well Mr Tookey, the BBFC didn’t ban Centipede 2, they refused to grant it a certificate, we followed the due process and appealed and, in this case, we were successful. That is, in a democracy at least, how things should work.  

“Even Vivienne Patterson, director of campaign group Media Watch UK, manages somehow to miss her own point. Again, while citing Centipede  – ‘we know that it is easy for youngsters to access this kind of material, via DVD or streaming it online.’  Surely the real issue is that there is a problem with people not taking responsibility for their own selves or for their children in terms of what they are allowed to view. That’s society’s problem not specifically a problem for a filmmaker or the BBFC.

“Whether it’s Centipede, whether it’s Antichrist, or whether it’s the Next Naughty Thing, filmmakers are going to push the envelope to even greater extremes be it in the quest for realism or for shock value. The real debate should be to determine what the role of the BBFC in the 21st century should be.  I do believe that we should have a regulatory body, but society needs to be careful about what it wishes for.  BBFC stands for British Board of Film Classification, not censorship that it used to be. Classification should be exactly that, a system that classifies and advises we, the public, of the content of a film against which we make an informed choice as to whether we watch that film or not. Classification should not be censorship, but maybe censorship is only a hair’s breadth away. Against the backdrop of the Leveson enquiry, there is a certain irony about (so called) journalists ranting and raving about greater controls on creative media.

“I’m sure there will come a time when we as a company will re-submit Centipede II for a certificate in its uncut form. In the meantime I thank Christopher Tookey and his cohorts for the wonderful publicity they have given to the franchise and the subsequent positive impact on sales.”

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