To explain what censorship exists in our country today, the definition of the word censorship needs to be stated. It means to ban or remove anything regarded as harmful, but of course what may be harmful to one person may not to another and so laws were devised to distinguish what age groups could see what films, judging on mental maturity. There are arguments about these groups but they are deemed the fairest way to prohibit offensive material being seen by someone for whom it was unsuitable for. In the past regulations were very tight and films were frequently banned, today this is very rare.
In 1998 the BBFC (the board that enforces the Video Recordings Acts in the UK) said it had become “a board of classification rather than censorship”. Censorship tends to insinuate patronisation, that the public can’t handle certain images, but today a lot of old films are being released uncut and generations mature quicker and find the certifications required by law very restrictive. The last decade has seen much more relaxation from the BBFC, these points are to be highlighted in this discussion of film censorship today.
Rather than banning all films with imagery deemed too hazardous for public viewing directors can be ordered to cut out scenes. The amount of cut film has dropped as society becomes more numbed to graphic sex, violence and drugs. In 1974 40% of all films were cut dropping to 5. 4% in 1999 after examination of 4663 videos. 19. 6% of 18 videos were cut due to stricter standards for home viewing under the Video Recordings Act of 1984, but in 1999 only 29 videos were given the sex video R18 certificate. Last year 14 out of 505 films were cut, and none have been cut so far this year.
However, liberal censorship regimes do not deserve to full credit to the drop in cut films. Since the 1970s the kind of films made for mainstream entertainment has changed. “Exploitation” movies were once mass produced, but numbers have all but disappeared. Producers are aware of what is or is not going to invite censorship. An example would be Gangster No. 1 which was trimmed to fit BBFC guidelines before release and passed certificate. Violence is an issue at all levels of classification, and leads to much debate. The BBFC was criticised for making cuts of Fight Club, despite the film had been classified 18.
The revised guidelines published recently indicate that such cutting of an 18 should not happen. Criminal techniques cannot be too detailed or demonstrative because the BBFC believe scenes of this nature contravene the Criminal Justice ; Public Order Amendment to the Video Recording Act 1994. Thus scenes depicting use of slim-jims and hot-wiring are cut. Scenes using exotic weapons, such as a butterfly knife seen in John Woo’s Face/Off, have often been cut accused of glamorising and encouraging imitation. This area was revised in 1999 and led to the release of Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon passing uncut for the first time.