Censorship in cinema can be described as the repression of any audio, visual or speech in films that might be considered as inappropriate, inflammatory, derogatory, gross, harmful or disturbing. Censorship differs greatly and is carried out differently in various countries. The reasons for banning a film or cutting out certain parts are extremely diverse and are not just limited to sex, violence, substance abuse; it could be for political or religious reasons, ill-treatment of animals etc.
Censorship & Films Around the World
In most countries, censorship and rating boards are maintained by a government. Film censorship is said to be done mainly to protect children from adult content. The rating board’s classification is based on age, which is different for different countries.
In the United States of America films are rated as follows:
- G – General Audience
- PG – Parental Guidance
- PG-13 – Not for kids under the age of 13
- R – Restricted
- NC-17 – No Children 17 or Under Admitted
Films banned in a particular country can change over a period of time. For example, ‘A Clockwork Orange’ was banned in Singapore for over 30 years. However, the ban was lifted in 2011 with an R21 rating. It was also banned in South Korea due to gross depictions of violence and gang rape, but the ban has been lifted since.
‘Rambo’ was banned in Burma for the negative portrayal of Burmese soldiers. ‘Agent Vinod’ was banned in Pakistan for containing controversial reference to the Pakistani spy agency. ‘Milk’ was banned in Samoa because it was deemed contradictory to Christian belief and Samoan culture.
Changing Attitude & Perspective on Films
The way films are censored nowadays gives an idea about changing attitude of society towards sex and violence. ‘The Wild One’, released in 1953, is a film about a motorcycle gang terrorizing a town in United States. The film was banned because it was deemed as a bad example for the younger generation in the UK. The ban lasted for 14 years. Now it is PG certified.
The question that needs to be considered is simply who decides? Few may argue that censorship maintains the moral values that are prevailing in society. The counter argument is why impose the values of a few people on the rest of the population. Will crime, violence and rape rate go down if films are censored?
Most people’s views on censorship depend on the context. The American movie, ‘The Cooler’, a film about a casino employee and his girlfriend, was given rating NC-17 because of a love scene where actress Maria Bello’s genitals could be seen briefly, whereas ‘Scary Movie’ was rated R in the movie killer stabs a woman on her chest and removes her breast implants.
There are various facets to censorship while the debate about a small group of people is cutting access to entertainment and information for a large audience is still ongoing. One of the most pressing issues with classification nowadays is keeping up with the rapid development of technology. A film board can ban films like ‘The Human Centipede 2’ but people can still see them online, this type of multifaceted nature of censorship makes it a necessary evil in the world of cinema.