Imagine some of the things that you least (and I mean least) want to have happen to you, or to someone you love. Now imagine that a very sick person is doing all those things to you, or forcing you to watch them being done to someone you love. Now imagine a movie about this. Only about this. You don’t have to imagine, because I have just described the “plot” of a Japanese movie titled Grotesque, by horror movie director Koji Shiraishi. Except for a ridiculously out of place supernatural revenge sequence at the end, the only thing that happens in the movie is that two innocent people, a couple, are tortured and sexually abused for an hour and ten minutes. The English promotional materials promise to so outdo Saw and Hostel in gore, violence and depravity that watching those movies would thereafter be no different than watching West Side Story. Well, that was quite enough for the British Board of Film Classification, a body that determined that the – film – (can I just start calling it “piece of filth” or pof, for short?) had no redeeming value whatsoever, merely showed sexual depravity for its own sake, and presented a “risk of (psychological, I assume) harm” to potential viewers. “Not on these shores!”, decided the BBFC. They prohibited Grotesque from being shown or distributed in the UK, something that they normally just don’t do. Not surprisingly, Shiraishi wore this condemnation as a badge of honor, stood up for “artistic integrity” and redoubled his efforts to market his pof as the one film they don’t want you to see! Naturally, boasting this as its claim to fame, the standard audience for pofs of this nature felt even more determined to stand up for freedom of expression, to see what all the fuss was about, or to “test themselves” (let’s remember that no bravery is required to sit one’s posterior on a couch and watch a TV screen) against that which sought to disturb and disgust (or, just as possibly, arouse) them in every frame. The BBFC had their moral victory, and Shiraishi picked up a few extra yen. A win/win, if you will.
Why did the British film board decide to censor Grotesque, and not, for example, Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects, a pof that features such heartwarming scenes as an innocent woman being forced to don a “mask” that has been fashioned out of her tortured-to-death husband’s facial skin? Because in the case of the former, it was determined that it in no way, shape or form even constituted a work of creativity. It was just, simply, extreme violence realistically portrayed so as to appeal to the most base and unhealthy interests of those wishing to watch it. In other words, they refused to recognize it as a work of art. Rather, they determined that it was just an unwholesome thingie,  probably falling somewhere between rabid dog saliva and Weapon of Mass Destruction in terms of how beneficial they considered it to be for the citizens of the UK.
Many people called foul. Many people here, I imagine, may feel that the BFFC’s decision was lame and convoluted, and that is probably true. Essentially, there is no difference between Grotesque and other “torture porn” movies that were allowed, and hence the decision merely served to bestow upon it an “honor” which it doesn’t actually merit, thereby attracting a few more viewers to a pof that, in the best of cases, has only a very limited audience, and could only stand to benefit from being turned into a cause celebre.
Personally, however, I stand behind the decision, not because I think the matter was handled particularly well, but simply because I think that a country has every right to empower its review boards to reject things that, patently, have no merit and can only add more upset and horror to a world that already has more than enough. I believe, in other words, in censorship. At the very least, I believe it to be an arguable position.

Censorship? Surely there are few things more revealing of a reactionary mindset, some would hasten to assure me. Why, censorship can be identified with all the cruelest dictatorships, the most oppressive regimes, the most hardcore religious fundamentalists, etc. This is indeed true. I believe that in any way limiting a person’s right to express his or her political or religious opinions can only be a sign of an outlaw government. There is no excuse for it, even less the means by which it is often enforced. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people have been executed, tortured, or wasted away in prisons for making statements (or being alleged to have made them), writing letters, drawing cartoons, etc. that dared to criticize the Powers that Be in countries all over the world, and throughout history. Such censorship can rightly be considered evil.
However, depictions of sadism and depravity fall under another category, surely. The human race has certainly evolved in terms of what it no longer considers entertainment. Romans went to watch gladiators fight to the death, starved animals loosed upon slaves, criminals, Christians, etc., and a vast parade of cruelties at their circuses. In the Dark Ages, asylum inmates were sometimes displayed to entertain passersby, petty criminals were dunked or placed in stocks and pillories, and in a plethora of other ways pain and humiliation were inflicted on some in order to entertain others. Although benighted governments even to this day continue practices just as heinous, it is a mark of the march of progress in human thinking that civilized countries and persons no longer consider such “entertainments” to be acceptable. Ditto for dog fights, cock fights, bare fisted boxing, etc.
One of the problems in our modern world is that technology has reached the point where the depictions of violence now appear every bit as real as actual acts of violence. We can now see on our film screens exactly what the Romans watched in their circuses. The only difference, a huge one assuredly, is that the acts are not real, and there is no real suffering taking place; no victims, in other words. But with the appalling stories of Abu Ghraib, and the more recent revelations about an Afghanistan-based GI rogue “kill team” and their trophy photos of their innocent victims, mightn’t we consider that there in fact is a victim; namely, society itself? Extrapolating into the future, can we imagine that technology will eventually make it possible to play one’s own virtual reality serial killer game (and the advertisements proudly proclaiming, “this is as real as it gets!”)? As we are obviously moving in that direction technologically, don’t we need to be thinking about how okay we are with that? When cruelty, whether real, filmed, or holographically simulated, is considered entertainment, doesn’t that throw up a red flag, or shouldn’t it? It does for me, certainly.

Sure, you can start by censoring things that nearly everyone finds objectionable, but aren’t you worried about a slippery slope?” Indeed, I am. It’s just that the slope I worry about slips in the other direction.

Consider this: imagine that you travel to a tribe in the Amazon that has almost no contact with the outside world, and still lives more or less exactly as their ancestors have for thousands upon thousands of years. You present an inhabitant there with a chocolate ice cream bar. I imagine that one of two scenarios would result:

The first would be that the sensations of super-sweetness and cold entering the mouth of the tribesman would be so unlike anything he’d previously experienced that he would instantly spit it out, perhaps considering it to be some kind of poison. He would be hard-pressed to identify what you have presented him with as “food”.

On the other hand, I suppose it is also possible that he would be delighted, as if the food had come from the world of the gods. He would want to share it with all his tribe’s members. Soon after, the tribe would come to recognize that their teeth were rotting, their overall health was decreasing and their children were becoming hyperactive and irritable. The tribal elders would insist that the tribe be allowed no more ice cream bars. They would censor that which they correctly determined to be harmful.

Ice cream is not a natural food; it is something that has evolved, as people have craved newer, fresher, sweeter, more stimulating sensations as they grew accustomed to the foods they were already eating. Cooking is an ongoing and evolving creative process, no less so than film-making, music, painting, etc. In all creative endeavors, it seems to be human nature to demand more, and for certain creators to strive to provide that. In other words, you make something sweet, I’ll make something sweeter. Oh, yeah? I’ll make something so sweet that your teeth will disintegrate. You show blood and torture, I’ll show twice as much blood and torture!  Oh,yeah? And so on. That is the “slippery slope” that alarms me. A mere fifty years ago, audiences were so shocked by the infamous shower scene in Psycho that they fled the theaters, retched, broke down and cried, etc. Nowadays, “Psycho” can be shown unedited on prime time television. The iterative nature of film-making has reached the point where any depraved act that is shown will be seen as nothing more than a challenge to some audience members and directors to go even further. And, unfortunately, we don’t have tribal elders coming to the conclusion that this is not good for us. That it is poisoning our very souls. Instead, we have “staunch defenders of freedom of expression”.

There is no evidence that watching such movies influences people to actually go out and do such things! Hmmm….well, in that case, perhaps we should start telling companies to stop throwing away all those billions of dollars they spend annually on advertising. The images and messages we are exposed to through film and television don’t influence our behavior. Let’s remember that advertisements are rarely of the blunt, literal, “Go! Buy a Coke! NOW!” type. They aren’t even generally of the “You should buy only coke because it tastes so much better than its rivals!” variety. Indeed, in the early days of advertising, copy like that was quite common, as advertisers logically assumed that the way to get the most bang for your buck was to get straight to the point (an actual ad suggests, plainly, “Drink Coca Cola from a bottle through a straw, Absolutely Sanitary, Delicious and Refreshing”). As the industry moved out of its infancy, and became increasingly sophisticated, it was discovered that more subtle, subconscious associations that the viewer made about products were more likely to influence their purchasing habits. So we have “The Most Interesting Man in the World”, and product placement in movies, etc. In other words, media experts will vociferously argue (if there’s a buck to be made) that even subtle messages, through repeated exposure, can and do influence the external behavior of an audience. Of course, not everyone who sees a Coke commercial will go out and buy a Coke, but the whole industry depends on a sizable number doing so. And yet we are expected to believe that continual exposure to bodies being tortured and sexually abused will not impact the behavior of a segment of the viewers? A the very least, that it will not change their way of looking at the human body, what it is, what it is for, what is acceptable to do to it, or with it, etc.?

If not, why? Why can advertising influence our behavior but depictions of violence not? Does advertising activate a different part of the brain? Of course not. The same cerebral centers are responding to the same basic stimulus of filmed narrative. So, again, why one and not the other? Mightn’t that just be a disingenuous evasion tactic used to protect the profits of “the torture porn industry”? Put another way, if Grotesque isn’t, in effect, an advertisement for sadism, what is it?

****As a footnote, although Japan has a considerably lower homicide rate than the United States and many other countries, over the past few decades there have been a number of crimes that have shocked the country to its very core, involving sexual violence and barbarity beyond imagining. In all the cases that I can recall, the perpetrators were discovered to have a large collection of violent films and/or manga, even to have gotten their ideas from such. Japan is coming around, and a debate is taking place in the nation as to what type of content should be made viewable to the public.

I don’t want the government telling me what I can and can’t watch! Well, in fact, we do. It is the government, after all, that decides that we don’t have to watch a man pull down his pants and start masturbating in front of our home, or in front of a nursery school. Although the man may protest that he was simply expressing himself as he is hauled off to jail, I doubt that many would see him as a martyr at the altar of Artistic Freedom.
To say that the government has “no business” making judgments about such matters is basically to argue against any form of government, as if it is always untrustworthy. If we are worried about government overreach gradually leading to oppression, then perhaps we should do away with the Food and Drug Administration, The Surgeon General’s Office, etc., and no longer permit the government to determine how much nicotine can go into a cigarette, how much air pollution is too much air pollution; in short, to make any judgement calls regarding the health of its populace.  Could a move to censor torture porn movies be used as a shoehorn to eventually legislate against other forms of expression? Certainly, the danger is there. But I’m not convinced that’s very likely. I think it would be a fairly simple matter to create clear guidelines as to what is or isn’t acceptable in a film or video game and to stay within those limits. I would like to consider what those type of  limits might be.

Let us begin with one of the earliest filmed depictions of depravity, the infamous eye slicing segment from Salvador Dali’s/Luis Bunuel’s bizarre short film, Un Chien Andalou. Probably many people reading this have never seen it. For those who have, how many have seen it twice? As for me, though it has been more than twenty years since I first saw the scene, and I have watched other portions of the film in the interim, I have absolutely no desire to ever again subject myself to that short bit of extreme gore, and in fact I cringe at the very thought of doing so. No doubt, that speaks to its power to evoke a response. But does that make it art? And even if it does, what kind of art? Am I in any way a better person for having watched it? Are any of us? If so, I would like to know how. Watching that scene, I am quite certain, has in no way elevated my spirit, expanded my horizons, raised my IQ, or made me a better person in any way. If it had never existed, I can’t see how I, or the world, would be the worse for it.
That raises the question as to what is art for? Should it only be that which elevates our spirits, expands our horizons, etc.? Plato, famously, felt so. He was of the, radical for our times, extreme view that art should show and promote “only the good”. In other words, he was of the belief that art, as is sometimes said about money, makes a great servant, but a terrible master. For him, censorship was an obvious response to this extremely powerful mode of human expression. To him the idea was preposterous that artists and poets could express themselves any old way, regardless of the effect that may have on audiences, and the public in general.  Surrealists like Dali and Bunuel would have challenged this viewpoint from their own understandings of the emerging science of psychology. Surrealism can in fact be seen as a direct outgrowth of Sigmund’s Freuds enormous influence. Suppressing humanity’s darker impulses can only be harmful, the argument goes. Art is a useful way for mankind to get its “shadow” out of its system. Personally, I suspect that both Plato and Freud (and Dali, Bunuel, etc.) are partially right, and that responsible choices can still be made about what to show and what not to show. After all, taken at its extreme, the pro-Freud notion (had it existed at the time) could have been used as an argument in the Roman days for continuing the torture shows in the circuses.
So, should the eye-cutting scene be (forgive the pun) cut? I think that would make an interesting debate. Personally, I’m not sure. The whole purpose of the movie was to shock, thereby stimulating the subconscious mind, the point of surrealist art in general. The film is not pandering to anyone, it is not a commercial film and the motivation for making it was not to make an easy buck, as I suspect it is in the case of directors like Eli Roth (Hostel) and Rob Zombie (The Devil’s Rejects, House of a 1000 Corpses). Furthermore, the entire scene lasts only a few seconds. The man doing the cutting is not shown as an evil, leering sadist, and the woman victim is not shown bleeding and screaming afterwards. It is all very clinical, even as it horrifies and shocks. Maybe the above points would be considered mitigating by a review board, maybe not. Personally, I feel they are points worth considering.
What about movies that are considered major artistic achievements that nevertheless contain scenes of extreme violence, such as Goodfellas or Saving Private Ryan? The case of the latter is perhaps the easier one to consider. The Normandy beach sequence was so horrific that the audience response was on a par with the earlier reaction to Psycho. People fled the theaters, or broke down sobbing in their seats. Saving Private Ryan is perhaps the most widely seen movie ever made that doesn’t shy away from the kind of carnage that is the torture porn auteurs’ stock in trade. Plato, no doubt, would nix it without a second thought, but few in our modern age would agree. Director Steven Spielberg’s intentions in showing such extreme violence could not be more clear. He wanted to show what really happens when countries clash. He wanted to impress that reality on our minds in a way that no previous war movie had ever done. It’s hard to imagine anyone enjoying the first half hour of violence, identifying with its faceless killers, or getting any type of cheap thrill from it. Spielberg is an undisputed master at provoking the reaction he intends from his audience (to a fault,many would argue), and he made sure this scene became nobody’s wet dream.
Goodfellas is more problematic. It has numerous detractors. There are those who want to know why Martin Scorsese chose to make such a film. If Saving Private Ryan was an anti-war movie (or at least had anti-war overtones), wasn’t Goodfellas practically a pro-mafia one? With his scenes of spoiled hoodlums getting the best tables at the Copacabana, turning jail cells into bachelor pads, and sneering at the rest of us “shmucks”, this is clearly not your average cautionary tale. Far from it. It is more a grandly entertaining celebration of filmmaking that succeeds in entertaining us because its main characters are outrageously over the top, shockingly amoral and (in the case of Tommy and Jimmy) violent beyond our wildest imaginings. These are not people you want to go out and have a beer with. Just ask Billy Batts. In fact, the scene that depicts the unfortunate Mr. Batts’ brutal demise has some 2 million viewings, roughly, in its various incarnations on Youtube, and reading the comments, many of those are repeat viewings. Unlike the Normandy scene in SPR, which I imagine most people are content to see only once, many folks just can’t seem to get enough of Marty’s wiseguys, and their mayhem.

And, Goodfellas is considered by many to be one of the greatest movies ever made. It is a personal favorite of mine as well. Yet is it really all that different from the torture porn movies? Should it get a pass if they don’t? I waver on this one, frankly. Going back to my observations about Un Chien Andalou, I can’t very well argue that my spirit has been elevated in any way by having watched it. I am impressed by the breathtaking talent on display, particularly the masterful direction and Joe Pesci’s Oscar winning turn as Tommy. One might say that watching it and admiring it challenges and inspires me to go as far as I can with my own craft, and that I consider to be a good thing. Beyond that, I’m not really sure how best to argue on its behalf.
That is not to say that I equate Goodfellas in its most existential way with movies like Grotesque and The Devil’s Rejects, the Hostel series, etc. In Goodfellas, bodies are abused terribly, but in those other movies the abuse of bodies is their only reason for existing. Moreover, it is pretty much the only thing, or certainly the main thing, that viewers want to see. This is an area where I feel that societies have a right, perhaps even a duty, to make a stand. In my opinion, a society that does not honor, does not teach love and respect for, does not, if you will, revere, the human body, cannot truly be called civilized. The human body is our vessel while we are here. We don’t know how to make them, and our best scientists don’t know how to make a machine in any way as exquisite as them. We only get one, and without one, we’re pretty much up shit creek. Therefore, protecting and promoting the health of the body should be the central concern of any society, because after all what is society other than an community of human bodies living in close proximity to one another?
Is freedom of expression more important than that? I don’t see how. Freedom of expression is an important concept, of course. But it is, after all, a mental construction. It is an idea that people have come, over time, to accept, and some to revere. It is an invention. The human body is not; it is far beyond that. Whether you believe that it was created by God, or emerged by natural processes, it is decidedly not something that humans came up with and started talking about in the last few thousand years. Torture porn movies do not honor the human body. They spit on the very concept. They use the body’s limitations and capacity for pain as ingredients for a burlesque show of horror. They treat the body with the utmost contempt. What sort of notions – conscious/subconcsious/subliminal – does this create in the viewers of such films? How is it good for society to have its most important and valuable assets being thoroughly trashed for the cheap thrills that provides viewers? How is it wrong for a society to stand up and say, “no” to that?
I feel that censoring such films makes good sense. As to how to go about this, the film review boards of nations would need to go beyond just rating films as unsuitable for children, but would in fact be empowered to decide that some films are not even allowed to be released, shown or distributed. The determining question would be, I feel, something along the lines of “to what degree is this film dependent on the degradation and torture of the human body for its entertainment value?” I believe that there is nothing wrong with asking film directors to answer that simple question. Before being allowed to release a film, I believe that film companies or directors should have to present its outline to the film boards. In the case of directors such as Zombie and Roth, whose reputation, shall we say, proceeds them, I think it would be made clear to them that the odds of getting their next films released were slim to none, but they are welcome to try. Perhaps it would be a good opportunity for they, themselves, to look into what it is they are doing, and feel they are accomplishing. “I want to make this movie because there’s a market for it”. Sorry, you’ll have to do better for that. There is a market for slaves, Saturday Night Specials, and crack cocaine as well, let’s remember.
Clearly, this would lead to a number of films not being made (the whole torture porn genre would be unceremoniously dropped into the dustbin of history), and perhaps a number of scenes being altered or removed from movies that do get made. Perhaps future Goodfellas and SPRs would need to tone down the gore. I’m okay with that, I think. For me, the deeply held philosophical belief that the human body is sacred trumps my (perhaps selfish) desire to see what I want to see, all other considerations be damned. I believe that a group of highly respected professionals, consisting of philosophers, psychiatrists and psychologists, educators, art historians and film experts, etc. could be trusted to devise a sensible set of standards, and make those clear enough for anyone to understand and follow. I think the discussion that would ultimately lead to would, in itself, be good for society, if it got people to question their attitudes toward the human body, the nature of entertainment, and all the philosophical issues that would be raised.
With so much actual cruelty taking place in the world, with so much real bloodshed and pain, is this even a battle worth fighting, some may ask. I feel that it is. I feel that the human spirit, and the great gift that is having a body, would be the ultimate beneficiaries of such censorship. I can’t say for certain that any lives would  be saved, or that any potential psychopath would be steered away from actually becoming one, or sinking deeper into depravity, if pofs were to be outlawed. Nevertheless, I still feel the benefit would be real, and felt. Furthermore, I hardly feel that the human race in any way loses by deciding that people can’t make torture porn movies anymore. Rob Zombie can stick to his music, Eli Roth can stick to his acting, and the director of Grotesque can, I don’t know, go work at a car wash.



Leave a Comment

Please Login to comment
37 Comment threads
310 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
27 Comment authors
Abbyrose86KQµårk 死神AdLibbzbTruth Recent comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Notify of

Raging Bull Flintstones.


😆 Thank you, Q. I needed that chuckle!!

KQµårk 死神

WTS you made a very good argument for censoring the worst of the worst and I agree. I would agree we should outlaw torture porn like we do with child porn.

But I really don’t think we should censor more in films like Goodfellas at all. The current rating system works fine for them.

I also agree with what Adlib said about NC-17. I’m not sure if we need another rating but the NC-17 rating is like a ratings suicide. Movies with that rating are rarely seen by enough of the public to do much harm.

I applaud BBFC’s move to completely censor Grotesque. It’s a somewhat of a Catch 22 because I refuse to watch the movie myself but the BBFC’s argument sounds valid. In other words if the BBFC is true to it’s word, there is no real narrative or character development and the film is only an excuse to show torture porn escalation it should be banned.

Of course art films are in a category their own and I don’t think really affect a society enough for special consideration one way or another so only local obscenity laws should apply when displaying them.

I’m far more concerned with how child porn and torture porn affect the mind rather how it depicts the human body even though I know the two are linked. I think society already worships the human body too much, at least in a the harmful way it sets unrealistic standards for people especially woman. I just don’t see that assault on the human body being as prevalent as you see it to be in movies. Sure our tolerance evolves when it comes to seeing violence on television but it has also evolved with language as well. You can say about half of George Carlin’s seven dirty words these days by just having a TV-MA stamp on a network show these days.

I’m very curious to hear your views on censoring language, human nudity and adult sexuality. It just seems like a worthwhile part of the censorship argument that we haven’t discussed here.

BTW I did not get what you were describing out of Goodfellas at all. I thought it was more like Henry Hill coming to age movie when he finally comes to the realization that what he thought was cool and something to strive for was just a facade for the reality of mob life. A life where psychopaths rule (like they do in corporate America I may add) and in the end you either end up dead or in prison for the rest of your life. That is unless you are the first member to make a deal.

Sopranos on the other hand never really had a teaching metaphor like that because the biggest baddest psychopath “won”.


My point is that EVERYONE thinks they know what is best.

The question is, what gives you the authority to decide for everyone else?


WTS, wonderful artwork and very thoughtful essay on film, art, morality and society.

Though I oppose it for reasons I’ll explain below, I wish there was a way to censor the corrosive, exploitative films that have no redeeming value such as this Grotesque example.

I don’t think the argument against censorship on such garbage like this should ever be that it’s art. All films are not automatically art (as those who paid to see Transformers 2 can attest).

It is “The Film Business”, some films are made purely to exploit an audience for profit. Those films and those making such films are not and should not be treated as art or artists.

So, in my book, strike that as reason to allow torture porn in theaters.

The concern is best personified by Teabaggers.

Yes, those who are thoughtful could act effectively as filters to keep horrific “entertainment” out of the social bloodstream but if government can decide what films should or shouldn’t be allowed to be shown to the public, where will we be if it is Michele Bachmann or one of her minions who gets to make that call.

Would any Michael Moore films escape censorship for being poisonous to society or treasonous?

Would any films with gay relationships, supporting abortion or attacking the wealthy and corporations make it past claims of undermining our social values?

Put aside the “slippery slope” cliche, let’s instead use the Musical Chairs one. Put the power of deciding which films are corrosive to society in the hands of government and though that may be wielded fairly by liberal, the POV of a Teabagger in that same position would likely result in a whole different approach and range of “anti-social” films targeted.

I think the solution is having the MPAA add a category such as PU (as in it stinks) to apply to films that are without any redeeming value and simply exploitative and offensive.

Make the restrictions the same as NC-17 rated films, no one under the age of 18 admitted but require theaters to strictly enforce it or suffer harsh fines. People in the film biz know how it’s the kiss of death to get an NC-17 rating. Most newspapers and tv stations won’t allow NC-17 films to advertise, many theaters won’t run trailers for them.

So, a PU rating would not enforce the banning of films but would limit the available publicity and audience which would make it less desirable to distributors to have a PU film. Yes, some theaters might not enforce well even if fined for it or some minors might sneak in but given time, the process of tainting films that get the PU rating would have a profound impact.

The MPAA should be reformed in the process to allow for more representation of the public and get rid of the current double standard of banishing certain kinds of nudity or sexuality to NC-17 while allowing horrendous, graphic violence as R or even PG-13.

BTW, if you haven’t seen it, check out this trailer for a fascinating film about the MPAA, “This Film Is Not Yet Rated”:

I do agree that constantly bathing society with sadistic and violent imagery is corrosive to a society and its sensibilities. At the same time, banning things often makes many who wouldn’t watch something, excited about seeing it.

So my suggestion is strip such exploitative trash of being art or forbidden fruit, make them rotten eggs instead. P-U!

Oh and as for Goodfellas, also one of my faves (and a forerunner to The Sopranos, also one of my faves) it was based upon a book, “Wiseguy” which was written about real life gangster Henry Hill, who’s portrayed by Ray Liotta in the movie.

Now…here is the question. If someone (not you of course) suggested Goodfellas should have been banned…should not the book it was based on have been banned? Then, if we are banning books and movies that may even be historically accurate but contain graphic violence, would we not have to censor documentaries that deal openly with certain issues that could have graphic violence?

And how would all of this have been administered in a Bush Administration that covered Lady Justice with a cloak in the Department of Justice?

Censorship is either immediate or eventual quicksand. However, scenting that which degrades a society as garbage will accomplish much of the same goals without creating problems further down the line.


Hi AdLib! Overall I agree. I have never been able to pin this slippery slope down EVER.

But as I had said, waaaaay back in the comments, we DO regulate commercial speech, and we do it all the time. We also regulate child pornography EVEN when no actual kids were exploited in the creation (cartoons etc.) So how is this different from either?

Porn does, too often, involve the exploitation of people, usually women and children, who are trafficked and forced to make it. Violent porn can influence people with the prediliction to act on it where it becomes a ‘how to’ manual. Porn made with no story, no political point of view – just as apparently this one has been – and distributed for money, is what? Art? Hardly. It’s commerce, isn’t it?

And yet – who is judging? I think you’re quite right that it is a slippery slope, but the presence of 1. exploited people (human trafficking and genuine snuff films produce police investigations); 2. sheer violence and exploitative sex for their own sake; 3. speech sold for money. These three elements MIGHT give us a way to categorize things that are beyond the pale.

We have an insistence on rights but very little insistence on responsibility of speech and communication. There are place and time restrictions on all speech, and there are things such as “true threats” that undermine the absolute right to say whatever you wish. Those plus commercial standards for purely commercial speech are used all the time to rein in speech for the greater good.

I don’t know if it IS possible to use good judgment on a society-wide basis when there is no such thing as a single societal standard for films such as “Brokeback Mountain” even if there might be for this sort of garbage.

So it is a conundrum. A free society really is a hard place in which to live.


Choicelady, as usual I agree with your point of view and appreciated how you articulated your arguments throughout his thread. Thank you!


CL – Very well said. I can’t vote on the side of censorship but I have grave concerns about the exploitation of women and children in the making of these films, and I am very concerned about them getting into young peoples hands. Yes, the world should be full of perfect parents, but it’s not!


choice, thank goodness that child porn is totally illegal. I don’t think anybody here would argue in favor of it. So, it shouldn’t even be on a list within this discussion. It is ILLEGAL, as well it should be. There will never be child porn that is shown in theaters, or on TV, and though it does exist on DVDs and VHS, but those too are illegal to sell or possess. So I think we can rule out these types of movies when talking about censorship.


But why JUST that? Is it Ok when the image or the reality is about violently debasing women who likely really ARE held in bondage forced to act in those films? Why kids and not 18 year old women who’ve been kidnapped and trafficked? Or even films with free-will 18 year olds who may voluntarily be filming stores about women who are depicted as kidnapped, raped, forced into sado masochistic sex? We can’t deny those have influence.Those who watch this filth and are enticed by the money and maybe the fear of the women DO act on the impulse.

I don’t know I can see the distinction.

That said, I was utterly horrified as a teen by the rape scene in “The Women” with Sophia Loren, but it is a powerful film, and the scene depicted an aspect of reality in women’s lives in WW II.

No one can adequately define the difference, I do understand that, but ultimately the issue for me comes down to slavering voyerism vs. empathic critique. I can draw the distinction. I’m not sure society can.

But I ask again – can we reverse the question about “free speech rights” and ask if the test might be “free speech responsibility”? That does clarify for me just as the commercial cynicism does.


choice, I think forcing women to be in any sort of film is illegal. I believe they have to sign a consent form. I am not certain of this, though. I would think that such films would already be illegal.
As I said about violent films such as GF and SPR and many other well done films, is if the violence is a part of the story, then it should be depicted. I prefer realism in film making. Not gratuitous violence, or violence striving for shock value.
Prior to the 1960s, there really was no graphic violence in films. Yeah there were plenty of “shoot em up,” westerns and gangster movies, war pictures, but the violence wasn’t graphic.
If violence is not really part of the story, then I think depicting such violence is un-necessary.
I think there should be a responsibility for a film maker to tell a story as truly as possible. I do think rape scenes should not be too graphic. I find such scenes hard to watch. But if it is part of the story, then it shouldn’t be disallowed. It’s a very nasty fact of life that such violence toward women happens. It should never be encouraged by any film, but films shouldn’t be so antiseptic that they portray a world that isn’t real. Just my opinion.


wts, I think you are correct about our mind sets. And it’s always OK to agree to disagree. You make good points to consider. I am just pretty leery about censorship issues.


A nice well written article which made me think of this post:

What did Huffpost do with my Article?

This past Friday, my article “Meet the New Soviets: Gingrich, Walker, Breitbart”, was yanked from the Huffington Post after being up for 8 hours. (My article is still not up, but you can read it here.) The reasons it was pulled are troubling to me and should be a concern to anyone who wonders about the future editorial directions of Huffington Post…..

…..Breitbart’s tweet within two hours of my posting:

Find the inappropriate ad hominems about me, Newt Gingrich & Scott Walker in this fresh @HuffingtonPost piece: andrewbreitbart Highly Influential 3 days ago……
If anyone still has an account at Huffington Shit then you’re part of the problem.


Wow, bzb, it appears you touched the proverbial third rail at Huffy when you mentioned Breitbart in less than laudatory terms. Hell hath no fury like an Aryana offended, it seems.

In a way, their rejection is a badge of honor, but that probably doesn’t help much…

I was active there for about a year, then threw in the towel when the censorship became genuinely odious.

Thanks for supplying us with a way to do an end run around HP’s censorship and get to your article.


You’re welcomed, I just get upset when people like her use people in such away that only benefits her and no one else.


Maybe we should send her a copy of the video that began this discussion? She is doing gratuitous violence to free speech simply because she CAN. This is the area that we have not really discussed – the curtailing of free expression by the PRIVATE sector. (OK – I’ve not read ALL the replies so forgive me if we did wade through that, and I missed it.)

I remember being horrified that every single Constitutional right stops at your employers’ door. No free speech, no right to petition and assemble, no safeguard from unreasonable searches and seizures – your locker is “their” property, so tough nuggies. Your home can be bugged by your employer if they “suspect” you are affecting corporate profits somehow – never forget Karen Silkwood.

And yet – there is not one word in the Constitution guaranteeing the rights of private property other than due process. Case law – oh, my. But the Constitution? Nada. And still after all these years, property trumps personal freedom every single day.

Not only can you not watch slasher videos even on break time, but you cannot read what the employer deems “bad” things. You may not speak freely. You may not even drink a Pepsi if you work for Coke. Guy got fired for that – real case.

IMHO – censorship of slasher films might just be the LEAST of our problems.


OH my goodness gracious…THANK YOU CHOICE LADY, for bringing this up!

THIS subject, that the rights of a US citizen do not apply when in the employ of a corporation, has been bothering me for YEARS. I say the the whole concept is utter BULLSHIT. I do not think it was NOT the intent of the founders, to cede citizens rights to private enterprise. Most of the founders were anti corporations, so the whole idea that they would limit a citizens rights to a private business entity…is hogwash and that fact that so many BUY into it is hogwash as well.


@bzb….as you might know…when I left HP, I deleted myself and HAVE not gone back not even for a moment. I WILL NOT support that organization anymore, in anyway shape or form.

I agree with you…those who continue to keep going there are perpetuating the problems over there. Sadly, this is one of those things, people have to decide for themselves. Eventually, I think HP, will have pissed off enough people, that more and more leave as time goes on.


From the I-Ching:

Unlimited possibilities are not suited to mankind. If they existed, his life would only dissolve into the boundless.


It’s probably true, but it’s also the rationale the extreme religious right gives for keepint their children away from “harmful” things such as the radical notion GLBT people are human beings. I actually heard a mother SAY that – children’s imaginations must be bounded. Why does it seem OK in I Ching and so chilling in her hands?


***Whats, I so agree with some of what you say on this issue and you raise many very important questions. To highlight again just a few of them:

….As we are obviously moving in that direction technologically, don’t we need to be thinking about how okay we are with that? When cruelty, whether real, filmed, or holographically simulated, is considered entertainment, doesn’t that throw up a red flag, or shouldn’t it? It does for me, certainly….

***Hell yes, of course it raises a red flag to me too. I only wondered why all the violence seen on the screen is widely seen as “normal”. Yet as you rightly pointed out:

…The human race has certainly evolved in terms of what it no longer considers entertainment. Romans went to watch gladiators fight to the death, starved animals loosed upon slaves, criminals, Christians, etc., and a vast parade of cruelties at their circuses…

***And I especially like this part of your article: How to react to something that has slithered in and is learnt to be not beneficial:

…Soon after, the tribe would come to recognize that their teeth were rotting, their overall health was decreasing and their children were becoming hyperactive and irritable. The tribal elders would insist that the tribe be allowed no more ice cream bars. They would censor that which they correctly determined to be harmful….

***But sadly the modern society looks more like that:

…And, unfortunately, we don’t have tribal elders coming to the conclusion that this is not good for us. That it is poisoning our very souls. Instead, we have “staunch defenders of freedom of expression”….

***Next the question arises as to who really profits of unrestrained freedom of expression? First of all, I think “freedom of expression” is a largely misunderstood term. And as you point out there are certain restrictions already in place anyway, as in the case of the sexual predator. But by no means enough, in my opinion. And I think those who profit of unrestricted freedoms are mostly not the people, but the corporations. A healthy society has restrictions.

Here’s some more food for thought:

…In other words, media experts will vociferously argue (if there’s a buck to be made) that even subtle messages, through repeated exposure, can and do influence the external behavior of an audience. …

***Indeed the unrestricted violence in games and media seems to have led in India too to a lot more gruesome rapes and murders over the past 10 years. I did observe the increase in violence over that time span – and I don’t think it’s a mere coincidence that Indians became richer and have more TVs and DVD’s available. If I happen to be in a hotel and watch TV, which I then (would) enjoy I can hardly find something worth to watch.

***So finally, to cut it a bit short:

…That raises the question as to what is art for? Should it only be that which elevates our spirits, expands our horizons, etc.?…

*** My question: what else should it be for? I’m not saying everybody should play the harp and the harp only, but one can bring up even unpleasant themes in a way that they lead to something good. Art should come from as well as appeal to our higher selves in my opinion. And is there a bigger joy than to make the world a little bit a nicer place?

PS: I noticed you shifted many items to the Art section — great!


Whats–I just scrolled through all the comments looking for something you said yesterday….it was something about the “thought sphere,” I think was your term, and how it’s polluted by all this vile output. It’s really stuck in my mind. I absolutely believe in this. Something like the collective unconscious that we all share. I couldn’t find your comment again though. Do you happen to remember what you said?


E’cat-you can maybe find it easier if you click on the “Comments” on the gray bar at the top of the page. You may have to go back a page or tow there though. I saw it there earlier.


I wouldn’t use Ted Bundy as a source for what drove him to do the atrocious things he did. I seriously doubt that porn is responsible for his horrific acts. He came from a dysfunctional family, and had, let’s say, “mother issues.” The man was insane and I doubt much of anything he said was true. He tried to place the blame for his acts on society, just like Manson tried to do, and who knows how many others. I don’t buy the old, “a corrupt society made me do it, defense.


Whts—I read this when it first appeared and it is simply one of the best posts I’ve ever read. It is so well thought out and sincere and honest. I so appreciate how you have given us a look into your thought process. And it is a true testament to your post that it elicited so many wonderful responses—This is one of the best conversations around.

So, where do I stand? I need to spend the time to write it out fully—it is not an easy answer, but my heart agrees with you. I have yet to know where my mind stands, but I’m working on that!


WTS: Compliments on inspiring a lot of thoughtful discussion with your post. I’ve been thinking about censorship of late following the Supreme Court ruling on the Westboro protest case. The fact is I’m still thinking and pondering… and thinking some more.

I can’t imagine anything I would find much harder than burying a child — unless that act required me to first run a gauntlet of protesters with signs reading, “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” and such.

In his dissent with the majority ruling, Justice Alito said, “In order to have a society in which public issues can be openly and vigorously debated, it is not necessary to allow the brutalization of innocent victims…”

I agree with Alito, but maybe this is the proverbial slippery slope I’ve always been warned about.

Still thinking. Thank you.


SB2, I’m certainly no fan of Alito’s. But I had the same reaction to his comments that you did. My thought? “I hate to admit it, but the man has a point.” Like you, I find the next question is “where do we go from here?” Honestly, I’m not at all sure.


Yeah, ’tis with some chagrin that I find myself on the same side of the aisle as Mr. Alito. If you ever hear me agree with Clarence Thomas, however, I’d appreciate it if you would send in an intervention team. 🙂

As for where we go from here, I’m just anxiously waiting for the 2012 polls to open. I’ll be there with as many neighbors as I can muster. I don’t relish the prospect of living in Kochville, USA. In the meantime, I’ll continue to think… ponder… and consider the thoughts of others as I orbit the planet. What a great site!


I’m with you on the 2012 thing, SB2. I have “vigorous” discussions with lefties who threaten not to vote because they’re “disappointed.” I point out the “Kochville” alternative consistently.

The Planet is a great site, isn’t it? A lot of that has to do with its very cool members — of which you are one!!


Good one: vote or enjoy Kochville.