Censorship laws have been challenged by almost every technological change in the medium. There are always new films ready to come out on new or existing formats, ready to challenge the regulations of the industry.
For example, the video nasties. When these films first came about, there were a minimal amount of regulation and censorship laws. The only films that would be looked at were the ones that would be released in cinemas. This meant that the new technology of the VCR, which was becoming more and more readily available, was a prime target for the video nasties.
They were released solely on VCR to bypass regulation, and were often very low budget, horror films. These films would contain some brutal and gruesome images, on a format that anyone could get their hands on, even children. And as there were no regulations, the content just continued to get worse and worse.
This forced the BBFC to have police go out and seize videos, then take the publishers to court for creating the films. The films, whose publishers were successfully prosecuted, were put onto the list of Video nasties.
Then the Video Recording Act was bought in to stop these films bypassing the cinema and being released straight onto video. With this act, all films had to be submitted for review before they were released onto any medium, and films that had already been released had to be resubmitted.
There was also a second case of video nasties. This was for the sudden outbreak of ‘copycat crimes’. This was where people would say that they watched the film so much, they then went out and copied the films content, be it murder, robbery etc.
One of the main cases was the Jamie Bulger case, where two young boys brutally killed the 2 year old boy. The defence of the two boys was that they had been watching the Quentin Tarantino film, ‘Natural Born Killers’, and then went out to copy it. There were many different controversies surrounding the film, and then more and more ‘copycat criminals’ were blaming the film for what they did.
Another film that was blamed for copycat crimes was Stanley Kurbrick’s a Clockwork Orange. There was widespread controversy because of the common depiction of rape, sex, violence and murder in the film. This was an unusual case as it was pulled by the director himself, after he started to receive death threats from people and threatening messages. It was then re-released after his death.
One way that they were challenged culturally is by the film ‘the exorcist’. This was challenged by various cultural groups and religions because of its content. Because of the way that it seemed to be ‘anti-religious’ it was damned by religious groups, and they called for it to be banned. This made it become one of the first films banned, but not actually becoming an official video nasty.
The BBFC decided to ban the film outright, because of the controversy surrounding it. However, the film was re-submitted to the BBFC and was approved and released with an 18 rating in 1999. This signifies a relaxation of the censorship laws, and could also mean that the viewing public is becoming more and more de-sensitised to shocking films.