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X-rated

X-rated, especially refers to movie or video that is limited for adult viewing. It usually indicates very strong adult contents, usually nudity, sexuality, violence and profanity.

In Australia the term "x-rated" has been legalized. A government institution, the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) rates all movies and television programs. X-rated movies can not be sold in most states of Australia, however the Australian Capital Territory allows the possession of x-rated movies. (Wikipedia "X-rated")

Nine Songs

9songs.jpgNine Songs”,adapted from the novel “Platform”,was premiered in 2004 Cannes Film Festival. The premiere of the film caused a sensation, as presented in the film about the bold sexual intercourse, oral sex, and masturbation plot, which shocked the world feeling. When talking about the film being full of explicit sex scenes, the director Michael Winterbottom is quite objectionable, and metaphorically shows his own attitude: “If you want to shoot a film on the long-distance runner, I believe the audience is also keen to see the scenes in the running.” The film is controversial due to its sexual content, and the nine songs in the movie are authentic, non-artificial, and without modification, just as the male and female sex plot.

The nine songs that are compiled in this film are:
  • Whatever Happened to My Rock and Roll
  • C'mon, C'mon
  • Fallen Angel
  • Movin' On Up
  • You Were the Last High
  • Slow Life
  • Jacqueline
  • Nadia
  • Love Burns

Controversy

The controversy in this film lies in the depiction of copious amounts of sexual encounters throughout the film. A story of a remembered love affair between a British geologist (Keiran O’Brien) and American (Margo Stilley). The controversy behind the sexual content comes to a fore through the unsimulated footage of intercourse, oral sex and ejaculation. 9 Songs actually being the first mainstream feature from the UK depicting actual ejaculation. The unsimulated explicit sex includes masturbation, use of sex toys, vaginal sex, cunnilingus, as well as fellatio and more.
The film revolves around these two characters and them listening to a lot of music and having a lot of sexual encounters without a huge amount of dialogue, which also contributes to the controversial nature of the film. Director, Winterbottom, seems to be exploring the nature of film as a depiction of real life, in every facet of it, including sex. Some critics even state that there is sometimes actually not much more to life than sex and music, while others state that the script was simply not strong enough and the sex in a sense took away from the actual story, calling it boring.
The main debate over the film's release revolved around the sex and whether it actually contributed to the artistic merit of the film. This resulted in a 18 certificate from the British Classification Board(making it the most explicit classified film in the country) and was unrated in the USA. It received a X classification throughout all of Australia initially, before being reduced to a R18 classification by the OFLC, with the exception of South Australia.

Mysterious Skin

"Mysterious Skin", premiered in 2004 at the Venice Film Festival, is about the lives of two young boys (Neil McCormick and Brian Lackey) who were sexually abused by their baseball coach. The film is a description of the long-term effect of child sexual abuse on boys and has been the subject of some controversy in Australia, where the Australian Family Association requested a review of its classification, trying to have the film outlawed for its depiction of pedophilia. They suggested that the film could be used by pedophiles for sexual gratification or to help them train children for sexual abuse. The Classification Review Board voted 4:2 in maintaining an R18+ rating.
Mysterious Skin
Mysterious Skin


What needs to be addressed with some seriousness is the responsibility of the media and its spokespeople in commenting on issues they may see as sensitive and offensive. This technique of "offend and shock" the media often employ could be seen to be one of the major issues with many "censored" artworks, or suggested censorship. In relation to Mysterious Skin, it could be considered that the only reason this film could ever be viewed as an encouragement to pedophiles would be because of its absurd synopsis by Australian Family Association spokesperson, Richard Egan, as a "How To" manual for pedophiles. Without ever having seen this film (which one might argue would be the only way anyone could possibly ascertain that it was in any way encouraging this type of abuse), Egan managed to place this film in the hands of an audience it would have not originally reached, and an audience that possibly will approach the issues with a preconceived intention. This type of misrepresentation of art is, arguably, the most dangerous element surrounding the industry, far more dangerous than the material itself, and outrageously irresponsible of these clowns who claim to be "protecting society and families"!

Mysterious Skin- Individual Causal Responsibility vs Media Responsibility

The Australian Family Associations motive in outlawing Mysterious skin as a result of its depiction of pedophilia, is absurd in the sense that its painting a picture that can misconstrue the main purpose of the movie. This depiction can be seen as causing more harm then good, i agree with this notion that the media employ 'offend and shock' tactics in a way that contributes to the many censored avenues of art that are in place today. The 'how to' manual created by Richard Egan suggests ways in which this film is encouraging pedophilia and sexual abuse and this can lead to more interest and more volume being placed on this sensitive issue. The media have social responsibilities to the public, but when these comments come out it can be seen as a violation of social responsibility to the public. The Australian Family Association claim to be protecting society and families, but instead without possibly knowing it, they could easily be filtering the egos of these sexual abuses that we do have present in society. I feel that when an issue is brought up in a public forum, there is always extra concentration on these issues and this extra exposure to topics of pedophilia and sexual abuse, especially in the form that the Association presents the motive of Mysterious Skin to be, could be detrimental to society's values as a whole. Once again this issue of individual responsibility is brought up in the sense that it should be our responsibility as adults if we want to see films such as Mysterious skin and our responsibility to adopt self censorship in which ever way we choose. But for the Australian Family Association to outlaw this film is restricting our level of freedom of what we can and cant see and so as adults, our right to exercise self censorship is gone.

Controversial Opinion

There is a strong argument to be made that classification review requests should not be accepted from persons or organizations who have not seen the film. Australian Family Association spokesman Richard Egan was reported (SMH, July 19, 2005) as saying the film could be used by pedophiles for their own satisfaction, or to help groom children they were planning to abuse, after he read the film’s synopsis. Araki’s adaptation of Scott Heim’s novel is an intense screenplay that concentrates on the after-effects of those young sexual experiences, and how these effects on the two boys are totally different, yet equally damaging. Queer Screen executive producer Panos Couros commented, “The care and delicate understanding that Araki shows towards the two young male victims are unmistakable. This is a very important film on these issues, and its social value should not be discounted by anyone, particularly if this push for censorship has been informed by reading a synopsis.”

This controversy is similar to the Bill Henson controversy in that the media is used to perpetuate notions or ideas that are not of the original intent of the work or material being criticized. In Henson's case, the opinions of those who are not familiar with Henson's life work and the media reporting the incident, cite pornography as cause to censor Henson's art, even though it was deemed obviously not so by reputable art experts. In the case of Mysterious Skin, we see the same pattern of the desire to censor the material in question by parties that did not even watch the film. It is one thing, having watched the film, to disagree with what the film should and should not portray, and another to condemn the film based on uneducated opinions and not putting the film in context to what the filmmaker's message is through the film and the method that the filmmaker uses to depict the main issue of the movie.

Ken Park

"Ken Park" is not the name of a park; it is the name of a teenager who shot himself. Ken Park is not just a name, it is also a film directed by Larry Clark in 2002, including themes of incest, sex among the same man and mother and daughter, drugs, violence, SM (sadomasochism), assassination, publicly committed suicide, and other elements that compose the controversial movie. It is the exposure of four skateboard California Juveniles - three boys, one girl - and their families, which show us
Ken Park
Ken Park
the chaos of violence, pornography, hate and love.

Larry Clark is widely known as one of the most important and influential photographers of his generation, boldly confronting youth culture, image, sex, violence and drugs. He is probably best known for his direction of the 1995 film Kids, and more recently Ken Park, (which is still banned in many countries including Australia) these films mirror much of his earlier photographic series and many see them as a modern day adaptation of his earlier life depicted in his pictorial works.
Controversial themes of the film depict sexual antics, masturbation, murder, incest, teenage suicide and more through a non-linear narrative. Clark defends the film's censorship stating, “I wanted to make a film that was emotionally honest and visually honest.” (Larry Clark) http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2003/s896903.htm
In all his works, Clark pursues a set of related themes: the destructiveness of dysfunctional family relationships, masculinity and the roots of violence, the links between mass imagery and social behaviours, and the construction of identity and gender in adolescence.
To address these issues Clark uses sexually explicit imagery, as well as scenes of unconcealed drug use and violence, actions that are addressed casually by his subjects but which are often shocking to his audiences. Ken Park is no different.

Ken Park follows and delves into the lifestyles of characters Shawn (James Bullard), Claude (Stephen Jasso), Tate (James Rasome), and Peaches (Tiffany Limos). It is through these characters that Clark explores the controversial sexual exploits which include sexualised violence, masturbation, sexual dominance, age gap and inter- family paedophilia. The initial stages of the film, depicting Ken Park committing suicide at the local skate park allow for this character’s presence to continue through the film through the aforementioned characters, as he is the only one in the film that does not live through the cycle of urban domination and disturbance.
The film ends with Ken Park’s pregnant girlfriend asking “Do you wish your parents aborted you?” This sums up the films problematic themes; would the characters be better off unborn than to live these traumatic, sexually-charged lives? The controversy lies herein; that Clark depicts these lives as the real through cinema verite techniques, typical of his auteurial direction.

“(Auteurism)… was a means of evaluating films a posteriori according to the director’s technical competence, the presence of a distinct visual style, and an interior meaning which arose precisely from the tension between directors and the conditions of production with which they worked.”

In Australia, the Classification Board has classified the film as Refused Classification (RC), as the film contains scenes of actual sexual activity involving characters who are portrayed as minors that could not be accommodated within the R18+ or X18+ classifications. This decision was made based on the Office of Film and Literature Classification's (OFLC) classification code for RC films which states that, in regard to sex in film, that there can be no "gratuitous, exploitative or offensive depictions of: (i) sexual activity accompanied by fetishes or practices which are offensive or abhorrent" due to a scene in which a character is masturbating to the grunts of female tennis players while asphyxiating himself with the belt of a bathrobe (auto-erotic asphyxiation), deemed a fetish by the OFLC. Furthermore, the film was refused classification as it overstepped the legislation outlined in the Code for X18+ films which states that "consensual sexual activity between adults" can be shown but there can be "no non-adult depictions" of sexual activity, regardless of the age of the actors. In Ken Park the characters acted in scenes which a) vividly depicted non-consensual sexual acts and, b) depicted sex between characters who were underage, even though the actors portraying those characters were all over the age of eighteen. Finally, the decision also included the notion that minors should be protected from material likely to harm them. There are a couple of arguments against the OFLC's decision, including the idea that Clark almost certainly had genuine artistic intentions and that the film, far from being seen as a how-to manual for pedophiles and other sex offenders, is in fact educational in nature in that it brings to light some serious social and personal issues that face real people every day. Also, an R18+ or X18+ rating would have resolved the issue of possible harm to minors.

Criticisms of Ken Park

Christine Schmidt wrote a rather scathing article on the film entitled Ken Park and the Cunnilingus Kid. In this article she called the film "an exercise in gratuitous sex and teensploitation" but, while critical of the movie's context, she is also - perhaps more importantly - critical of the OFLC citing its legislation as "draconian". Schmidt believes that "the only truly good thing about 'Ken Park' is that it has brought to public light the excessively conservative and paternalistic nature of the OFLC, enlivened the censorship debate and ensured that Australians now know that the ‘powers that be’ believe we are not capable of making informed decisions about what we want to see." This refers to the OFLC's code of practice which states that "adults should be able to read, hear and see what they want", essentially suggesting that although adults in Australian society have a codified right of autonomy, it is a rare occasion in which they are actually given free reign to practice it as the 'powers that be' preempt many decisions that should be a matter of individual choice and causal responsibility, and turn them into decisions based on what they consider to be a moral responsibility to society to dictate the limits of suitability and acceptability of what we see, hear, say and do - a frightening concept in what is said to be a democratic society, epitomised by freedom of choice and the understanding that the majority of individuals are reasonable and responsible members of that society. The situation illustrated by Schmidt does beg the question: at what point should paternalistic power be reasonably expected to stop? Or, to quote Schmidt, "Should we expect book burnings next?"

The film brought to light the issue of twinned spheres, in which the boundaries of the public and the private are blurred if not completely torn down. The characters in the film see their identities pressured by a variety of realms, particularly those of the familial, the personal and the public. Sex within the film is seen as the ultimate inward retreat to the private sphere away from the familial and the public, but which crosses the borders of others' private spheres, making it an inward retreat in which they find hope and an escape from familial dysfunction as part of something larger than the individual.

The blurring of the public and the private sphere resulted in a movement which could not be comprehended from one of these spheres in regard to another, one of the main reasons for the film's highly controversial nature. A major issue is the understanding that there is not - indeed cannot be - a single, ideal public sphere into which every individual can neatly fit, let alone a solitary ideal of the private sphere. An important criticism of the censorship of Ken Park can therefore be made in that it provides the viewer with a number of varied point of views about how the private and public spheres of others' lives can affect that of a particular individual. The film, far from being an instruction manual on taboo sexual practices, almost certainly provides us with a better understanding and insight into the minds and mentalities of everyday people such as those portrayed in Ken Park that we might pass on the street every day. A rating of X18+ could certainly be granted given the film's explicit nature but it can be strongly argued that it provides a forceful representation of important personal and social issues that could - some would argue should - be brought to the fore as a matter of moral responsibility to the individual and society.

Based on the observations made in the above paragraphs that the film can be said to portray the less-discussed grey area where the public and private sphere collides, it could then be said that it is precisely this portrayal that incurred the censorship of Ken Park. As commented before, the film provides an intrusion into the bleak, complex matter of a person's personal and social issues that some argue could/should be brought to public attention and that others would argue is a personal, and thus taboo, matter that should not be discussed in a public sphere (in films). The latter line of thinking, seemingly in favour of protecting social morallity, can be associated to the idea of 'market censors' proposed by Sue Curry Jansen (1988, p. 16-17). Jansen states that these 'market censors' can be thought of as 'corporate decision-makers' who determine the sort of ideology, usually supported by said 'corporate decision-makers', that can be allowed to be distributed through the product (1988, p. 16-17). In the case of Ken Park, the Australian censorship board would be representative of Jansen's 'decision-makers', and it is evident through the RC rating obtained by Ken Park that the visually sexual themes and the jarring reminder of the taboo clash of the public and private spheres that unfold in the film is considered not suitable to be promoted through movies that are mass produced and reachable through a public sphere. It can then be deduced that an X18+ rating that could have taken care of the issue of explicit sexuality in the movie was not given solely because the underlying issue that is broached in the film is not that that is supported by the censorship board.


Ken Park- Moral Responsibility to the Public vs Moral Responsibility to the individual

The OFLC's code of practice which states that "adults should be able to read, hear and see what they want" implies that as adults we are able to make informed decisions as we are provided with endless amounts of video footage. This should mean that if we consider a film or video clip to be morally irresponsible then we just change the channel and contine on with our lives, hence continue to make informed decisions about what we consider individual moral responsibility. Everyone has different morals and values, so to censor certain clips and films based on what OFLC considers a moral responsibilty for society is ludicrous. This notion of dictating what we can and cant see is contradictory to our right as adults to express autonomy where we choose to. Our 'choice' is connected to our causal responsibility as adults, but this is being surpassed by higher powers who believe it is there duty to pick and choose what we are exposed to, thereby negating causal responsibility. In reference to the above statement of Schmidt 'at what point should paternalistic power be reasonably expected to stop'? It becomes our moral right as adults to freely express our autonomy in which ever way we choose, this is the free democratic society in which we live in isnt it? This paternalistic power threatens our rights as individuals and also has an ability to destroy our creativity. Its similar to the concept of the Panopticon where we are being surveiled in order to stop crime, but this is at the expense of our creativity and freedom as individulas. In reference to the text 'indecent, immoral and obscene' Harris warned that 'if a policy of persecution and moral gangsterism develops in the cultural field of this country, then the whole tendency will be to destroy the integral impulse to creativity'. (Heyward, M 1993:183). This suggests that peoples freedoms are becoming so constricted that it is causing this one dimensional outlook on what life should be, thereby overriding all forms of creativity. Any other thoughts on Heyward?

Kids

Another controversial film for its time was 'Kids' (1995), directed by Larry Clark and written by Harmony Korine. This film caused a stir for its portrayal of the fast-paced urban lives of adolescents living in New York during the mid-1990s, at a time of HIV, sex and drugs. Other controversial issues this film raised includes social drug use such as marijuana and ecstasy; explicit sexual dialogue, and the some scenes involving the exposure to date rape, violence and drug dealing.

The film debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1995 and was later released without a rating in the US on July 28, 1995. The Motion Picture Association of America rating system for 1990-1996 later gave the film a 'NC-17 rating' with 'No Children Under 17 Admitted'. According to the MPAA Ratings Guide, a NC-17 rating 'should not be construed as negative judgement' and does not necessarily mean 'obscene' or 'pornographic', instead the rating implied that 'the content is appropriate for only an adult audience' (MPAA Ratings Guide). Therefore this was based on violence, sex, aberrational behaviour, drug use or other things that parents feel would be 'too strong or off-limits' for their children to view.

Consequently, the release of Larry Clark's 'Kids' was met with much public debate. In 1995, Rita Kempley of the Washington Post argued the film took '...a disturbingly voyeuristic look at adolescent promiscuity, is virtually child pornography disguised as a cautionary documentary'. Kempley further criticises that Larry Clark is 'uncommunicative' and the film has 'neither compass nor compassion' (The Washington Post, 1995). On the other hand, the Cannes Film Festival supported its debut with its official selection for the festival and took a more positive light of the portrayal of Clark's work. The film was described as '...an artistic endeavour, it's the breathtaking images of one of the world's most renowned photographers set in motion to capture the beauty and tragedy of youth' (Festival de Cannes). 'Kids' also garnered appreciation for its depiction of teenagers of modern times as '...it's a no-holds-barred landscape of words and images, depicting with raw honestly the experiences, attitudes and uncertainties...' (Festival de Cannes).

Similar to Clark's 'Ken Park', perhaps a common theme Clark is trying to portray in his films is the notion that the central characters deal with identity issues, illustrated by their movement between the idea of public and private spheres, so their only retreat is through destructive and self-inflicting means. Therefore, possibly, it may be argued this may justify the film's significance worthy of artistic or social merit. More importantly however, 'Kids' raises the issue of responsibility over the protection of the public sphere. As a result, a private body such as the MPAA attempt to act responsibly to protect society's morals through restrictions over who is able to view the film. This effectively ties into the fear that without this form of censorship, the film may lead to harm on society, such as encouraging drug use or further crime. Ultimately this undermines making our own informed choices, reinforced by Lavin's 'liberal individualism', where there is a freedom to hold responsibility over individuals, therefore questioning whether we need to be protected over our choice of viewing this film.

Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodomsalo.gif

Salo is one of the most controversial films in the history of cinema, which was simultaneously banned throughout the world soon after its release and led to the assassination of the director, Pier Paolo Pasolini. Salo has been banned in many countries such as Canada, Denmark, Germany, Spain and the United States because of its "graphic portrayal of rape, torture and murder". (Wikipedia, "Salo")

The film is set in Salo, the remote village (during World War 2). 18 teenage girls and boys are kidnapped by four wealthy fascists and are taken to a isolated palace where they suffer from various tortures and sexual degradation.

Salo is still banned in Italy, the country where it was set, and was banned in Australia between 1976-1993. A heavily cut version was released with an R rating between 1993-1998, and since then has been available uncut. The film was rebanned in Australia in 1998 by the censors. It was resubmitted for classification in 2008, but was once again rejected.

The uncut version has been released by The Criterion Collection on a double-disk dvd, including a thick 80 page booklet filled with essays on the film. The Criterion Collection is the most prestigious American distribution label that has awarded itself the task of gathering the greatest films from around the world.

Salo has also been included in the 1001 Films You Must See Before You Die book.

Concrete-encased high school girl murder

Concrete-encased high school girl murder is a film based on true story which happened in Japan between the 25th of November 1998 and January 1989. A Japanese girl, Junko Furuta was murdered by three teenage boys. The film contains kidnapping, murder, violence and rape scenes which actually happened in Japan. This incident brought a large influence to Japanese society and resulted in being banned in Korea, New Zealand, UK and other countries.

This film is about three teenage boys who kidnapped Furuta, and took her to one of the boy's house who was living with his parents. However his parents were afraid of him so they never went to his room. One of them forced Furuta into calling her own parents and telling them that she had ran away from home, but was with "a friend" and was not in danger. According to three boys, they raped and beat her to her death. When they found out she was dead they buried her in the concrete.

This film premiered in 2004, with many people opposing it because of the high level of cruelty. After being suspended for a short time before it was released, it was put in public cinemas for people to see for one week before it was removed. For the one week it was rated R15+.


Classified Films based on preexisting societal frameworks thereby inhibiting CREATIVITY of the individual

Stanley Fish explains that ‘expression is a product of limitations and constraints, of the already-in-place presuppositions that give assertions their very particular point. Indeed the very act of thinking of something to say is already constrained-rendered impure’ (Fish, S 1994:108). Fish highlights that there is no such thing as free speech as a result of societies preexisting frameworks, which dictate the future of what can be considered freedom of thought inside of the social constructs. It is this social construction of film and art classification which prevents the alternative material such as Ken Park from being published or broadcasted. Again we come back to this same notion of the Media and government bodies creating certain moral standards by which are socially considered the norm. Fish can be linked to Mill’s theory on ‘social tyranny,’ (Mill, J S. 1910) where Mills explains this to be a danger to liberty, as tyranny is a direct link to restrictions being placed on individuals to exercise their individual responsibility and freedom. When we are following societal standards our own responsibility and freedom is becoming restricted, thereby limiting our creative individuality. Through analyzing the classification codes associated with film and art in Australia, we are able to realize that the so called 'autonomous self' depicted in a democratic society, is almost non existent to an extent. It seems as though the collective standards or norms of society outweigh the individual creativity.
This paternalistic power threatens our rights as individuals and also has an ability to destroy our creativity. It’s similar to the concept of the Panopticon where we are being surveiled in order to stop crime, but this is at the expense of our creativity, autonomy and freedom as individuals. In reference to the text ‘indecent, immoral and obscene’ Harris warned that ‘if a policy of persecution and moral gangsterism develops in the cultural field of this country, then the whole tendency will be to destroy the integral impulse to creativity’ (Heyward, M 1993:183). This suggests that peoples freedoms are becoming so constricted that it is causing this one dimensional outlook on what life should be, thereby overriding all forms of creativity.

Works Cited:

Alder, J. E. 1977, "Film censorship - something for everyone", The Modern Law Review, vol. 40, p. 74-79.
Aldgate, A. 2005, "Censorship in theatre and cinema", Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Festival De Cannes, 'Kids: The Official Selection 1995' <http://www.festival-cannes.com/en/archives/ficheFilm/id/3367/year/1995.html> accessed October 10, 2009
Fish, S 1994. ‘There’s No such Thing as Free Speech’ There’s No Such Thing as Free Speech and it’s a Good Thing, Too. Oxford UP pp.102

Heyward, M 1993. ‘indecent, immoral and obscene’ The Ern Malley Affair. UQP. Pp. 182-212, 275-277.
Jansen, S.C. 1988, "The censor's new clothes", Censorship: The knot that binds power and knowledge, Oxford UP, p. 14-25.
Kempley, R., 'Kids (NR)', The Washington Post, August 25, 1995 <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/movies/videos/kidsnrkempley_c029f5.htm> accessed October 10, 2009
King, N. 1999, ‘The Auter Theory” and “Auterism in the 1990s” in The Cinema Book, eds. P. Cook & M. Bernink, 2nd ed., London: British Film Institute, p. 256 -258; p. 311 – 314.
Mill, J S. 1910. ‘On Liberty’ Utilitarianism, Liberty and Representative Government. JM Dent and Sons. pp.65-77.Refused Classification. http://www.refused-classification.com/Films_kenpark.htm accessed October 7 2009
Schmidt, C., "Ken Park and the Cunnilingus Kid" in M/C, online access, viewed on 9 October 2009, <http://reviews.media-culture.org.au/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=983>.
Sydney Morning Herald 2005, "Pedophilia theme sparks film ban call', July 19, viewed on 2 October 2009, <http://www.smh.com.au/news/film/call-for-film-to-be-banned/2005/07/18/1121538915851.html>.
The Censorship Debate Articles on Ken Park: <http://libertus.net/censor/debate/articles03.html>, viewd on 12 October, 2009.

The Motion Picture Association of America, MPAA Ratings Guide <http://www.mpaa.org/flmrat_ratings.asp>, accessed October 10, 20