Miranda Devine has finally moved her campaign about children, films and censorship (see also here) from the tabloid Sun-Herald to her mid-week broadsheet gig in the Sydney Morning Herald. The History Boys again rates a mention. She doesn’t say that she has seen it.
I confess I am tiring of her, in fact, I was tired of her before she began this latest riff, but it is still maddening to read her statements which gain nothing in accuracy or truthfulness by their repetition but do nevertheless gain currency and publicity.
For the time being, I shall content myself with a non-exhaustive commentary of some extracts. Emphasis in bold added by me.
We are witnessing the acceleration of “ratings creep”, the steady erosion of film classification standards, as more and more adult content seeps down into PG and M ratings, leaving parents powerless and confused about what to allow their children to watch.
What is it that leads parents powerless? If parents have a particular sensitivity to such matters, then they need not rely on the nanny state (the censor) or reviews aimed at the public at large.
Even G ratings are not what they used to be. A 2003 revision of movie classification guidelines allowed drug use and nudity “in context”. Mild coarse language has always been allowed, as has “mild and very discreetly implied” sexual activity and drug use.
You don’t have to be a wowser or a religious fundamentalist to dislike the trend.
You don’t have to be, although it certainly helps. It’s probably enough if you are a conservative columnist who gets paid for being conservative and have a bee in your bonnet about homosexuality.
Parents are increasingly finding themselves walking out of films they have discovered are unsuitable for their children. You are hard-pressed finding a children’s movie tamer than an M – the third Pirates of the Caribbean film and Spider-Man 3 are the latest M-rated blockbusters. Of 21 movies advertised yesterday at Hoyts cinemas, just one was rated G and three were PG, and all four were being shown in Chatswood. The rest of Sydney was a ratings desert for children.
Well, this is either a problem with the ratings (some children’s films are incorrectly being rated G or PG) or else a failure of the market. If the latter, then surely the “invisible hand” can see things right without any help from Miranda, as she seems to concede later:
To return, however, to the flow of her argument:
But in the same M category are movies clearly unsuitable for children that might once have been rated MA15+. Two current M movies are The History Boys, a homoerotic tale set in a British boys’ school featuring a pedophile teacher whose students don’t mind being groped; and Georgia Rule, with the theme of child sexual abuse, scenes of oral sex and lots of swearing. Trailers for both movies would appeal to children under 15.
That’s the point which maddens me because this is where Miranda runs a “ratings creep” agenda of her own. Just because the M rating has been applied to Pirates of the Caribbean film and Spider-Man 3 (I presume because they are either scary or violent), Miranda, who isn’t too worried by violence but doesn’t like sex, bad language or depiction of homosexuality, thinks that other films now need to be “bumped up” a rating. (And anyway, if we go back further, the MA15+ rating was itself an innovation: it used just to be M and was purely advisory.)
Everything which Miranda says about The History Boys is wrong, unless, you allow her, like Humpty Dumpty in Alice through the Looking Glass, a special mastery over words. To itemise this:
- The film is not homoerotic. Inclusion of references to homosexuality is not the same thing.
- The teacher is not a pedophile. He is a teacher who abuses 18-year-olds and is expressly not interested in the younger-looking boy who would attract his interest if he were a pedophile.
- The students do mind being groped by him. They are sufficiently loyal to him for other reasons not to actually shop him for it, but they all try to beg off accepting a lift from him on his motor bike, which is when the groping occurs.
Miranda is peddling this account now for the third time. I don’t see any reason to believe anything she says about any other film which I haven’t seen given her track record on the one I have seen. Her peroration gives the tone:
But in fact it is precisely because of the cornucopia of violence and porn available on the web that we need to carve out safe ground in which desirable standards are maintained.
Otherwise we are just frogs in boiling water, barely noticing that the debasement of language, casual violence and sexualisation of everything is having a deadening effect on our culture, not to mention our children.
Oh my God, our children are being deadened!