Sunday, March 3, 2013

Why are films the common scapegoat?

Why are kids getting exposed to worse films than horror films? Why do we ban films? What do we achieve from it? Is it a level playing field? Does banning films ACTUALLY prevent more depraved crimes from happening? How responsible are the parents? Why do only select countries ban certain films, while others are free to distribute it? These are the questions I constantly ask myself. You may be wondering why I am so fascinated with films that are banned, but the truth is part of my own psyche doesn't even know. I guess it is just the feeling of wanting to see something you are not supposed to. But then the more movies you watch, the more desensitized you become. And then you find yourself being quite shut off to what you see on screen. Because there is so much to list and go into detail with, this will become an article series. This first article is partially my own self reflection of what I experienced with watching films I shouldn't have at a young age, and how that has affected my opinion on what kids should and should not be exposed to. 

Do certain films with a particular topic offend you, and make you not want to watch it? It is always understandable if that is the case. We all have pasts, and we have all had a traumatic experience that has formed into a nerve, that once it is pushed, everything just boils to the surface. Films are incredibly powerful. We have direct and indirect visuals. A musical score could be played over a dramatic scene, to add to the emotion. But what is it that leads a film, that may seem powerful to others, become banned? Is it the themes? The Visuals? Or is it just something that people do not understand, and automatically write it off as distasteful? I don’t have concrete answers for these questions, but I have opinions, whether they are right or wrong is another matter. I just want to shed some light on the subject and convey how I feel about it.

Growing up as a middle child, left me a little alienated from everyone else. I spent a lot of time alone when my baby brother came along, so I really developed a taste for movies. The first really violent film I remember seeing was Fortress. You SHOULD all remember that Christopher Lambert masterpiece. Obviously at the time I never fully understood what was going on, I was five, but the visuals excited me, because it was something I had never seen before and I wasn't ever allowed to see, but god bless that babysitter from across the street. I started developing a violent taste in movies from a young age, especially when it came to martial arts. I think as I got a bit older and my visits to the video store were weekly, my parents didn't seem to care what I watched, I guess all that matters is that these films kept me quiet for several hours. Was that good or bad parenting that they didn't seem to care too much about what I watched? In some ways that was bad, because I do believe movies might have added to my fiery streak in my personality. I never kicked the shit out of kids at school after watching a Bruce Lee film. I was the one who got bullied badly, and I just found solace in my world full of movies. I mean I could have turned out to be a real bad kid, and maybe even worse adult. Luckily my parents were strict in other areas, they just weren't when it came to what I was exposed to on VHS and TV. 

I think you can expose children to a CERTAIN LEVEL of violent films but at the same time, you need to be strict on them as a parent and if you feel your kid is copying what they are watching, then all you have to do is turn off that TV. I also think parents should teach kids that what they are viewing is just a movie, and that a lot of the things they see, cannot happen. I know you may be thinking well that’s more of a buzz kill than Buzz Killington. But if you tell them that it is just a movie and that what they see, they shouldn't be doing, then I really don’t see how you could be going wrong. I am not saying show your five year old Cannibal Holocaust, but I am pretty sure you can tell whether your child is mature enough to understand between right and wrong, and real and fake. But at the same time, if your child becomes desensitized quite quickly, like I was, it does take away a lot of the innocence of being a kid, and that at times can suck. Why? Because you will feel like you are not on the same level as the kids your age. That is why I could not relate to kids my age, they bored the hell out of me. At age five I was talking about Fortress and the Godfather movies, none of the kids had any idea what I was talking about, so they didn't interest me. 

My older brother was the one who introduced me to violent action and martial arts movies. These genres of films were something, which was regularly rented by us growing up. And with each violent film I watched, the more bloody I wanted the fight scenes to be. Then I started to notice the trailers, which were available for me to watch on the beginning and the end of a VHS rental tape. That is how I started to delve into horror films, but I was more inclined to watch Exploitation over horror. Exploitation films were something I had never really seen before, but once I started to watch them, it just opened another door. I had found a unique style of film which had incredible imagination. But when I became aware that some of those horror and exploitation films that I had enjoyed were known as ‘Video Nasties’, I just found it hard to believe that films that I thought had imagination were just seen as vulgar and depraved. Now as an adult, I do believe that a lot of people who think these type of films are depraved, do not understand the genre and do no understand what the films are trying to convey to their audience. Sure some do not have a message or a storyline, they just want to show off the practical FX. It is okay it enjoy something which is ‘shlocky’  or ‘emotionally dense’. You are allowed to enjoy films strictly for the visuals. Sometimes you aren't meant to take the film seriously. 

The more obscene, bloody, gory and violent a film becomes, the more people start to believe that it’s real. That is something that happened constantly with films in the late 70’s and throughout the 80’s. Audiences who didn't understand what the film was trying to convey, just automatically assumed, what they were watching were genuine snuff films. When there are people who don’t understand certain things, they go into a panic, and then they explode this panic onto others. That is what happened when the government cracked down on the censors to ban pretty much anything with a hint of gore. Because of that mass hysteria into scaring people that their children were all watching inappropriate films as well as ‘Video Nasties’, people became crazy on censoring just about anything. There are films out there that I watch purely for gore and practical FX because I like to see how it’s done and what creative things they can come up with. This is why I love the Hostel movies so much. There is a fairly solid story behind the gore, but let’s face it, I really don’t care too much about the story, I just want to see how the film will surprise me. Now to ordinary people who don’t watch that many films, may read this article and think I am depraved with nothing better to keep myself preoccupied with. I think that Horror films and Exploitation films are one of the most creative forms and genres of film. They break down the barriers of what is normal, and create a world which is the exploits of amazing imaginations. And these imaginations make something memorable that people can enjoy and have a lot of fun with.

Gore is not something, that we should be afraid of when we watch a film. Obviously you should protect children against seeing some strong gory films, because there are many different levels of gore. Growing up I was exposed to gore pretty early on. Not necessarily horror films, but just extremely violent exploitation films. I find that parents seem to think the worst kind of films that their kids can get their hands on is horror, and that just isn't true. Obviously the reason why they think horror is the worst genre for children to see, is because of the gore and violence. But I think it’s just as damaging to show a prepubescent kid a film like The Accused or Sleepers. I worked in the retail industry selling films, since I was eighteen years old, and I can tell you parents shove drama films down their kids throats, because they think it’s going to ‘expand’ their mind. Now while there are some incredible drama’s out there, you have to be careful with what you show them. I saw Escape from Sobibor at probably age six or seven, those images from that film never left my head. Obviously what happened in World War II should never be forgotten and I can see why parents seem to think you are learning something. But all you are doing is exposing them to the REAL LIFE horror, things that ACTUALLY can happen. Let them develop their mind properly first, so they can get their head around what awful things have happened in history. 

Obviously real life horror is a pretty messed up thing to expose to your children. But the one thing I think is the worst thing you can expose your kids to in films, is sex. Sex is a feeling which we all like, but sex is very personal, in my opinion. So when kids see something like that and it arouses at an early age, distinct behaviours start to form, and they want to see more. It makes them feel good, probably more strange at first but it develops. It can also confuse them a lot as well. Especially when they are prepubescent, and their feelings don't quite add up with their actions. When I used to sell DVD's to customers, they wouldn't think twice about letting their eleven year old son watch an MA 15+ movie which had high levels of sexual activity or sex scenes. Why? Because a lot of them weren't violent or gory. I think it's messed up that parents are cool with their kids more so boys watching a film which chauvinistic pigs treat women like they are objects and blatantly disrespect them. I am not getting all feminist here, but I am just stating a fact that the more they are exposed to THAT kind of material the more they are going to think it's fine to act like that. And when the hormones kick in, you will see the results of your 'great' parenting. Just look at the clubbing culture that's around these days, there are your examples of 'good breeding'. I am not saying that every kid is going to be like that if you expose them to films which are of a sexual nature in certain scenes, because everyone is different, and we don't all think the same. But just don't be surprised when they are exposed to it too early. 

How responsible are the parents? Obviously they cannot watch them all the time, because they go to their friend’s house and they may get exposed to something you wouldn't show your own kid. And if your kid knows they can get away with watching something more violent or bloody, they will do it, and they won’t tell you. There have been cases where horror films in particular have been the scapegoat of several depraved acts that either children or adolescence have committed. But there is one thing that never ever gets analysed with the media or when there's a government crackdown on this. And that’s the topic of mental health. Mental health is an issue which is ignored around the world, it’s a messy subject and it isn't black and white. It is ignored by parents because most are in denial or they don’t even acknowledge that their own kid needs some emotional stability. As soon as they commit an act which could resemble a film they watched straight away the film industry comes under fire. But no one ever asks the parent, “Why was your kid watching this film?” And it is because of acts like this, that the film industry suffers and so do the TARGET AUDIENCE. Movies get banned or cut, in which case pisses off die-hard fans. There is nothing worse than trying to find an uncut edition of a film you love a lot. The parents have a lot to answer for, and should stop acting surprised when their kids act out. Don’t be blaming a film, because I think in most cases parents don’t discipline their kids enough, and they blame different platforms of entertainment because it’s easier. We are surrounded every day by technology and everything is becoming easier to access, whether it’s with a mobile or a computer. Kids are far more technical savvy these days compared to the 1980’s, so if they want something they will get their hands on it. It is up to the parent to say one word, NO. 

This isn't about me preaching and being holier than thou. I am just stating what I have analysed when it comes to human nature. This is just merely my opinion. Obviously this article isn't as much as about the movies, but the people and the attitudes that we can create. Whether it is exposing a kid to horror, exploitation, sex scenes in films, at the end of the day there are PEOPLE to answer for. It's not the movies fault. Movies are meant to entertain, not to hurt. There are few exception to that rule, which I will get to in the next article. But people need to wake up and look at society, because what happens in society is more messed up than ANYTHING you will see in a film. But we expose ourselves and our families to that everyday. It seems as if people take films more seriously than life.  People tend to get more angry at movies and how they 'hurt' their kids. But they never seem to question the amount of messed up things that we see every day on the news. Maybe we should be more desensitized to movies the same way we are with life. 

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