Fantasy ends when the lights come on


  • Letters
  • Sunday, 16 Feb 2003

THE Film Censorship Board was just doing its job when banning Daredevil. Looking at the uneven censorship in the past, and the floodgates opened by broadband Internet access, satellite TV and rampant VCD piracy, we might see that the job’s relevance could stand some re-evaluation. 

Four-letter words are slashed out of films so savagely that the surrounding dialogue falls victim too.  

But have you overheard some conversations out on the street? Sailors may be forced to cover their ears and hurry past. 

Sex and nudity in the cinema are outright taboos. Still, open a newspaper on any given day and you will find yet another horrible sex crime or outrage. 

On the other hand, dismemberment, evisceration and decapitation (DEAD, to coin another abbreviation in the tradition of VHS) are, amazingly, more acceptable. 

Consider, also, the easy availability of material deemed “objectionable.” Some Best Picture Oscar winners or nominees that never made it to our cinemas like The Godfather, American Beauty, Platoon, Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan all were either banned or withdrawn by the distributors. 

With the exception of Schindler’s, the rest eventually showed up on satellite TV – which has a greater reach than the cinema. No doubt, Daredevil will make its way there too in a couple of years. 

Daredevil is a pulp fantasy, hardly Best Picture material, but the reasons for the ban make it sound like a socially significant event. Its unhealthy elements, the board says, include secret society dealings, fighting scenes using weapons and hands, vigilante acts, its focus on the mafia and a character who is a hired killer. 

By that token, Godfather II and III should have been barred from our cinemas like the original; the Once Upon a Time in China films, with their secret society dealings and “fighting scenes with hands and weapons,” would also be out of the question – along with the Bruce Lee classics and every other kung fu flick; Spider-Man, about a youth turned vigilante, and Batman, about a millionaire turned crime-fighter, are also dubious cases. 

Extending the “secret society” reasoning, Power Rangers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles also qualify for the list of forbidden things. Oh, wait – those lovable turtles were on that list once. 

In focusing on Daredevil’s most superfluous elements to justify its decision, the board has ignored the story’s fundamental strengths: that it shows a man can overcome the odds, that he is willing to sacrifice a normal life to defend the downtrodden, that he can rise above revenge to find a balance as a hero. 

Once again, the trees block out the forest and local moviegoers are left stranded in the woods while our friends around the world look on and laugh. 

Picking a scapegoat for society’s ills is easy; yet as long as we’re sidetracked arguing over popular entertainment, the real problems are just going to remain. 

They can start to go away if a little trust is shown; trust that the average citizen, faced with a tidal wave of information and choices, still knows that when the lights come on, the fantasy is over. 

We only wish at times the people making decisions like this know that we know.  

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