The BBFC Are Using Flawed Research to Reaffirm Their Policies Regarding ‘Potential Harm’

THE KILLER INSIDE MEContrary to a common error that many seem to make, the BBFC stands for ‘British Board of Film Classification’ and not the ‘British Board of Film Censors’ (this was its name until 1984). Though, as a film fan growing up in the UK I always associated the board with censorship. Tracking down films to watch I was always struck by how many were unavailable in the UK in an uncut form or in some cases even at all, due mostly to the intervention of the BBFC. Over the past few years things have changed a great deal with films that were outright banned making an appearance in uncut forms in the UK. The BBFC also embarked upon a journey towards greater transparency and seemed to better understand the need for a board that classified films, offering guidance for those that needed it, and not a draconian organisation that attempted to control artistic works within this country (imported film will forever undermine this idea anyway though).

Then FrightFest 2010 happened. The annual horror film festival had programmed A Serbian Film, a film I had thankfully seen at another festival ahead of FrightFest, but were informed by Westminster Council that they would not be allowed to show the film uncut. The BBFC said the following,

The board recognises that the images are intended to shock, but the sexual and sexualised violence goes beyond what is acceptable under current BBFC guidelines [for an 18-certificate]

At the time this really felt like the beginning of something, a tipping point that would lead the BBFC down a dangerous path, and indeed it was. More rejections and cuts (although these were always merely ‘suggested’ by the BBFC) followed in the wake of this decision and it became clear that the BBFC were pinning their colours to the mast regarding the stronger content of many films. This effort has appeared to hinge on one phrase repeated over and over again, that of the risk of ‘potential harm’ as a result of the films being released uncut.

My personal view regarding the BBFC is that they are very important body that are in place to guide audiences. Any efforts to restrict the content of films should be one that focuses on legality. Films that feature illegal activity are already well served by many laws in place to prevent such activity. In using the phrase ‘potential harm’ the BBFC are exploiting a loophole which results from poor phrasing in legislation in order to go further than they really should.

They have, of course, been criticised by many for these recent efforts to restrict films but they have again and again returned to the vague term ‘potential harm’. In an effort which seems to represent an attempt to justify this and discourage dissent regarding their actions they have commissioned research into the stronger material that they have been classifying and into this question of potential harm. Rather than approach this in a scientific manner, investigating the actual impact that these films have (any research in this area has been inconclusive to date), the BBFC have opted for what essentially boils down to asking a few people what they think. You can find the 66 page as a PDF here.

The ‘research’ conducted by Ipsos MORI has been written up (with lots of very key information missing) and presented by the BBFC as evidence as to why they will continue to apply the same approach with regards to potential harm and the films which they consider to be too dangerous to be released in the UK.

I began reading the report a few days ago and was immediately struck by many extremely serious issues I saw in and began making a number of notes. What follows is a commentary of sorts on the report that compiles these notes in a way that is hopefully easy to follow and lays out the many problems I found in this incredibly important document. [All quotes are taken from the report exactly as they appear, spelling or grammatical errors included]

The BBFC summarise the purpose of the report in the following way,

Public confidence in the classification system is also deemed to be a key measure for the effectiveness of the system. The research thus sought to establish whether public opinion on cut, uncut and rejected films is in line with the current BBFC classifications and policy.

So it appears clear from the very outset that this report was about ascertaining whether the “public” agreed with the BBFC. This is perhaps the most infuriating part of this report, that the flawed research carried out was done in order to see if the public (a somewhat vague idea anyway) agree with the BBFC’s decisions to reject films. Even if 50 million people in the UK agreed with the rejections this would not actually justify the rejections, as the decision by the BBFC to reject a film based on its potential to harm should be based upon clinical evidence that it can cause harm not whether members of the public think it might. And this report is based on the thoughts of a lot less than 50 million people…

42 participants were recruited for the study (from London, Bristol and Dundee – all rather large cities and already representing a rather narrow sample) but ultimately only 35 were interviewed.

The report states that this was qualitative research and that,

The exploratory nature of qualitative research provides insight into perceptions, feelings and behaviours rather than drawing conclusions from a robust sample. Findings are therefore not statistically representative.

But these findings are central to decisions being made regarding policies that affect many, many viewers and also distributors, filmmakers and so on. To me a robust enough sample is very important in order for this to be a significant enough study for its intended purpose.

According to the report the

…participants included a mix of genders, ethnicities and adult age as well as a mix of employment, family and socio-economic status.

The BBFC are not forthcoming on the exact demographics of the participants though, beyond their age, gender and very basic information regarding their film habits.

The participants were given a selection of films to watch at home (the participants were offered counselling afterwards in case the alleged harm actually occurred)

The films chosen were as follows,

Antichrist, Wolf Creek, Martyrs, The Killer Inside Me (passed uncut at 18)
I Spit on Your Grave, A Serbian Film, The Human Centipede II (passed following cuts)
The Bunny Game, Grotesque (rejected/refused classification)

The BBFC then invited seven participants from each geographical area to attend group discussions. Aside from the fact that we’re now down to just 21 people, group discussions are complex situations for research in which peer influence can have a dramatic impact on the results. How comfortable would you find saying that you thought depictions of rape were entirely fine in a fictionalised film when 20 other people around you thought they were sick, for instance. It would take a fair amount of confidence that many people simply don’t possess  It is worth noting though that they could also log more private thoughts in a personal diary afterwards. Although surely they would be heavily influenced by what other participants had said as these diary entries appear to have been written after discussions.

These participants were then shown 13 short clips from a selection of different films (Red, White & Blue, Eden Lake, Seed, Murder Set Pieces, The House on the Edge of the Park, Break, As if I’m Not There). The aim of just showing clips was explained as follows,

By showing clips in isolation of the wider storyline of the individual films, the aim was to explore the degree to which background context of the plot and emotional connection with characters helps shape opinions.

These were notably clips from different films from the ones shown to them in full. How can you truly compare the reactions to the clips to the reactions to the full films in any meaningful way? Surely it is easy to see that this is a very flawed approach from the outset.

Many films have fallen foul the past two years of the BBFC’s new favourite word – harm. I previously attempted to get an explanation from BBFC director David Cooke as to what they actually mean when they talk about this but to little avail. This new report offers the following definition.

 Harm: this extends across potential psychological harm from watching the film content, harm through the behaviour of potential viewers and contribution towards harmful attitudes (for example, encouraging a dehumanised view of others).

I’m still actually a little unclear about what they mean, even after re-reading that a dozen times (a longer definition later in the report provides no further illumination). One main sticking point is this idea of “psychological harm”. If I feel upset, disgusted or angry when watching a film, is that psychological harm? Although films that provoke such reactions are often some of the best of each year.

I suspect the BBFC are hinting at something much more extreme and far harder, or perhaps impossible (because it is almost certainly spurious claim), to prove. That a perfectly balanced person could become unhinged after watching an uncut version of The Human Centipede II.

On page two of the report the following is stated regarding the key findings

While this research sought to ascertain the impact and potential harm on viewers of watching sexually violent and sadistic content, it has had to do so within certain methodological constraints. For example, we are not able to test actual harm to participants through long term psychological testing. Rather we used perceptions and reactions from participants to determine the context, true meaning of responses and potential harm caused. Further, while viewing some of the explicit clips during a group setting, some of the female participants were visibly upset at what they were watching; participants also described how emotionally down they felt after viewing some of the material at home, and this had remained with them for a couple of days. It is these observations and emotional context that has enabled us to analyse the research findings.

Putting to one side how simplistic and anecdotal the point about the upset that some participants felt, perceptions were used to extrapolate ideas regarding potential harm. This is not serious clinical research into potential harm, this is a guess based on what a few people said under a particular and not especially impartial set of circumstances (more on that later). This is an important point to re-stress though; this report is clearly about what people think about potential harm, not about what potential for harm there actually is.

The introduction to the report states rather simplistically that clinical research into the potential for harm has been inconclusive. Crucially though, because it is inconclusive that does not mean there are not risks. Maybe, but perhaps policies should be made based on facts rather than the absence of facts. If someone tells me that if they walk on the cracks in the pavement people will randomly drop dead it’s very hard for me to provide conclusive evidence that that statement is incorrect. Does that mean I should also stop walking on the cracks in the pavement, just in case?

Some concern was raised for the potential effect of watching films with sexual and sadistic violence for harmful behaviour among viewers.

The above highlighting of the phrase ‘harmful behaviour’  is right there in the report. Presumably the participants said it really emphatically.

Rape is something that is quite contentious in the research and a comment from Female, 32 sums up a somewhat disturbing misunderstanding,

I feel this is the most potentially harmful message, as it’s confusing and almot makes rape seem acceptable.

This was in response to scenes which supposedly were seen to glamorise the act of rape or suggest that women might enjoy it. One of the films referenced is I Spit on Your Grave, a film in which the rapists are presented as despicable people and receive a vengeful response from the woman who is raped. The report comments that showing the victim or the perpetrator enjoying the act would normalise rape or glamorise it. The idea that anyone seeing a rapist enjoying rape would lead them to think that rape was “acceptable” or that it was glamorous would shake me to my core. Luckily I think that’s total nonsense and have yet to see any conclusive evidence that suggests that this would lead people in this direction.

One line in the report really stands out when it comes to the question of sexualised violence,

Most did not think that scenes of sexualised violence could be potentially harmful.

Wait, so if most did not think that there was the potential for harm then why does the first line of the press release regarding the report state the following,

Research carried out on behalf of the BBFC in 2002 and again in 2012 demonstrates that members of the film viewing public find unacceptable certain depictions of sexual and sadistic violence which, in their view, have the potential to cause harm.

The report then goes on to say that,

Possible emotional and psychological harm from watching films with sexual and sadistic violence content was noted by many.

This seems rather contradictory when one considers the previous comment. Did many think that scenes of sexualised violence could be potentially harmful or not? The cherry picked quotes from the participants provide some answers as to what the participants thought about what they saw… in a way.

Regarding a rather unpleasant scene in The Killer Inside Me, Male, 62 from Bristol commented that,

Punching a woman in the face, it really upset me to see it and why would anyone want to see it? The beating up of the lady I couldn‟t understand it, even in the weirdest of sexual pleasures…if it just came on television and I saw that, I would turn it straight off. I really don‟t want to see that.

I saw The Killer Inside Me at a sold out cinema and found that scene upsetting too (many people around me obviously did as well), because it is supposed to be upsetting. It is intended to provoke that exact reaction. In fact, when quizzed about the scene in a Q&A following the film the director, Michael Winterbottom, commented on the need to ensure that the sequence was brutal enough to make this clear to anyone watching it.

The scene appeared to have the desired effect on Male, 62 and the other participants. Others even go so far as to suggest that this could have a positive effect, opening audience members’ eyes to the horrible acts of violence that are committed against women. These findings suggest immediately to me that just because a scene is upsetting or disturbing to an audience that does not mean that it does not have value, in fact the filmmaker’s ability to upset or disturb an audience can actually be crucial to the film having a positive value.

Regarding Antichrist, one participant had the following to say,

The first scene was very enjoyable, it could have been anyone in their daily life. As soon as it got to the woods, it got weird and I lost interest, I even fell asleep at one point. Why was the film called Antichrist? The film didn‟t play out anyway near how I expected it to. I didn‟t really understand the story.
(Female, 25, Bristol)

The first scene in Antichrist is a slow-motion sequence in which a couple have sex whilst their baby dies by falling out of a window. Enjoyable? The participant fell asleep?  I’m not sure Female, 25 was taking this all too seriously.

On the question of the cuts that the BBFC recommended to the distributor regarding the 2010 version of the rape/revenge film I Spit on Your Grave the participants said the following,

Some felt that the cuts recommended for this film by the BBFC were excessive since they thought without showing these to their full extent, Jennifer’s apparent motivation for revenge would be lessened and her later acts would fail to make sense.

Interestingly this is pretty much the exact same criticism levelled against cuts made to the 1978 version of the film. Cuts recommended or made by a classification or censorship body always have the potential to alter the film in a way that makes it potentially ‘worse’ in the eyes of many. Censors are not necessarily better equipped than filmmakers to judge what impact scenes will have on an audience. In fact, I would argue that many filmmakers are better equipped. It is after all the very essence of their job.

The report makes clear that responses towards I Spit on Your Grave and its cuts and classification were varied. One of the most extreme reactions was from a participant who goes so far with her comments, comments that sound more like hysteria than a genuinely concerned and measured response.

Definitely harmful as people do copy what they see. The line might become blurred between rough sex and rape. Where‟s the line? There are other people in the room getting off on the rape and violence. That behaviour might encourage gang rape. That could happen in real life, definitely. Men get in a frenzy, it‟s harmful. It shouldn‟t ever be shown. You‟d have to cut half of the film for it to be an 18!
(Female, 22, London)

“Where’s the line?” In real life or in the film? In both, I would argue, the line is very clear. The most disturbing quote is “Men get in a frenzy, it‟s harmful.” The implication seems to be that men very easily get in a ‘frenzy’ and this could easily turn into a desire for rape. Something of an unfair and frightening characterisation of an entire gender, no?

It’s interesting to note that no further information is given regarding this bafflingly alarmist statement. Did she offer any further explanation for these comments? Did the questioners ask for any? Is this not supposed to be qualitative research that “…provides insight into perceptions, feelings and behaviours”?

Onto the rather silly The Human Centipede II and the responses seem to go even further off the rails.

…the door is open for it to be interpreted sexually – in a sick way.
(Male, 40, London).

psychological definition of fetish is “…any object or nongenital part of the body that causes a habitual erotic response or fixation”. Does not the depiction of anything leave the “door open” for it to be interpreted sexually?

One comment seems to get to the root of an issue that often crops up regarding the banning of films,

…it should be banned as there is no point for a film like that to exist. There is no enjoyment to be derived from watching it.
(Male, 38, Bristol)

Films that are not enjoyable have no value? This is demonstrably not true and thankfully I have around one hundred years of films to back me up. Decades of films that make audiences upset, disturbed or simply sad. Lets not ban them all just because they’re not fun.

Also, on The Human Centipede II

[Sexualise violence – May give people ideas as] People are already going that way. The presence of handcuffs and other things that are already linked to sex are just going to influence and encourage further ideas in the viewers.
(Female, 25, Bristol)

There is a sense of worry implicit in this comment, “People are already going that way” that really needs some sort of follow-up question to provide context. The lines that follow it unfortunately do more to obscure than illuminate. The assertion that handcuffs are “already linked to sex” is an odd comment in particular as it is based on exterior influences that the participant has brought into the study but we are not given any further information on Female, 25, Bristol and her thoughts on “further ideas”. Presumably she does not approve of such things but handcuffs can be bought in Ann Summers shops on British High Streets and Fifty Shades of Grey (the fastest-selling paperback of all time) features their use in a sexual context. Neither Ann Summers or Fifty Shades of Grey have been banned for encouraging further ideas or for their potential to harm. It appears though from the report that the BBFC are taking the above quote on face value and directing policy based on it.

All it is doing is putting ideas into people‟s heads. If I‟m the type of person who is triggered by something, of which there are some, this is going to give them ideas…even if they are not going to carry it out, it will disturb people.
(Female, 30, London)

” If I’m the type of person…” is perhaps the key phrase here and it is a reasonably sensible point that needs to be made. But the key fact missing is that if you are that ‘type of person’ then it is impossible to account for what will potentially trigger something in you, if anything indeed will. A fair amount of evidence suggests that Charles Manson was affected by the song ‘Piggies’ by The Beatles, a rather innocuous ditty that no-one would surely call to be banned.

When speaking about A Serbian Film the participants again stumble into this thorny subject,

…If a paedophile watched that film, they might be aroused by it.
(Male, 32, Bristol)

They might. They might be aroused by lots of things. Lots of entirely innocent things that are seen on television all the time might result in this. A Serbian Film does admittedly often push taboo subjects surrounding the depiction of children but there is no doubt in my mind that the film and the filmmakers are not in favour of paedophilia or are attempting to show it in a positive light and the film is not intended to arouse paedophiles who may possibly choose to watch it. The implication from the above quote is that the film is in breach of criminal laws which would classify it as paedophilic pornography and result not in a rejection from the BBFC but arrests. This did not happen because this is clearly not what the film is.

Female, 22 (presumably the same participant who made the rather extreme comments regarding men getting in “a frenzy”) also comments on A Serbian Film,

That film was someone else controlling him. I suppose it‟s unacceptable regardless of what he‟s thinking or how he reacts. It‟s using sex in a bad way, portraying it in an irresponsible way – that glamorises it. In highly sexualised films like that, your mind is on the sexual stuff which is why children being in it is so wrong. Men‟s minds are already aroused. They‟re at the peak of their arousal and then the child is thrown in. That is when it starts getting uncomfortable, when there‟s that link.
(Female, 22, London)

“Men‟s minds are already aroused.” Again a very worrying generalisation that has no justification in science. This again makes clear the need for the BBFC to focus their efforts on exploring clinical research and highlights the dangers of just asking a few people what they think. I feel rather concerned for the woman who is quoted above as she has some rather upsetting views about the male gender. I would not only hope that the BBFC would not base policies on her opinions but that they would encourage her to perhaps consider professional help regarding some of the feelings expressed here. Hopefully she took advantage of the free counselling offered.

Returning to the problem of selecting a small group of participants to watch something they are not necessarily interested in and voice an opinion, responses to the Japanese film Grotesque are clouded by the following,

Many participants found this a difficult film to follow, partly due to the Japanese context and language (the film is subtitled), but also because of the general lack of narrative and dialogue.

A subtitled film low on narrative is probably not everyone’s cup of tea and this has an interesting effect.

For these participants the poor quality and lack of narrative meant that they were disengaged, and hence did not find it difficult to watch or feel it should be banned.

This makes very apparent the need for the contextual reading of films. Why sit someone in front of this film when they have no knowledge of this type of film or interest in it. What valuable information does this actually tell us?

One participant even comments,

[Potentially harmful] Yeah, very, very, very. I would, we want a XXX on that. And very, yeah, that is very, because it is very sadistic.
(Female, 44, Dundee)

This shows a complete lack of awareness about the BBFC classification categories, something that is surely essential when discussing how a film should be classified.

It seems clear from the BBFC that when classifying films they are very careful to consider the context and the ensure that the examiners are reasonably well versed in film before sitting them in front of submitted films with a great deal of power and responsibility. Hopefully the comments regarding Grotesque cement this methodology as the necessary and logical approach. Although surely this conclusion also goes some way to invalidating the value of this research.

The participants show some evidence that they are keen on attempts at amateur criticism and reading the films in a meaningful way, with the following being perhaps the most amusingly dismissive aside.

A really poor film. Constantly graphic, constantly violent, constant suggestion of rape. Not my kind of film. Not much ambition to the film, clearly aiming for a cult following.
(Male, 26, Bristol)

Presumably the researchers were quick to point out that they were not after pithy reviews and probed Male, 26 for further information about the “graphic” content. Sadly no evidence of this is in the report.

There is actually very little information in the report about what the participants were asked and how. Leading questions after all can have a very significant impact on a research participant’s answers.

One quote does offer us some insight into the approach,

Q: And do you think any of the scenes glamorised or sexualised violence?
A: Yeah, a little bit.
Q: Which bits?
A: All of it. But because, well if you watch porn they sort of do that don‟t they? They would tie them up and dog collars and stuff like that, and yeah, it‟s sadomasochism isn‟t it? And so yeah. Yeah, I don‟t find that … there‟s anything wrong with that
(Female, 41, Bristol)

Reading that exchange I can’t help but think that if all the questioning was as leading as that then the value of the responses from the participants can be very strongly called into question.

In section 2.2 the report moves into the clips section of the research with the following introduction.

Following the depth interview, participants were asked to view a selection of additional short clips within a group setting.

All of the above quotes I selected were taken from the section which the report is referring to here as the “depth interview”. As I have probably made clear already though, there is little evidence of depth or any sense that the participants were probed for deep answers.

The clips section of the report appears to be almost entirely without merit as showing just clips, outside of their context,  is contrary to the BBFC’s own approach and obviously fraught with a variety of issues. The write up also gives only a general sense of what was said and doesn’t quote the participants directly. Also, sentences such as this are very troubling indeed.

The close up of the nipple being slashed and the eyeball being cut provoked physical reactions amongst some participants but the sexualised aspect to the violence was not picked up.

So, the research was carried out with a very clear and biased intention. It seems explicit from a sentence such as the one above that the researchers were looking for confirmation of things that they already thought to be facts. Confirmation bias is something that any serious study will avoid.

Reactions to 3D Sex and Zen – Extreme Ecstasy hint at more evidence of possible confirmation bias in the research too.

When participants first watched this clip, there was a lot of laughter and ridicule of the scene. When the moderator pointed out the potential damage of a scene of rape turning into consensual sex, some participants agreed that this could be harmful. This idea was thought to be particularly damaging to young males who may not have enough experience to put this into a sensible context. However, some participants did not think this would be harmful as ‘no means no’ is such a strong and universally recognised message and this film just seemed to be a role play rape scene.

The findings section of the report again reaffirms this issue with the research,

Participants also struggled to consider, many even when prompted, the concept of harm in relation to ‘normal’ people.

I would struggle to consider this. It doesn’t really make any sense to me and I know of no clinical evidence that supports the claim. And if “prompted” I would be seriously worried about the validity of the research I was taking part in.

Thankfully the report does make clear that the participants were perhaps ill-equipped to be discussing this subject in the first place, although their responses are still being used as a basis for policy change/confirmation.

Given the sensitive nature of the subject of interviews, participants often struggled to articulate their views beyond their gut reaction. This meant that they often used conflicting language and articulated many contradictions in their responses.

Regarding the concept of harm – which is what I suspect the BBFC were mostly looking for confirmation of – the findings section goes into further detail but considering the approach of the research up until this point it is incredibly hard to take the findings at all seriously.

This, for instance, raises further questions,

In reaction to scenes in 3D Sex and Zen and Grotesque, many were concerned about the potential harm of showing rape in a way that may endorse the ‘rape myth’ of no means yes.

Many were concerned even though it needed to be pointed out to them (see the quote above). That hardly sounds like conclusive evidence that the participants were concerned, more that they were perhaps nodding along with what the person questioning them suggested.

A conversation about the scene from the Bristol group is documented in the report,

Female 1: It is DEFINITELY a harmful image.
Female 2: I disagree. Men are all constantly told „no means no‟. This
just wouldn‟t happen.
Male 1: No I disagree, I think this film would confuse it.
Male 2: Especially with youngsters, they don‟t know.
Female 2: I suppose the role play idea could confuse it as well,
someone could get carried away.
Male 3: I agree that the vulnerable young people might be affected
by this.

And then later one participant writes the following  in their diary,

I feel this is the most potentially harmful message, as it‟s confusing and almost makes rape seems acceptable. It is a very unrealistic message but one that should be interpreted and realistic. Consented sexual violence should not really be in a film, as people could act on this in real life- especially with their partner.
(Female, 32, Bristol Group Diary)

Hmm, so it sounds very much as if the participants thought very little of the scene from Sex and Zen. Then the moderator pointed it out, leading to a conversation in which some participant’s opinions changed and then one participant repeated what was pointed out to her as her own opinion. A worrying glimpse into the possibly flawed approach at work here.

The findings section continues to hammer home the BBFC’s stance on potential harm but again the quotes from the participants simply back up the fact that this issue of potential harm is one that has not been proven and doesn’t really make factual sense.

[Potentially harmful?] „Aye, because there is people out there that get their kicks off of that, isn‟t there? And that makes me kind of sick. Obviously if you‟re a mother yourself you just think, my God, do you know and you know that it goes on out there, but you don‟t want to meet it. So to me, who in their right mind would go and watch something like that unless they were getting a kick out of it?
(Female, 50, Dundee)

I am 100% positive that plenty of people watch “something like that” with no intention of “getting a kick out of it” and the assumption that someone might is not a reason to ban it. The above quotes goes no way at all to explaining what the potential for harm is at all. It simply points out that people are worried. The BBFC appear to be exploiting this concern to justify their actions with regards to stronger films being made right now.

One conclusion of the report though is, oddly, that the potential harm is an issue for “…those perceived to be vulnerable, the mentally unstable and those who have specific sexual fantasies…” It’s worth noting though that the rejection of films by the BBFC and cuts suggested in order to achieve classification apply to absolutely everyone in the UK not the minority listed.

One particularly interesting paragraph in the conclusions section implies that even in this extremely tiny sample size there were still some participants which seemed to think that there was no need for the BBFC to interfere.

There were some that did not agree that repeated exposure would have a normalising effect on viewers since they believed that everyone has a moral compass and knows for themselves what is right and wrong. One 50 year old woman in Dundee did not feel that any of the films she saw promoted, glamorised or gave approval to sexual or sadistic violence
and could not see how regular viewing of such films would affect people’s attitudes or behaviour.

It’s worth noting that there do not appear to be very many quotes from Female, 50 included in the report.

The report does make clear in the later sections though that the participants didn’t exactly reach a consensus regarding what should be done about ‘this kind’ of material but section 4.2 (Are current guidelines fit for purpose) includes the following line that seems to sum up what the BBFC are crucially taking away from this research,

The public support the BBFC in removal of content due to the potential harm it may have upon viewers.

And a section on page 5 of the report sums up what this report means for the future of film classification in the UK.

This research therefore suggests that while the fundamentals of the BBFC’s present policy in relation to intervention at 18 on the grounds of sexual and sadistic violence are still key and in line with public expectations, the present BBFC policy does not currently capture all issues and consequently may need to be reviewed to bring it fully in line with public thinking. The research suggests that the BBFC sexual and sadistic violence policy should seek to ensure the right balancing act between key interrelating factors so as to prevent, as far as possible, the potential harm for members of the public in repeatedly watching films with sexual and sadistic violence.

As I have hopefully made abundantly clear already I strongly believe that classification policies and the decision to reject films or demand cuts should not be decided based on what the ‘public’ think should be done but on what needs to be done based on scientific evidence. Moreover, even if it was to be based upon public opinion then this report  provides very questionable evidence in favour of the BBFC’s current thinking. The BBFC have made it clear that they want to base their policies on public opinion and so presumably they are open to further input.

The BBFC can be easily contacted here and who knows, if more than 35 people contact them and argue that they should be allowed to make up their own minds up about what perfectly legal material they watch then maybe the BBFC will reverse their current position. If they are willing to base policies on this research then maybe they’ll base it on anything.

Failing that, it is definitely worth noting that every film the BBFC have ever rejected or cut is available to import on DVD or Blu-ray into the UK.