Tuesday, 23 February 2010

There's also an 'off' button

Poor old Melanie Phillips had to endure a painful experience on a recent flight from Australia. But anyone hoping that the ranting reactionary suffered from deep-vein thrombosis on her long-haul trip is in for a disappointment. Melanie's sado-masochistic experience revolved around the films she chose to watch whilst travelling back to the UK.

I stress the word 'chose' since, as is always the case whenever the censorship argument rears its ugly, mutated head, it's ultimately the viewer's decision to either tune in or switch off.

Melanie observed the 'V' for violence warning in the entertainment guide, but opted to ignore it and watch Quentin Tarantino's 'Inglourious Basterds', finding herself "subjected to images of such sickening violence that they have burned into [her] mind and taken up residence there." To be honest, I think I feel more sorry for the innocent images, stuck in the nightmarish hellhole that is Melanie's subconscious.

Admittedly, the idea of Melanie Phillips sitting down with a bag of butter-free popcorn to enjoy a Tarantino movie is about as ridiculous as Mary Whitehouse firing up Resident Evil 5 on the PS3, but that's precisely what happened.

Like the rest of the auteur's output, 'Basterds' is supposed to be gloriously over-the-top and riddled with dark humour. Unsurprisingly, Melanie didn't see the funny side: "All of this is played for laughs. But what exactly are we supposed to be laughing at? Sadism?Suffering? Genocide?" Decrying the 'sick morality' of Tarantino's latest, she laments the fact that this 'stomach-churning farrago' has received 'mass adulation' as well as the Best Actor award at Cannes.

To make matters worse, Melanie wisely decided to watch violent revenge thriller 'Law Abiding Citizen' straight after, but only because 'Cannibal Holocaust' wasn't available. Once again she was sickened to her bile-ravaged stomach at the copious scenes of 'extreme sadism'. But it's strange that she'd be so affronted by the idea of a film about a crime victim taking the law into his own hands, given that the paper she writes for was ready to campaign for Tony Martin's knighthood.

Melanie professes to be disgusted by the violence she's witnessing but she seems to be conflicted. Quoting director Michael Winterbottom's viewpoint that "If you make a film where the violence is entertaining, I think that's very questionable", Melanie responds with "What humbug. What else is a film like this supposed to be if not entertainment?" Doth the lady protest too much?

Actually, the Shakespeare (mis)quote is apt here. Melanie's argument that society has become desensitised to extreme violence, thanks to Hollywood's pervasive influence, completely overlooks the influence of drama's founding father. Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus famously featured rape, murder, mutilation, decapitation, sacrifice, torture and cannibalism - try getting all that past the BBFC without a fight.

Melanie ends by saying that next time she'll take a book instead. Failing that, she can always check the entertainment guide to see if they're showing Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will.

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