LONDON — Britain’s film censor has attacked the “culture of violence” that he says permeates Hollywood movies.
In a report to the government, the British Board of Film Classification said that the only solution to the current problem of video violence is “for Hollywood to wake up with a conscience.”
James Ferman, director of the BBFC, said that Hollywood’s economic might leaves British authorities powerless to stem the tide.
“This is a global problem,” Ferman said. “The solution is beyond the reach of British law.” But he doubted that Hollywood filmmakers would mend their ways, because “there’s too much money at stake.”
“The problem is unique in cinema history,” he commented. “The world’s biggest film stars, the most reliable money-makers in contemporary cinema, are also its most violent performers.”
Research by the BBFC revealed that the favorite film stars of teenage boys are Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal and the late Bruce Lee, whose films are “the most gratuitously violent.”
“Not only are they teenage role models, they are adult role models as well. These are the films that everyone wants to see, including British audiences,” said Ferman.
Ferman noted that the BBFC’s censorship standards are among the toughest in the world. In the past three years, it has cut gratuitous acts of violence from 369 videos and banned a further 14 completely.
Such efforts have all but eradicated the so-called “video nasties” of the 1980s, principally low-budget horror movies with a graphic line in gross violence. But according to the BBFC, their place has been taken by mainstream Hollywood movies depicting “macho heroics,” which have become “ever more violent in the 1990s.”
“Censorship can cut gratuitous acts of violence or moderate the impression of violence on a scene-by-scene basis. We do that rigorously. But we cannot change the culture of violence which permeates much mainstream film-making, even in the junior categories,” Ferman concluded.
The government asked the BBFC a month ago to report on video violence, as a response to growing public and political concern about the impact of screen violence on society.
The BBFC’s report effectively amounts to a rejection of calls for greater censorship, on the grounds that the current regime is already as tough as it can be.