Musings by Shadow Realm inc., S.A. HorrorFest. and X Fest creator, Paul Blom

Remember the days when we had to search for 5th generation fuzzy pirate Betamax copies of movies like The Exorcist, Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Debbie Does Dallas, and The Evil Dead?
Things have certainly changed in South Africa since then with a friendly porn shop in each town and anything can be found on your video shop shelf, or delivered to your door from the States or UK.

Besides supply and demand that cannot be denied, it boils down to your personal choice of entertainment, and no-one can tell you that your preference is inferior to another, not artistic enough, or will warp your mind.

Then of course there is the argument that extreme entertainment can spur on anti-social behaviour. Someone with an obsessive or compulsive predisposition will latch onto anything, not just extreme movies. Anyone unstable enough to wipe out their entire family don't need a Judas Priest album or Takashi Miike movie to do so - their psychological state is such that they'll do it regardless of what movies they watch, and can get aggravated by the fucking Teletubbies! It's the friends and family that need to see the signs and act on it - and don't be surprised if you allow your toddler to watch wrestling on TV if they seem more aggressive. It's the parents' responsibility to regulate their children, not the state or filmmakers.
But then, what about loners with no friends or family...?

While I do believe some movies are not for everyone (just like alcohol is not for all), age restrictions do in fact serve a purpose. I know, I was fiercly annoyed at 16 when movies like Angel Heart and Blue Velvet was released in S.A. during the '80s with the 2-21 age restrictions (but you could geta gun license at 16!). They didn't stop me from entering the theatre though! And I turned out alright with no murders, rapes, mutilations or even petty theft on my record.

Some minds are not yet ready for vivid and shocking imagery, be it of a violent or sexual nature (or both at the same time). So, while I hated age restriction when I was too young (but watched it anyway), I do feel it is important to warn people on what to expect. It's when a censorship board decides they have the right to remove parts we may not be able to handle that pisses me off. Just hack up and demolish a quarter of the paintings and sculptures in The Louvre while you're at it!

And how much collusion is involved when it comes to awarding an age restriction? The Simpsons has the same PG rating as Spider-Man 3 - do they have the same level of realistic violence? Kirby Dick's This Film Is Not Yet Rated takes an interesting look at the American ratings board and their selective classification.

Globally the levels are being pushed every day - compare what you can see on TV today as opposed to what would have ben banned from cinema screens in the '60s. Where is it heading? Televised executions? Oh yeah, that's nothing new, beaming to you on-line from the Middle Eastern decapitation Hollywood, Iraq...

Sure, we all grow up thinking we're blessed with infinite wisdom and are as adult as can be. I could handle intense movies at a young age and grew up fairly normal. A friend who grew up similarly did not, but how much this has to do with movies and music as opposed to bad life choices can be debated for a very long time.

So, it's not as if we're being denied our free choice as in the past. This choice comes with a responsibility though - those with children need to realise that what they can handle does not necessarily apply to the kids.
And your freedom to choose does not mean you have the right to exercise it to the detriment of others.

Watching a movie or listening to music is a personal interaction between you and that particular media which can have anything from an educational-, or indifferent-, to calming- or excitable effect. If it has an inciting effect, it is up to your rationality to prove the moral thumpers wrong that you're not dumb enough to be sweeped up by images on a screen, or sounds coming through speakers.

Freedom to choose often comes with a price, but entertainment is entertainment, whether it is fleeting, spurs on debate or instills a life-changing epiphany. We have 6 billion different personalities on this planet and it is hardly the responsibility of entertainers to regulate the population.

If you can't handle a certain kind of movie, don't watch it.
If you get murderous urges when watching a Friday The 13th movie (or The Muppets), stop watching - and seek psychiatric help.

- Paul Blom (Festival Director S.A. HORRORFEST & The X FEST)


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