Submission to the Film and Publications Board on the Film, Magazine and Computer Games Classification Guidelines: 18 February 2008

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Thank you for the opportunity to offer this submission concerning the Film and Computer Games Classification Guidelines.

Introduction

The guidelines should be there in order to protect our children, but we believe that this is not happening at present. In fact children are being exposed to strong language, scenes of drug use, nudity, implied sexual activity and violence, albeit "infrequently". The FPB is elected as a proxy for parents as they are unable to view all the movies released, and so the FPB should represent the interest of the parents. Parents should be able to "trust" that the classifications are suitable.

As part of the constructed framework, you mention that the guidelines should reflect “the norms, values and standards generally-accepted by the South African community.” However, in theory, ‘the majority’s’ standards are not applied, it seems. The FPB does not adhere to the same values as the largely more conservative South African populace.

Considering that almost 80% of South Africa’s population is of the Christian faith (South African Christian Handbook 2007), the values upheld should be representative of these statistics. The remaining people are largely Jewish, Hindu or Muslim, and adhere to similar moral standards. It appears that the values that the Film and Publications Board is subjecting the vast majority of the population to, is not representative of the public's interests.

We continually hear complaints that there is too much sex and violence on the big screen. Are producers losing their creativity that they need to resort to this kind of activity in order to create sensationalism?

Law Enforcement and Community "ownership"

Furthermore, how are the legally restrictive classifications enforced? Parents need to be educated about the guidelines. We are sure that if the guidelines were tightened, if parents were made aware what children are being protected from, and there was an education campaign, the guidelines would take on more meaning for the communities.

Governing Principle

Societies with high moral standards have always been the most successful. We should never settle for a "this is reality" approach. Just because there is horrific rape and murder out there that does not mean we need to show children how it is done. We should be constantly trying to raise standards.

Role of Film and Publications Board

We believe that the role performed by the Film and Publications Board should be a noble one. At all times, they should keep in mind, "Would I want my child to view this if I was giving guidance to my child?" There is also the issue of older children exposing their younger siblings to unsuitable films and games. The Film and Publications Board should support and represent the interests of the parents. (Note that they do not take over the role, of parents, but they support and represent their interests.) At all times they should be aiming for a higher moral standard in our nation. Do we have nothing better to offer our children? Isn’t progress about raising standards and not simply regressing into a sex crazed, violence mad, vulgar culture?

Comment On Guidelines

"PG": Parental Guidance

Sex: "There may be brief scenes of implied sexual activity" – changed to, NO scenes of implied sexual activity. This is intrusive into an otherwise family-friendly movie. Implied sex should be stated clearly so that parents can prepare, should they want to show their child this film.

"10": Not suitable for children under the age of 10 years

It should be remembered that a 10-year-old is in grade 4, in Junior Primary. We believe that parents would be surprised if they knew the laxity of the guidelines.

Language: Does a 10-year-old need to hear strong language? Therefore NO strong/vulgar language should be allowed in this category.

Sex: "Implied sexual activity" should not be shown. What grade 4 child needs to be exposed to this? And that without the knowledge of the parents (the child will not be stopped at the door, or legally)

"13": Not suitable for children under the age of 13 years

It should be remembered that a 13-year-old is in grade 7, in Primary School.

Language: Do we want our primary school children using such language because their “big screen” heroes are? No strong/vulgar language should be promoted.

"16": Not suitable for children under the age of 16 years

It should be remembered that a 16-year-old is in grade 10.

Theme: Should include: "They may include troubling social and moral issues, but with a positive result showing realistic consequences for actions". Troubling issues on which society is divided like abortion, homosexuality and cross-dressing should not be allowed as teenagers at this age are in the process of opinion forming.

Language: "Strong language may be used". Do we want our grade 10 children speaking to one another using this language? Do we want grade 10 children speaking to adults using this language? Obviously not. Therefore change to – Use of strong language used by the "villain" or shown to be ‘bad’ and should exclude sexual expletives and blasphemy.

Drugs: This should be changed to "showing the negative consequences of drug-taking are explored". Given the experimental nature of teenagers, they should be discouraged at all costs. We have a drug epidemic in South Africa with our youth.

Nudity: Given the high incidence of teenage pregnancy, should we be showing close-ups of nudity, especially genitals? NO! Teenagers are impressionable and will compare themselves to big screen stars – this is not fair and has serious psychological consequences. The big screen is not reality, nor are actors and actresses your average citizen. This adds to teenage image and health problems, especially regarding their bodies.

Sex: Sexual scenes must not glamourise sexual promiscuity (sexual promiscuity is defined by sex outside of marriage), prostitution, sodomy and where shown, they must show the negative consequences associated with promiscuous sex, e.g. pregnancy, AIDS, STDs. If "safer-sex" is allowed, it must be made clear that condoms were only designed to prevent pregnancy, not the transfer of the HIV/AIDS virus. To do anything else is misleading, deceitful and irresponsible.

Violence: Given our culture of crime, the number of youth in prison and the number of serious crimes committed by youth, to show violence without serious consequences, (e.g. law enforcement, pangs of conscience, loss of life, etc.) is irresponsible and even complicit in aggravating the high levels of crime in our country.

"18": Not suitable for children under the age of 18 years

It should be remembered that an 18-year-old is in grade 12.

Theme: The "adult" theme is very vague. Needs clarity.

Language: The use of strong language often, is not necessary. The language must fit the plot. Blasphemy should never be allowed, as it is disrespectful and prejudicial to most religious people.

Drugs: The scenes of drug abuse must carry consequences. All drug abuse does! Consequences must be explicit, not implicit.

Prejudice: Movies like this should either be banned, or marked X18.

Sex: No sodomy, pedophilia, "man-boy love" should be allowed. No sexual violence or sadomasochism should be shown at all! Any of these scenes could incite a psychologically unstable teenager.

Violence: Sustained and graphic violence is unnecessary especially for matriculates! Considering the school massacres in the US and the bullying and school violence in South African schools, we cannot afford to expose our children to such scenes. To do otherwise is to be complicit in the very serious consequences of violence in our society. Consider the horrific effects of "Natural Born Killers," for example. Any violence shown should be seen to have serious consequences, as that is reflective of reality!

Interactive Video Games

We are concerned about the incredible laxity of the standards, considering that children interact with these games and thus become emotionally involved. They are not just viewers, and thus there can be a profound impact. We strongly object to young adolescents just 13 and older being able to engage in games with "implied sexual activity". To be honest, we think it is disgusting.

We are concerned that 16-year-olds may be exposed to violence in graphic detail, which could include mutilation and dismemberment. Please do not be fooled by the fact that these games are usually in animation form, the interaction with it makes it extremely graphic and realistic. The combination of violence and sex, or occultism and sexuality is potentially extremely damaging.

Conclusion

  • The current Guidelines are too broad and loose.
  • No blasphemy should be allowed, as that is hurtful, disrespectful and prejudicial towards most religious people. Blasphemy guidelines must be placed on DVDs and cinema film advertisements.
  • We are concerned that no mention is made of occultism and spiritism, as many of the themes most frightening to children include spirits and ghosts etc.
  • Prejudice should include negative stereotyping of religious figures.
  • The guidelines lack being and acting "in the best interests of the child".
  • They do not aim for higher moral standards.
  • They contribute towards a moral laxity which leads on to teenage pregnancy, a youth drug problem, vulgar language, and acts of violence in what is already the most violent country in the world. These standards must not only reflect the community’s standards, but also raise the standard! They certainly should NOT LOWER the standard.
  • They do not offer an alternative set of values / guidelines, specific for say minorities and other interest groups, such as Christian parents. The average Muslim or Christian family would find nudity for under 10-year-old absolutely unacceptable.
  • The law enforcement of the current laws seems to be lacking. There needs to be tighter laws in our lawless society.

Another general concern: we are concerned that magazines like Hustler, FHM, GQ, Cleo, Cosmopolitan, Mate and Gay Pages are not classified prior to distribution, including their covers, as occurs even in countries such as Australia. Surely these magazines should also have classifications based on high moral standards?

Please carefully consider this feedback. We thank you for your time and hard work. We hope that the FPB will be better equipped and financed to handle the massive workload.

Yours Sincerely,

Taryn Hodgson
International Co-ordinator


Christian Action P.O.Box 23632 Claremont 7735 Cape Town South Africa info@christianaction.org.za - 021-689-4481 - www.christianaction.org.za
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