Every so often a story comes along that is just too unusual to ignore.
Earlier this week such a story broke. It was the Gloucester Citizen that delivered the news, with the tale in question involving one of their own. Content Editor Matt Holmes took issue with a film he didn’t like, Tommy Golden and Daniel Emery Taylor’s 2013 film The Hospital, ultimately getting the title banned from the shelves of every Tesco in the land. He complained of the film’s “graphic sexual violence”, with Tesco agreeing to remove the film from sale, in spite of the fact that the film was rated by the BBFC. To make matters worse, this unusual scene of unwarranted censorship wasn’t a localised one, with Holmes complaint echoing far beyond the walls of Fred West’s hometown and the film removed from sale in every branch of the country’s biggest supermarket chain.
There are numerous problems in Holmes’ argument, but for fear of this being misconstrued as a character assassination, which it most definitely isn’t (Tesco are the party whose stance is most troubling in this equation), I won’t delve too deeply, and instead simply present Holmes’ own account of the situation in full (enough rope, comes to mind). That can be found here.
Now I’m not exactly the ideal advocate for the kind of film that The Hospital appears to be (a low-budget, horror movie, that cites gore etc as a major selling point), but nor would I ever dream of removing the choice of others to do so. Frown upon such fare, even criticise with prose or via social media, but actively seek out the banning of such a movie? No thanks.
The situation is punctuated by a number of worrying incidents. The first is this idea that an individual with no professional experience or right to do so can push such a matter to the extent that a major retailer would remove an item from store shelves. And without due reason. There’s nothing illegal in the film in question, with seemingly the lone crime being committed being that Holmes didn’t like it. We don’t need self-appointed moral guardians when we have the BBFC. No one is forced in to buying such fare, with Holmes himself choosing to buy the film in-spite of this style-explanatory cover and an 18-rating acting as an adequate enough warning to any potential customer (confusing Rosemary’s Baby reference and all).
Big retailers self-certifying is also a worrying precedent to be setting. Traditionally UK film distributors need not worry about some of the more conservative measures taken by some retailers in the US, with albums bearing Tipper Gore’s Parental Advisor stickers for example not offered for sale in Walmart. While retailer discretion is an unfortunate hurdle, it’s one that is ordinarily only measured in financial terms (which is problematic in itself, but a topic for another day). That major retailers like Tesco seem to be acting independently of the national body of certification to measure taste and decency.
There’s an argument be made that the film will come off well from this, after all, and as the adage goes “there’s no such thing as bad publicity”. However, this may be offset by the fact that one of the major avenues for purchase for this newfound potential audience for The Hospital is closed, with Holmes’ own closed-mindedness denying others of the choice that he was privy to himself.
Adam Batty – Editor
Late amendment. This article was written early Friday, with the intention of being set live on Sunday. In the hours after my writing of this piece the Daily Mail picked up the story, churnalising the original Gloucester Citizen article (while neglecting to mention that the offended party was a journalist) and crowbarring in a quote from someone at Mumsnet. While I won’t be linking to the Mail piece, it’s precisely this kind of coverage that one might expect will escalate the issue further.