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Rant Of The Day THIS RANT 03/06/96

Rant Of The Day is where I get to mouth off about whatever I feel like for however long I like. Theoretically, I'll update my whinge/opinion piece every weekday; in practice, maybe not so often.

Twisted out of shape

Like half the population of Australia and practically everyone who's been to a movie in America in the past month, I went and saw Twister the other night. Cast aside your populist prejudices (if you suffer from any); this is an entertaining and exhilirating piece of film and you need the digital sound of a real cinema to get the most out of it. When I saw a cow flying across the screen, I laughed harder than I have since I last saw a cow flying across the screen.

My rant is not because of the film, but the violence rating attached to it. Browsing through TV Week (well, someone has to buy it), I noticed that the film was given warnings for violence and swearing in the TV Week movie reviews (they hated it too, which is probably another reason to go see it). Now, there's no denying that the various bits of flying wood and farm machinery in Twister are very frightening, and quite violent. There's also no denying, I think, that the violence portrayed is both more realistic and in some fundamental way less offensive than that which can be seen in I Spit On Your Grave or True Lies or Eraser or Rambo.

This is the real problem with content ratings of all type (including my very unfavourite proposal to censor the Internet in NSW); a simple binary "This is here" or "This isn't here" is not enough to distinguish even these two types of films. What about non-gory but genuinely terrifying psychological violence? And what if you use it in a redemptive story of a power of love, or in a bloody schlock thriller? No matter how much you object to it, violence is more a contextual element than an absolute state.

Sure, we need to warn people about stuff that might bother them (swearing being a simple and almost attainable example), but saying Twister and Rumble In The Bronx and Pulp Fiction and Terminator 2 are all violent is just not good enough (leaving aside the audience who go along for just that reason). Whatever happened to the eye of the beholder?

If I had a better solution to the problem than to say that, I'd probably be rich. But it isn't good enough just to pretend it's not happening and it's not stupid.


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