Keith Lemon and the wanton corruption of the word ‘banned’

Thursday August 16th 2012




Remember that period a few years ago when one of the Saw movies was being advertised with a load of blood-splattered posters that all had the word ‘BANNED’ plastered across them, along with a web address that would supposedly take you to the ‘uncensored’ version? Except that there was no uncensored version, the poster hadn’t been banned at all, and the web address just took you to the film’s trailer? Well that, dear readers, was the day ‘banned’ joined ‘extreme’, ‘uncut’ and ‘explicit’ in the list of movie marketing buzz words that are used exclusively to mean the exact opposite of their dictionary definitions.

Pandering to an audience’s hunger for titillation is a marketing technique that dates back to cinema’s earliest days, but this latest incarnation seems to have stemmed from the 2000 home video release of American Pie. The film had been significantly cut for its theatrical run, with changes made to the dialogue, nudity levels and even the iconic pie-fucking scene to avoid a financially risky NC-17 rating. But after a workprint version leaked online – containing the film in its original, uncensored form – Universal decided to take matters into their own hands, eschewing the American ratings board’s decision and releasing an ‘uncut’ version of the film on DVD. Soon other teen films began to follow suit, but without any legitimately censored material they instead inserted new footage (much of it entirely innocuous) at random, creating a significantly bulkier version of their story that would nonetheless be technically ‘uncut’. And as DVDs are not permitted to be released without a rating in the UK, a film’s liberal use of words like ‘uncensored’, ‘uncut’ and ‘unseen’ would often be undermined on Region 2 DVD by an accompanying 12A rating.

Yet another assault on the language of censorship arrived in my inbox this morning in the form of the above press release, which proudly declared that a new TV spot for Keith Lemon: The Film had been banned. Here is the spot in question:

To be broadcast on British television, an advert has to pass the BCAP television advertising code. Companies like Clearcast provide a service to advertisers to help them stay on the right side of this code, and are usually involved from the script stage. There’s actually very little in the TV spot that would violate BCAP, though it’s entirely possible that the simulation of ejaculation that occurs at 0:14 could fall foul of section 6.1…

Advertisements must not cause serious or widespread offence against generally accepted moral, social or cultural standards, or offend against public feeling.

Assuming for a second that the spot has actually been banned, and that Lionsgate aren’t just using the word to mean ‘this is a bit rude’, let’s think about what that means. The film itself has already been rated 15 with no cuts, so essentially we’re dealing with a work that contains roughly the same level of adult content as Love Actually. Let’s not pretend this is pushing any envelopes. After all, the TV spot is still sitting pretty on YouTube, despite their notoriously prim attitudes to sex on screen. But more to the point, the entire clip has clearly been constructed for the sole purpose of not appearing on television. Look at the fucking thing: it’s barely comprehensible. The four scenes featured are all completely disjointed non-sequitors picked solely for their sexual content. Short of inserting a five-second title card reading ‘Everyone Who Works At The Advertising Standards Association Is A Cunt’, it does pretty much everything it can to keep itself off the airwaves.

So where they get off expressing outrage — or even surprise — at the decision to ban the spot is beyond me. I’ll argue the rights of shit I don’t like to be free from censorship until the cows come home, but it’s hard to muster much sympathy for a company that’s getting exactly what it wants and still bitching about it.