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March 28 2007

Joss has a thing or two to say about Captivity. The link is to an article by Jill Soloway at the Huffington Post, but there's a letter from Joss to the MPAA at the end of the piece. The entire issue is well worth your investigation.

It's sad but true - Hollywood has finally found a way to make money from being truly repulsive on screen. Joss is right to call it "torture porn" as it is nothing more. That billboard sounds horrific. The fact that a film needs to be advertised like that these days is astounding. Horror films used to always be cult favourites and rely on shock and scares; this new breed of films feeds on brutality.

Joss is also right to suggest that society has contributed to this, but there is also no need to feed the cycle by watching these kinds of films that degrade women and men.
Good find. I googled to see what the billboard was like, nasty stuff and very tasteless.
The ads are awful and should never have been put up in the first place. At first I thought it was blown way out of proportion, but Ms. Soloway's comparison to porn and cigarettes is an apt one. So is Joss' letter -- if After Dark submitted these for approval and were denied, then rejected the MPAA ruling and slung 'em up anyway... strip their rating. The film will do no business, whatever the "Most controversial movie of the year!" b.s. comes up in the advertising.

That said, I always find Joss' assaults on torture-porn interesting, as if it's the worst sub-genre in horror. Is it any worse than Jason Voorhees splitting a guy in two from crotch to shoulder? Horror is a genre that's always been linked to its worst offenders.

And frankly, I don't care if I get laughed at for this -- Saw III, a film Joss bashed based on a trailer, has more character work than a large chunk of mainstream Hollywood fare.

[ edited by The Dark Shape on 2007-03-28 07:29 ]
Great find, thank you, annagranfors. This thing has caused a furor, initially all over town and now beyond, and I'm glad.

Saw the billboard on LaBrea, and then another one elsewhere, so then we kept our eyes out so we could avoid 'em, 'til they came down, finally. They triggered some really bad memories for me, and my partner felt a little sick, as well.

Loved the intial b.s. "printer error" excuse, which no one I knew, especially the graphic artists in town, bought for a minute. You would simply not believe how many studio execs-down-through-their-assistants have to pee on a layout before it gets approved, so nothing gets to the "printer" that hasn't been thoroughly vetted. Duh.

As always, loved what Joss wrote, especially this:

"But the advent of torture-porn and the total dehumanizing not just of women (though they always come first) but of all human beings has made horror a largely unpalatable genre. This ad campaign is part of something dangerous and repulsive, and that act of aggression has to be answered."

I also appreciated the way he addressed the issue of censorship.

My first thought after I saw the billboard, as soon as I had actual thoughts and not just triggered memories, was that this was somebody's sick wet dream, and that somebody was a person I never wanted to meet, much less see their movie.
And frankly, I don't care if I get laughed at for this -- Saw III, a film Joss bashed based on a trailer, has more character work than a large chunk of mainstream Hollywood fare.


You'll have company. While III was lacking in some ways compared to the I & II I still thought there was some great character development. That said, though, the marketing for these types of films needs to be done tastefully. I can't say that I remember the saw marketing, but the bit that I remember was just seeing the saw blade (bloodied, maybe?). That isn't that bad, in my mind, but the billboard of captivity does push things a bit too far.

When I see things like this my first impression is the movie is bad. Why? Horror has that cult following. The movies don't need to find an audience ... the audience will find it.
{{QG}}

Thank the gods I live in a small town and didn't see these ads. From the description, it's beyond disgusting and disturbing; it's not just torture porn, it's public sadism.

I've been very against the torture horror films for a while. I'm probably more sensitive than most to images of torture for torture sake (for instance, I'm upset by the Saw films, not to mention the Hills Have Eyes/Turistas types of films), but these that mix sex or sexual themes into it (like the description of Elisha Cuthbert wearing lots of makeup, or having her breasts exposed) -- I hope we can all agree those are beyond "scary" and into, as Joss says, "something dangerous and repulsive, [an] act of aggression." Thank you, Joss, for voicing your opposition to the degrading of women and of all people for the sake of the dollar and "entertainment."

This makes me want to donate to Equality Now, and do something positive. :-)
That said, I always find Joss' assaults on torture-porn interesting, as if it's the worst sub-genre in horror.

Is it not the worst sub-genre? It's obviously a matter of taste, but it is the most graphic of the genre by virtue of the fact that being graphic is its raison detre.

Is it any worse than Jason Voorhees splitting a guy in two from crotch to shoulder?

Yes, because Jason Vorhees and the Friday the 13th films are not realistic. They create tension and shocks out of tricks of the film making trade - not by recreating the most nauseating stuff a writer or director can imagine. It's the realism of these new kinds of horror films that make them unwatchable to me - because of their realism and also because they rarely even pretend to be create drama or tension, just any old excuse to go from one torture scene to another.

Very rarely would you see torture in older horror films. Mostly they relied on cheap thrills to scare the audience. Yes, people died in a bloody way, but there wasn't the insistence on making the character suffer.

Horror is a genre that's always been linked to its worst offenders.

Agreed. Which is why the "torture porn" label is also helpful, because it divorces it from other horror flicks that continue in the vein of Freddy and Jason - and have fun with scaring people, rather than delight in mayhem and terror.

Joss isn't attacking horror movies - how could he? He's attacking a specific kind of horror film that he and I find abhorrent. And I'm all about freedom of speech, too - but does that mean there isn't such a thing as hate speech?
I just got a really dumb question: can anyone make other examples (of already published) "torture-porn"-movies? does it include baise-moi?
cause I got no idea what you're talking about. except of an apparently outrageously hideous and offending billboard.
"Joss isn't attacking horror movies - how could he? He's attacking a specific kind of horror film that he and I find abhorrent. And I'm all about freedom of speech, too - but does that mean there isn't such a thing as hate speech?"

Sure, hate speech exists in all forms, whether its African American, women, or immigrants who take the brunt, but you cannot ban hate speech. There is a quote from the American President that I really like:

"America isnt easy, its advanced citizenship, you gotta want it bad, because its gonna put up a fight. Its gonna say, 'you want free speech? Lets see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who is standing center stage, and advocating at the top of his lungs, that which you would spend a life-time opposing at the top of yours. You wanna claim this land as a land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag, it also has to be one its citizens excercising his right to burn that flag in protest'. Now show me that, celebrate that in your classrooms, then you can stand up and sing about the land of the free".

That and I am not sure this particular movie is hate speech, I am not sure that it really can be actually, but more to the point, wasnt there a scene in Buffy where Dru tortured Angel, Spike tortured Angel, and the like? Dont get me wrong, I am not saying those are bad things, they are part of art, but you cant say that someone goes too far with what you call "torture-porn" and not wonder why you drew the line at this movie. Honestly, I think you have to draw the line where ever you prefer, which means Crossoverman, that if you dont like the movie, you should not go see it, and honestly, I am not gonna see it either. But if they want to advertise or show the movie, I am gonna stand right next to them while they do it. Because I want to stand up and sing about the land of the free...

ETA: I feel I should explain something. Hate speech is a horrible thing, it breeds hatred and has little justification, but the problem is that its the unavoidable by-product of free-speech. Just like pornography or Republicans (that of course, is a joke), but its interesting that these debates pop up every once in a while. I read a fan-fic once that did horrible things to Xander, absolutely horrible things to him because he lied to Buffy in Becoming, but thats not hate speech against white males is it? How about the movie Saw, what they did to those guys in the room was horrible, but is it really hate speech against white guys with families? Are they necessarily saying, hey look at the fucking white guy with the family, we should hate him, and do these things to him? I dont know, its not just hate speech against women in these kinds of movies, males are pulled apart by 18-wheelers, and I dont see anyone advocating on their behalf. Of course, there is nothing wrong with advocating for women, I worked with a feminist group while I was at Texas Tech and it was some of the best work I have ever done, but its all a slippery slope. Where do you draw the line? And see, thats the problem with slippery slopes, you tend to slide down them and hit the ground...

I dont know, I am not willing to say that anything Joss did on Buffy was hate speech, I am not willing to say that anytime he had someone tortured or Buffy in a low-cut dress and a tight shirt, that he was somehow committing the sin of hate speech. You have to allow artists the freedom to create whatever they will, hell there are those who say that when UPN allowed Joss more freedom in seasons 6 and 7 and the story turned to sado-masochism and lesbians who could actually kiss, that the show became better than it ever had before (not me mind you, but there are people who disagree with me, as much as I dont want to admit that), and it was because Joss gained more freedom from the network about the shows constraints. In that sense, I think ANY constraints, any whatsoever, are not only bad for the artist but bad for the art they create, but more than that, those constraints take on an arbitrary nature that isnt easily overcome. I fear the slippery slope more than I do the hatred sometimes, and I dont know what that says about me other than I trust in people that when faced with these decisions, 9 times out 10 they will do the right thing. Whether that means I am too logical and not emotional enough or whether that is absolutely reversed, I do fear the slippery slope because next time they could come for me.

[ edited by jerryst3161 on 2007-03-28 09:36 ]
This is an example of the difficulty of being a citizen as opposed to a subject of a country- there are some basic freedoms that require balancing here and it's up to us to do it. As a writer of horror myself, I want to see freedom of speech protected. As a citizen too because I see my freedoms erode everyday and believe that if we don't keep up the pressure on those who would call themselves our betters we will lose them all. As a dad and grandad I want my fellow citizens and me to be protected, we came to together as a country to provide for the "common defense" after all. When someone is so irresponsible that they put up porn for little kids to see from their schoolyard, I expect them to be held accountable.

Yet, if we are going to have free speech we must also freely take responsibility for what we say. Plainly some speech is harmful- yelling "fire" in a crowded theater just to cause a human stampede. What would Shepard Book say about that? He's not letting you off the hook by saying that you were just being funny. Yes, we can ban hate speech. But do we want to? In the brillant book MEN, WOMEN AND CHAINSAWS sorry I don't have the authors name in front of me right now, we read that in America horror films have been on the cutting edge, literally, of social commentary and many times horror films help preserve the experience of minority peoples. One of the author's startling discoveries was that slasher films helped promote a feminist perspective. Before I hear any (un)righteous indignation, kindly remember that BtVS was a development of the slasher genre. Joss took what was there and followed it in a logical direction. Buffy is after all the Ultimate Final Girl. I shake as I write that.

How do we balance these things? Call something we find objectionable "hate porn" or some such label? Or do we hold the producer accountable for his stupidity? Do we not go see the movie? Or do we call Lionsgate and say, "WTF! You put out that piece of crap when BtVS follow up films can't get made! What kind of lunatic are you?" Do you meet in libraries to condemn the evil around you? (I just caught on to the fact that the Huffington blogger pulled a Scooby Gang). Do you sacriface small animals on an alter to appease your Dark Unholy Gods and Goddesses to bring down misfortune on your enemies and curse those who put out an ad campaigne like this?

As a free citizen of this great country I'm going with the curse. But that's just me. Plus I have a great relationship with, well, The Dark Being doesn't like it when I say the Name. So I won't. One small animal comin' up your Unholiness.
Well, these situations are all about drawing lines jerryst3161, lines still need to be drawn though. I'm assuming, BTW, that the US has legislature equivalent to the Obscene Publications Act and laws about supplying pornographic imagery (magazines etc.) to minors (seems likely given the apparent national hysteria over Janet Jackson's boob) ? Why is this different in principle to showing those kinds of images in a public place where 'recipients' have little choice but to see them (except that images of naked men/women shown in a non-exploitative manner do no harm to anyone) ?

Personally i'm not a fan of torture-porn which, for me, is defined as realistically rendered torture scenes which are the focus of the horror i.e. it's a horror film because people are tortured in it and for basically no other reason. I like horror films, even gory ones when done well ('The Descent' is one of my favourite horrors of the last 10 years - and we in the UK were lucky enough to see it before Joss had even heard of it lest that accusation be levelled) but torture isn't horror to me, it's just horrific. No desire to ban them though, people who watch them know what they're getting and the films are rated for adults only. This situation, however, is a public one with kids and people of delicate sensibilities looking on (or worse still, people who've actually suffered this kind of abuse) and that, to me, makes it unacceptable.

Also pro freedom of speech (even if it is 'hate-speech' that's not banned unless it actually incites violence right ? You might make an argument that this poster does that) but isn't this a little bit like shouting 'fire' in a cinema in that it's damaging to the public interest ? It's just the shout of 'fire' is more like "Hey, women are objects not people and also, sex and violence ? Great mix". And it seems like 'pro-freedom of speech' OR 'ban degrading imagery in public places' is a bit of a false dichotomy anyway jerry you tinker ;).

(one reason it's practical to be against censorship is we can and should self-censor or edit our own viewing - this situation denies people that chance)

All that said, IMO the blogger exaggerates the last frame (unless there're three versions floating around) by implying (though not stating, in fairness) through words like 'breast' and 'displayed' that Ms Cuthbert is topless. It's fair to say her (clothed) chest could be seen as the focus of that frame though, it's certainly in the centre.

(in general, in fact, i'd say though disturbing the actual images in isolation aren't really that nasty - not when compared to the likely content of the film itself for instance or to that of other films which have received a certificate. Personally, since burial alive is one of my 'things', I find the replacement much more disturbing)

And also, as far as i'm aware it's not the MPAA's job to 'punish' people for not adhering to the law, it's the police and judicial system's job so in my view the film should (or shouldn't) be certified based on whether the content merits a rating, not on whatever's happened with the advertising. Despite how it may seem from their efforts against piracy, the MPAA shouldn't be in the business of revenge.
But if they want to advertise or show the movie, I am gonna stand right next to them while they do it. Because I want to stand up and sing about the land of the free...


You don't think the company is wilfully abusing the concept of "free speech"?. They're weeping crocodile tears as they get all this publicity and no doubt extra box office receipts as well.

From my perspective, they're abusing the public good and deliberately and maliciously intruding on people's private spheres. We have a tolerance for the majority of advertising that comes our way but something like the Captivity bill board goes beyond the pale.
I'm going to stay out of the discussion on the *genre* out of family loyalty, as I am sure many of you can understand. :-) HOWEVER, I totally agree that the poster and its placement were completely tasteless and unnecessary AND that the lameass excuses offered up after the blatant ignoring of the MPAA ruling only compounded the crime.
My question is, would there have been so much outrage if the scenes had depicted a man rather than a woman?

This billboard poster is definately not nice to look at and (if I had any) not something I would want my children to see, but is it any worse than the posters for Hostel that I had to go past on my way to work every day? They depicted what appeared to me to be the captivity, torture and termination of men. Of course Hostel would have been considered 'art' because it's Quentin Tarantino.

Unfortunately, all this attention is only going to get the film higher box office ratings and even more attention instead of it being whre it deserves to be: left in the dusty old pile of films that no-one cares about. Unless of course it is banned and then people will want to see it even more.

I'm not saying don't protest about what offends you, of course we should, I'm just saying be equal in your protesting.

[ edited by Cider on 2007-03-28 12:30 ]
Really, I was going to stay out of this. CAPTIVITY is not the type of movie I enjoy, so there's no way my sweat-stained dollars are going to line the pockets of the producers in the first place. However . . .

It's not censorship. Censorship is the government telling you "You can't do that." This is private action, which is the flip side of the First Amendment. Think of it this way - it's censorship for the government to say to someone, "You can't say that." It's perfectly okay for me to say to a loudmouth houseguest, "You can't say that. Take that crap out of my house." Not only is it okay, if they do not comply, I can call the cops and have them removed for trespass. It's MY house, after all. In other words, sure, you have the right to say all sorts of foolish, ill-advised things and I have the right to vehemently object to those foolish, ill-advised things.

I love the First Amendment - it has a lovely streak of anarchy running through it. It provides a shield to protect the fringe, the kook, the malcontent (by the way, happy belated birthday, Captain). But never confuse a shield of protection with a sword of attack. To deliberately put out something so provocative then act shocked (shocked, I say) when people protest that there are lines and they have been crossed . . . to then lament that your First Amendment rights have been trampled upon - well, at the very least, it's disingenuous and it's probably more akin to flat-out lying.

The MPAA isn't the government - films do not have to be sumbitted for rating before being released. However, the harsh truth of the marketplace is that no rating equals no distribution. That said, I don't think the MPAA should strip the rating from a film based on the ad campaign. Vote with your pocketbook, people. That, I guarantee you, they understand.
I'm not saying don't protest about what offends you, of course we should, I'm just saying be equal in your protesting.

I don't necessarily agree with that Cider. I can't remember/haven't seen the 'Hostel' poster (whether Tarantino 'produced' it or not, i've avoided the film after seeing the trailer and don't feel the loss) but did it explicitly sexualise the men while showing them being tortured/killed ?

If women were less victimised than men and everyone was already treated equally then you'd be spot on. They're not and they're not though in which case it makes sense IMO to be more sensitive to using images depicting the victimisation of women (especially when those images link sex and violence. In the UK at least, the BBFC - who certify films for distribution over here - are much more sensitive to the combination of the two than they would be to either separately. That and head-butts for some bizarre reason ;). I'd say the same applies to depictions of black people, homosexuals etc.

(and good point mockingbird, this isn't censorship, it's more like 'enforcing' a social taboo - or maintaining public decency depending on how it's viewed)
And people say a picture is worth a 1,000 words, I think it's more like a 100,000 emotions mostly gutteral. Ah the still image nothing like it evokes emotion. Shock and Ewww are always in effect on some level, why because it sells to baser instincts, even though nothing is ever as good as are own imagination. Truthfully these people don't care, as the lady said in the article and as Joss mentioned, it's all about the all might buck, hate and perceved message be damned. Removing the rating will only serve their pyrpose in the end. Ultimately, you will see the DVD boxes on store shelve in a plain vanilla box with the brightly bolded words, "BANNED in the US theatres.", or something closely approxomating that idea prominately displayed. Yeah it was marketing and it worked, if they play it overseas people will see it not based on it's merits but based on the false hype it created. Hell now they may even quote Joss on the cover, and naturally he will be quoted as the writer on Aliens 4 (the 4 will be in smaller type, while Aliens will be in larger, bolder type).

I say give them the NC-17 kiss of death, that way it cannot be played in many US theatres but it will stop the "US Banned" tag on advertising, or let them keep the R rating. That way you don't play into their hands and the movie sucks (which is does if they have to go to this tatic for publicity) and will not make any real box-office, the only people who will see it are those who will eventually by the DVD anyhow. By doing what they want you give them the power by ignoring there petty power play you take their power away. What's that saying, "Don't encourage them or more will follow."

Is it horrorible, probably, it's a matter of context. The whole point is it did exactly what it was intended to do; nothing more, nothing less. In this day and age saddly it is the only way to get attention anymore. Word and photos that hit you at a gut level, whether you want it to or not. I am not defending anything they did, I am just saying the worse the film the more the advertising trys the gut punch reaction factor to get noticed. Obviously this one is a snorefest.

BTW - The description of that first shot, the gloved hand one covering the girls mouth. Did it remind anyone else of the shots in Movieline (I think) from a few years ago, with Sarah Michelle Gellar, right after the end of Buffy. Where she did a similar shot in a photo layout for that issue. Strange how one makes people wince and the other really doesn't. It's all about perception and context in the end, I guess.

Keep the rating and let the film company pay in lost revenue from not being able to use it as a DVD mareketing tool in a month. As we all now know, all to well, the money is in the DVD's now, not in the Box Office results. Don't give them the satisfaction, the worse thing people can do to companies like these is ignore them and all that comes after, they will get the point. Hell the MPAA, is an omnipotent organization anyhow, just have them give all films from this production company an NC-17 even if it is a happy fuzzy all lovey dovey bunny movie, then they will get the point.
I'm going to try and say this in a way that doesn't make me sound like a horse's ass, but I just googled it and I don't understand what all the hoopla is. I really didn't think it was that bad. Maybe that makes me a horrible human being. I kind of remember seeing worse for one of the Eli Roth movies, or some other relatively recent horror movie.

Clearly the guy that came up with it is a marketing guru of some sort because had there not been all this controversy I'd never have even known this movie existed.
And here I thought it was impossible to love Joss any more than I already did.
Ah, I think I will be brief. First, I applaud Joss for his comments, which I think capture the issue quite well. No one argues that they do not have a right to put this film in the marketplace. What I have never understood is why anyone would see such a film at all. This entire genre- Saw, Hostel, etc.- is so utterly appalling that it is beyond my understanding how anyone could find this appealing. I have seen Korean horror films, like Audition, that delve into madness and have something to say, but these are just, and I like the term, torture porn; they exist solely for the depiction of the torture events. It is like a sex flic- the story exists solely as a means to get to the sex, or here, to the torture. And as a dissident voice, how can a movie such as Saw be in any way enjoyable, no matter how much those lauding it say it is well done? The story exists for no other reason than to create incresingly byzantine ways of harming people. How sad.
I don't necessarily agree with that Cider. I can't remember/haven't seen the 'Hostel' poster (whether Tarantino 'produced' it or not, i've avoided the film after seeing the trailer and don't feel the loss) but did it explicitly sexualise the men while showing them being tortured/killed ?


Some people may have found it sexual - I didn't. But no - I don't think it was meant to be sexual. I haven't seen Hostel and nobody has seen Captivity, based on the poster adverts I wouldn't go see either. Based on the summary on IMDB "A man and a woman awaken to find themselves captured in a cellar. As their kidnapper drives them psychologically mad, the truth about their horrific abduction is revealed" It may actually have peaked my interest.

If women were less victimised than men and everyone was already treated equally then you'd be spot on. They're not and they're not though in which case it makes sense IMO to be more sensitive to using images depicting the victimisation of women


I am afraid I have to disagree here. Just pecause one living thing/group of living things is victimised more than another does that mean that we should ignore the lesser victimised? If we are to live in a truly equal society then all victimisation should be stomped on no matter how great or small. In the words of a great vampire 'live as if the world were as it should be, to show it how it can be.'
I really didn't think it was that bad

As mentioned war_machine I actually agree that the individual images aren't particularly gruesome BUT in toto, what you have are images of a woman being kidnapped, tortured and killed with at least the suggestion that it's because she was sexually active and linking sex with death/torture (which is the only thing wrong with the last frame IMO, otherwise you just have a picture of a dead woman which have been used to sell murder/mysteries for, like, ever). For some reason even the words ('ABDUCTION' etc.) make a difference, maybe because they make it seem so ... algorithmic ?

The story exists for no other reason than to create incresingly byzantine ways of harming people.

I'm not sure that's really fair to 'Saw' Dana5140. You could say that 'Cube' for instance is exactly the same but 'Cube' (like 'Saw' to a lesser extent) is actually quite a metaphysical film about existence, purpose and the meaning of life. 'Saw' from what I remember of it asked the same questions we're asking in this thread i.e. where do you draw the line ? And why is (or even just is) one person's life more worthy than another ?

... psychologically mad ...

The very worst kind of madness i've always thought ;-).

(wonder if that was written by the same marketing firm ? ;)

I agree Cider, wherever there's injustice it's worth protesting but my point is men (straight, white men anyway) almost can't be victimised or rather aren't seen as victims due to the nature of their position in society. Whenever people say in disgust things like "The last group you can insult with impunity is straight white males" I always think "What about the French ?" (sooo kidding ;-), seriously, what I actually think is "Well, yeah, because we can take it" i.e. insulting straight, white men does straight, white men as a whole absolutely no damage whatsoever, it doesn't even change the way we're perceived, rightly or wrongly we still, basically, run the world. I don't think that's true of other groups (I actually eagerly await the time when we do have to be as sensitive to the perception of SWM because everyone else is treated the same and has exactly the same opportunities).
I have two opposing minds about this issue.

Firstly, I agree with many of the posters, not just here, but on the other sites that have covered this story. It is an extreme piece, Its derogatary to women, and thats pretty much against everything I stand for. And it seems to be saying to me (again Im reiterating the points of a lot of previous posters) that sex should be punished. 2000 years of Christian opression, it finally seems that we're moving forward as a culture and things like this comes out. Sex is bad. To be bad you must be punished. We might as well just go back to Middle Ages. Take out all pleasure from our lives lest we be sent to a fiery hell. But does that mean it shouldnt be shown?

The opression that I was talking about before brings out the other point to my debate. There are people who are not going to be offended by this poster, people who are going to be intrigued by it. Why should the people who are offended be able to take away something that other people will not be. I'm playing the Devil's Advocate here, but it's a valid point, and an important one to me. The first thing I thought when I was starting to read this was "Here we go. Middle class suburbanite gets all offended and decides to write about it while twitching her curtains". To coin a British expression, I expected an article filled with the finesse of something a Daily Mail reader would come up with. Instead I read a good arguement from someone who has thought about the issue rather than just getting "offended". But still. Its free speech. Nobody has the right to silence that. Ever. People can counteract any other point I have, but I will never ever be persuaded to believe that people are not allowed free speech. Even if it is offensive. Even if it is derogatory. There is no-one in this world better than me, so I'll be damned if I let anyone tell me what I can and cant view and I'll be damned if I ever tell anyone what they can and cant do. And there in lies the problem. Because although with good intentions, this is censorship. And I see that as telling me what I can and cant see or choose to see. And thats bad.

So quite basically, I can see both sides of the arguement and empathise with both, however on the basic principle I cannot support this poster being taken down.

Mind you, I'm thinking at this point the producers of "Captivity" cant be too upset at the turn of events. The amount of publicity and the sheer number of people who have now seen the release date? I'm betting it works wonders for the film's box office takings.
Say what you want about people who make or watch these kind of movies, and I won't be hanging with them and I do believe it is bad for our culture, but when you are talking about a billboard specifically, then people, including children, are FORCED to see it.

That is wrong.

My fandom for Joss has just been renewed, refreshed and revitalized.
Edited because my computer is being an uncooperative moron this morning.

[ edited by Xane on 2007-03-28 15:08 ]
Want to know what's truly frightening? That torture porn contines to rake in the dough while more traditional horror movies -- the ones that are actually fun, inventive and scream-worthy without being tasteless or misogynic -- aren't faring as well. Compare the box office receipts of the Saw franchise or any shitty Eli Roth picture to those of Slither or Shaun of the Dead.
It makes one pause and wonder had that same billboard been posted for a film about the horrors of what is happening in the Suddan or a stop the violence campaign. What would the reaction be then? I guess my issue is societies context and perception when putting images and words (that add to images) are used to sell verses a use to inform. I don't think we would have heard about it at all had the campaign not been for a low-budget horror film release. It also seems to play to the fact that beauty must be coveted and not destroyed. Would the same images have evoked this response had the girl not been pretty, blond, and/or blue eyed? Just makes one wonder and question the images real meaning and the cause for people's outrage. Is it derogatory because she is a woman, or because she is pretty, or because it is not real but only a film? People judge by their perception of the context and societies acceptance of that particular layout of those images together. It also makes me wonder if reactions would have been different if they had seperated the images to multiple billboards. Would people have reacted as strongly, if each image was on it's own billboard spread over the city and not just used as 1 centeralized series of images on billboards?

Actually, I think I have been reading to much into myself. Curse me for reading to many books on humans lately, no more Stumbling on Happiness, Blink, Tipping Point, and Words that Work for me before bedtime. It makes me think far to much about the human condition of intent and perception, and I do that enough anyhow.

In the end I don't think this controversy will do much for the theatrical release, these things tend to have a here today, gone tomorrow effect on people. However, as I said previously the DVD sales might be boosted by the effect.

ETA: IMHO I just googled the billboard in question and I have to say I don't see the big deal. Anyone who has ever walked down the aisle in a video store horror section has seen almost identical images and worse on various covers. Had I seen these images in there actual billboard format I might have noticed it but I don't think my reaction would have been anything other than rolling of my eyes with indifference. Sorry, I know things that cause real nightmares and I know images that have invoked personal nightmares these images wouldn't even merit a yawn of boredom.

[ edited by RavenU on 2007-03-28 15:42 ]
Uh, Simon et al? I get my hand slapped for saying I don't *like* an actor in the Buffyverse (in other words, expressing my personal feelings about someone with whom I've had personal interactions)but people are allowed to call a film maker's entire body of work (well, all two movies he's had released to date) "shitty" and THAT is okay? It's not my site so clearly it's your judgment call, but I call foul.
I completely agree that the distatesful advertising for horror films should not be in a public place that everybody can see whether they want to or not. And there should be a punishment for those who abuse rules that protect people who seek to avoid horrific imagery.

I am not going to get involved in discussions about the extent to which Captivity degrades women and or humanity because I have never seen the posters, the trailer or the film itself. However I have seen the Saw trilogy and think it is unfair to say of them:

The story exists for no other reason than to create incresingly byzantine ways of harming people.


It seemed to me that there is a lot more to the Saw films than the gore itself. The terminally ill instigator of the fatal tests is actually giving the victims (and in the process the audience) harsh lessons in rembering they are mortal, to be thankful of that, and to appreciate everything they have while they are alive. Each victim has taken many things for granted and have made some major bad decisions e.g. violent crime, drug addiction, framing others for crimes they are not responsible for.. The character who creates and executes the torture-inducing tests, Jigsaw, is well aware of his own mortality, and wants to make sure that others make the most of every part of their lives. Is creating life-threatening tests the way to do this? Not in real life, but this is fiction we are dealing with.

I'm not saying all horror films have depth, but I will say that the promotional material for horror films usually neglects to show the depth within the films themselves. Even though I don't watch much horror myself, I am disliking the judgmental tone of some of the people in this thread.

Many people were very critical because of the adult themes Buffy dealt with (for example see "TV Bloodbath: Violence on Prime Time Broadcast TV" & "Best and Worst Shows on TV (2001-2)"). The PTC said that BtVS would "deluge their young viewing audiences with adult themes". I have serious suspicions they had not actually properly watched the material they looked down upon. It's surprising that some Whedonesquers might be making the same mistake.

[ edited by robocod on 2007-03-28 15:29 ]
Cider - I don't the Hostel comparison works. Whilst, yes, it's using torture as the selling point, it's a bit different to the poster in question. For one thing, the guy being tortured on the Hostel UK poster didn't have his dick out.
There is no getting around the fact that this is sexualizing torture, with a woman as the victim. Torture Porn is a perfect description. I couldn't be more against censorship, but this isn't about the government taking away someone's right to make a film about sexualized torture, as disgusting as that is. That would be censorship. This is about the right of citizens to band together and pressure the responsible parties to remove the graphic images of a tortured women from public display that can be seen from a school, no less.
As for Hostel being "art" because it's Quentin Tarantino .... I doubt that I'm the only movie fan who is both sickened and saddened by the spectacle of someone as talented as Tarantino sinking to this level. It certainly isn't art to me, it's more like the sad decline of someone who is capable of producing art.
Someone early in this thread summed up my feelings exactly, that I didn't think I could love Joss more than I already did.

And thank you Saje for pointing out that "insulting straight white men does absolutely no damage to straight white men" because they basically "still run the world". It's really hard to victimize those who hold all the power. Although I personally would be just as offended if these billboards were sexualizing the torture of men, I'm still aware of the difference. This is the most disgusting possible manifestation of misogyny. There isn't even a *word* for "hatred of males based solely on gender".
And I agree with RavenU, the most effective way to hit this garbage in the pocketbook is to give it the kiss of death NC-17 rating, thus depriving them of the opportunity to advertise the DVD as "banned".
But still. Its free speech. Nobody has the right to silence that. Ever.

BUT

but when you are talking about a billboard specifically, then people, including children, are FORCED to see it.

See, that's my problem. We have two competing 'freedoms' here and, though it's a means/ends argument and those are notoriously slippery, the most 'freedoms' are preserved by disallowing the poster.

Also, with the best will in the world Apocalypse, freedom of speech is curtailed all the time (usually for the common good, often just when we're told it's for the 'common good'), it isn't an absolute by any stretch (the aforementioned 'Fire !' in a cinema, national secrets, obscene publications etc.). Are there really no examples that would make you think twice ? The most extreme one I can think of is showing a fake (but realistically gruesome) 'snuff' movie on something like those big screens in Picadilly Circus/Times Square or even on TV, maybe during 'Blue Peter' (one billboard was opposite an elementary school after all).

RavenU, yeah I think context is important here. I was trying to think of an example that involved say bigotry or slavery or even the current scandals in US politics and it's hard then for me to think of e.g. a quote which shouldn't be posted on a billboard or an image which shouldn't be shown, no matter how offensive some might think it is, so long as it doesn't directly endanger people. The fact that this is 'merely' selling a horror film does factor into it.

(and IMO 'Blink' was great, maybe even better than 'Tipping Point' ;)

to call a film maker's entire body of work ... "shitty" and THAT is okay? It's not my site so clearly it's your judgment call, but I call foul.

Technically that's 'playing the ball' isn't it ? Don't think Mr Roth himself was insulted (though obviously he'd no doubt feel he was).
Technically that's 'playing the ball' isn't it? Don't think Mr Roth himself was insulted (though obviously he'd no doubt feel he was).


Thanks for that. Indeed, no problems with Eli the man, though his films clearly aren't my cup of tea. I also had to chuckle that I got called out for labeling Roth's films "shitty" in a thread where the First Amendment is being appropriately championed.

Anyway, the whole issue seems simple. Making a movie like Captivity? That's fine. People having the right to go see a movie like Captivity? That's fine. Advertising it so tactlessly on huge billboards that are impossible to avoid? Unneccessary and grossly irresponsible.

See? Simple.

By the way, the whole torture-porn fad should pass, just as the J-horror fad seems to have.
For me, the first amendment speaks to two of the most important indicators of a civilized society- freedom of speech from governmental interference, and the separation of church and state.
A billboard is not pure speech, it has many other aspects including public safety, community zoning standards, etc., which are subject to government regulation legitimately. Someone said that nobody is arguing that this stuff should be unavailable to adults who want to see it, but believe me, people do make such arguments, and they are dangerous. These arguments are often made by people who don't understand or accept that other part of the first amendment-the separation of church and state.
What Joss proposes is not a government action, it is a legitmate political action of private citizens, similar to an economic boycott., and itself a form of political speech. Cause that's what you do when you think something is wrong.
but people are allowed to call a film maker's entire body of work (well, all two movies he's had released to date) "shitty" and THAT is okay?


If people called the director 'shitty' or such like that would be nekulturny and not on. However it would be greatly appreciated if people explained why they disliked the films without having to resort to swear words. Also it would be have to be actually on topic as well.

I now take y'all back to the discussion at hand.
There isn't even a *word* for "hatred of males based solely on gender."

Misandry?
My first thought after I saw the billboard, as soon as I had actual thoughts and not just triggered memories, was that this was somebody's sick wet dream ... Thank you, QG! I am so glad that if any of those were put up in San Diego, I didn't see them.

I think the major problem with that poster (I am a huge horror film fan -- I looked at it and it is really repulsive) is that we don't want images like that to become de rigueur. We're having enough problems ridding the world of non-fictionalized evil against women and all people. Thank you Joss, for making the delineation between censorship and unacceptable advertising images in a world society that should be heading towards enlightenment, not to the fiery Hell in a Handbasket.

The book that was referenced above, Men, Women and Chainsaws, was written by one Carol Clover. I've been meaning to read it for years, along with others suggested by the Professor who taught the Horror film class I participated in long ago.
I have not seen the posters, but in theory I am for those who are all for stricter standards on billboards or advertisements than on the actual works. It should be a matter of, if you don't like it, don't watch, not if you don't like it, hide from it.

I am not a horror fan and neither is my son. Both of us are negatively affected by violent, gory and gross images. I do not want to censor horror movies themselves, I just don't go to them. However, even on TV, my son and I are constantly turning our heads away during ads for films like Hostel. (My son also puts his fingers in his ears and asks me to tell him when it is over.) If I choose to see the film or TV show, that is one thing, but if I am driving down a street or watching something else entirely, I should not have to constantly be on guard from visual assault.

As far as the concept of torture-porn, I have not seen the movies but I have seen pictures that fall into that category, and there is another element to it that makes it dangerous that I don't think I have seen mentioned. It is not just punishing a woman for her sexuality, it is the violence being done to her being shown as titillating that I find disturbing…especially if you are going to display them in front of children and out of context. Making it very personal, images of violence against women that are meant to be a turn on for the audience are not something I want displayed to my 11 year old son. That is not the message I want to give him concerning what sexuality is about.

"Anyway, the whole issue seems simple. Making a movie like Captivity? That's fine. People having the right to go see a movie like Captivity? That's fine. Advertising it so tactlessly on huge billboards that are impossible to avoid? Unneccessary and grossly irresponsible."

"...we don't want images like that to become de rigueur."


Ok, so everybody else can say things more clearly and with less words. Big deal. ;-)
If I was a child and I saw a billboard of that, it would probably mess me up quite a bit. I'm with Joss, make a film about whatever you want, but don't push it in our faces.
I hear what you are saying, Simon (and others), and I have no real objection to someone saying that "Hostel" is shit or "Cabin Fever" sucked monkey nuts or whatnot. When you attach someone's NAME to it, however, that to me is a different story: it becomes personal.

bobtaylor, I wasn't stepping on your amended first toes. I was pondering my perception of a discrepancy in policy on this site and this site alone. Out in the world, you're free to call Eli and his films anything you want and I can choose to enumerate all the reasons why I dislike the Buffy actor I mentioned. But this is a private site and its admins make up the rules and if we choose to post here, we choose to play by them.
Dana5140 said:

What I have never understood is why anyone would see such a film at all. This entire genre- Saw, Hostel, etc.- is so utterly appalling that it is beyond my understanding how anyone could find this appealing.

...these are just, and I like the term, torture porn; they exist solely for the depiction of the torture events.



Hi, I'm that guy. I've seen the first 2 Saw movies and enjoyed them. But I wouldn't call them torture-porn. There really wasn't anything sexual about them. Captivity, on the other hand, sounds like it's mixing sex and violence into one horrible thing. And I don't think that they are the same. They can, and do, overlap and that's what I would call torture-porn. And I have no interest in that.

It is like a sex flic- the story exists solely as a means to get to the sex, or here, to the torture.


Yes, but you understand why porn exists, right? It serves a purpose. I think horror movies, violent videogames and heavy metal serve a purpose, too. They're healthy ways to release unhealthy feelings.

But I'm the type of person who likes having nightmares, so results may vary.
newcj said:

However, even on TV, my son and I are constantly turning our heads away during ads for films like Hostel. (My son also puts his fingers in his ears and asks me to tell him when it is over.) If I choose to see the film or TV show, that is one thing, but if I am driving down a street or watching something else entirely, I should not have to constantly be on guard from visual assault.


If you consider a commercial for a horror movie a visual assault, then I do think you should have to be constantly on guard.
The term "torture-porn" doesn't mean a movie involves sex (though it can), it means a movie uses torture the way a porn flick uses sex (as a gratuitous end, not a means to a story).
I think the issue here is not -- or should be -- whether the film is released, when people have the right to vote with their wallets or the withholding of same. The issue is rather, as I understand it, whether it's okay to have these images on a billboard where people are going to see them whether they wish to or not. I don't believe I ever saw the billboard in question, though I can't swear to it -- the image I've seen is a closeup of a woman's face, crying, with bars in front of it and the ad line, "Captivity May 16." Until I heard about the controversy, I thought perhaps it was a women's prison movie. The *billboard* for "Hostel" doesn't show somebody being tortured (and the film is "presented" by Quentin Tarantino; it's directed by Eli Roth). There are certain things I'd really rather not be subjected to images of in public. I would say unless there's a removal of the ban on everything *else* -- you're not going to see a billboard with a completely naked person, a billboard with certain correctly spelled four-letter words, etc. -- there's no reason these images shouldn't be subjected to the same standards as other R-rated material: i.e., not for the general public. In the U.S., at the movies, trailers come with a little green announcement beforehand: "trailer suitable for general audiences," even if the movie being advertised is rated R, which means the *trailer* contains no words or images that would not be allowed in a PG-13 film. (Sometimes at an R-rated film, there are trailers with a little red announcement beforehand, announcing the trailer itself is for restricted audiences.) I would think billboards should be subjected to the same standards and that the advertisers of "Captivity" seem to be very disingenuous with their statements about the process and perhaps a fine of some sort is in order. As for whether the movie itself should have been made, though, unless they *actually* tortured and killed someone -- which falls under a whole different heading of criminal action -- I'd say the laws of the land and free speech allow the filmmakers to tell whatever story they want to tell, however much a number of us may disagree with their motives and/or conclusions. There are people who felt "Buffy" and "Angel" promoted values/showed images that shouldn't have been on TV. If they didn't get to ban the show (and, just hazarding a guess here, I think all here would agree it's a good thing they didn't?), then I don't think it's up to anybody to ban "Captivity." But since there's a much stricter standard for what can be shown in public places than shown for pay -- it was a series of images on "Buffy," but I don't remember any ads with Dru dripping wax on Angel -- the billboard is fair game for removal.

Shapenew
jam2 said:

The term "torture-porn" doesn't mean a movie involves sex (though it can), it means a movie uses torture the way a porn flick uses sex (as a gratuitous end, not a means to a story).


That's not how I use it. I think it's important to make a distinction between the two. All stories are a means to an end. You can say it's gratuitous, but that doesn't make it so. Buffy could just as easily be described as violence-porn or emotion-porn.
I think context, or maybe I mean venue, is very important here. As has been pointed out, these were billboards, that you don't have any choice but see if you're walking or driving on the street. As has been pointed out, but maybe not strongly enough, everybody on the street sees them, including children. The one closest to me was a block from Hollywood High and three blocks from an elemetary school in this neighborhood mostly of working-class families that is also a family tourist destination. Hundreds of children walk by each day. Freedom of speech always has limits where it borders on crime. Personally, I would have unlimited freedom of speech in venues that are clearly chosen by the hearer of speech. Open a book. Open a website. Turn on a TV channel. Those are choices in a way a billboard is not.

I sort of can't believe people who are saying this ad was no big deal. Are you sure you looked up the right one? I back up QG and Joss's perceptions of this as something that really stood out among the usual tasteless and assaultive advertising in LA.

Now the billboard says "captivity was here." There's no way to reproduce the handwritten-style font in type, but there's nothing to indicate that "captivity" is even the title of anything. So for the 99.99% of people who haven't heard of this mostly Internet-based tempest, it means absolutely nothing, and it's on what's got to be one of the most expensive billboard spaces in town. This makes me think these people are business idiots as well as moral defectives.
Hey, it could be worse. They could be producing movie posters that feature a naked girl holding her own severed head. Oh, wait ... crap.
"If you consider a commercial for a horror movie a visual assault, then I do think you should have to be constantly on guard.
betwixt | March 28, 17:10 CET "


It depends on the commercial, but some of them, yeah, I actually turn the channel. Fear Factor had some commercials that made me do that too. I would not be surprised if that is one reasons I rarely check out Fox or FX, I got so used to going by them as fast as I could when I was channel surfing, especially if my son was in the room.
There's really not as much of a conflict of rights here as several posters have indicated. Remember the old adages about shouting fire in a crowded theater, or that one person's right to swing his fist ends at another's nose? (the second of which is actually incorrect, by the way: The first person has no right to place the second person in reasonable fear of bodily harm.)

If the people who have had adverse reactions to these billboards have been injured by the images, then arguably a tort has been comitted. That is, several here and elsewhere have described the images as bringing back painful memories or otherwise having negative psychological impacts. I have no reason to doubt that these folks are sincere, nor to doubt that some of the negative reactions rise to the level of legally actionable.

There exists a long-standing precedent of the MPAA approving trailers, including 'restricted' trailers depicting more disturbing subjects. Why? Because people fundamentally have a right NOT to see something disturbing, just as much as they have a right to go to a disturbing movie.

To have a tort, you need to establish four things: (IANAL and this is from memory)

  • An injury occurred. I'm sure there exist one or more legitimately victimized persons whose mental health professionals can testify as expert witnesses to that fact.
  • The injury was caused by the actions of a person. In this case, the media company.
  • The person causing the injury had a duty to the person subjected to the injury, and that duty was breached. MPAA, restricted trailers, as I mentioned above: not hard to substantiate.
  • The breach of duty caused the injury. To be established by testimony of witnesses, and probably the main point of which a jury would need to be convinced.


I hate frivolous lawsuits as much as the next person, but my brain belongs to me. No one else has the right to put images into it that will make me, as a reasonable person*, lose sleep at night.

The victims didn't take any action to see the disturbing images; the media company put them in their faces. Making them pay for the actual harm inflicted on previously traumatized people is as good a way to balance rights as any I can imagine.

* A "reasonable person" is the legal standard--I'd love to see a company try and argue that kidnap/rape victims were unreasonable: a way to lose the PR battle no matter what the court outcome.
Is the crux of the matter that the billboards depict the essential elements of a "snuff" film, that is, a woman being held against her will, tortured and killed? If so, the question then would be whether a movie that advertises itself as the dramatic enactment of a snuff film -- whose billboards say, "This movie shows a character being held against her will, tortured and killed," and nothing more -- should be denied a rating.

Sorry for the conditional "if" but I can't read all the posts right now, just thought this might narrow the issue to a point, and I am . . .

[ edited by Pointy on 2007-03-28 18:02 ]
At my first screening of Serenity, I was reassured that humanity had good character when a smattering of "boos" arose when a trailer for Saw came on. The fans were there to share the love of Firefly, and that cruel preview was inappropriate in that setting.
betwixt said:
Buffy could just as easily be described as violence-porn or emotion-porn.

Hmm, "emotion-porn" maybe. "violence-porn" I would disagree with, violence was never the point of the Buffy stories. It was always used to get to the other stuff (see: emotions).

And for the record, I wasn't ascribing the torture-porn tag to any particular movie, just talking about what the term indicates.
This is the billboard photo I saw and truthfully if you change the title to a campaign against women and violence (barring the 3rd image which gives it away as a horror film) I think no one would have noticed or even paid attention. It's all a matter of perception and context. I will also ask again has anyone walked down a video store horror aisle and not seen similar images and they are in public as well.

Let me take it one step futher and ask instead of the photo enhancement of the blue eye of the woman in the first 2 panels if it where a shade of red or yellow would you see the image differently. I think so cause that would have given you notice that this was not real first off, would it have distrubed some people. Yes, but would it have made the impact that it has, I don't think so. Is it derogatory towards women, I don't see it, because that assumes things that are not present. We percieve from are own expierence, these images are out of context of what we are given to know. Ask yourselves what is missing in these images, what is the assumption does not mean it is fact. We do not know who or why the captor is doing these things to this woman (granted I am giving the film more credit than it probably deserves but hear me out). We aslo do not know the woman in the photo only that she is captive, what if the words refered to something she has done to others. Would you look at these images differently then? I think most people might. They are providing an intising illusion to make some people want to see the film and make others want to distain it but in the end the billboard is merely a cover by which we are judging and that might say something about are own character more than the film. Maybe we should ask ourselves why we see it the way we do instead of seeing it as it is, a sad movie trying to spark interest when there is none.

I am all for freedom of image and speech tempered with common sense, but I am also reminded that people use to take their children to public executions and hangings involving real people losing their lives without hesitation.

ETA: Personally I found the other 2 posters for the film more disturbing than the one in question. Esspecially the bloody female hands that were duct taped.

[ edited by RavenU on 2007-03-28 18:42 ]
Academic white washing doesn't change the reality that trying to make people feel pleasure when they see people being tortured is depraved. These films, which depend upon the audience taking pleasure from the torture, enjoying the creativity of the torturer, and not so much rooting for the survival of the people being tortured, are aptly dubbed "torture porn".
... but in the end the billboard is merely a cover by which we are judging

No, it's not (for me anyway). I couldn't care less about the film since i'm not going to see it (just by how it's chosen to promote itself it's shown it's probably not really my sort of thing). I'm purely bothered about the poster itself (and even then, if i'm honest, only in the abstract since it's all happening 6000 miles away and I strongly suspect the poster campaign won't be the same over here, assuming there even is one). As to your other 'what ifs' RavenU they're good questions to think about in the abstract but people are having visceral (or psychological) reactions to the poster, they're not being intellectually stimulated by it. And are kids meant to see things on that sort of level or understand the differences in contexts (which I agree are important) ?

If it was an image at an art exhibition i'd agree with you but it's not it's right out in full view of everyone (even the 'horror aisle' in a video shop is avoidable if that's your choice, billboards aren't).

And people used to do a lot of stuff, including dying from what today are easily treated diseases, usually at a very young age and enslaving other races. What people used to do is not a good indicator of what people ought to do today IMO.
@Saje - If you likied Blink. I suggest Stumbling on Happiness which is an interesting take on how we view past, present, and future events in our lives.

I would ask this if and when a child does see it, what is going to make more more of an impact the fleeting images themselves (cause it's not like you normally sit and stare at a billboard for any length of time unless your stuck in traffic) or your reaction to that image. Children when young respond more to your reaction to the image than to the actual image itself, cause they have not yet formed their own definition of emotional reaction but they can sense your reaction. Might I also ask are there no other billboards in those areas is this the sole source of advertising you are bombarded with on a daily basis. These images were merely used as a way to get your attention in the few seconds they will have it. Did it make an impact, looks like it. Did anyone else notice other levels of advertising around? Who knows, but of course the reaction is going to be gutteral because it is a present reaction to stimuli, intellect comes after we register what it is and it did what it was suppose to do it captured our attention and made us look closer. Since the film is about a couple would it have changed people's reaction had they used both characters in the promo instead of just the female. If 2 of the panels were of the other captive in the same poses would people have even noticed them at all.

You want to put a point to it the actual Billboard Company is at fault, cause they have the final say on what goes up on those billboards. They could have contacted Lionsgate or After Dark about the content, yet I have not seen any mention of contacting them about the ads not to mention their placement. I am sure there are zoning laws they would have to adhere to. Why not contact them first. Anyway my 2 cents are fast becoming twenty and I know this has taken up far more brain cells than I care to alot to it. I just know my perspective on it may not match others and you know what, that is what keeps life interesting.
I am disappointed to see Elisha Cuthbert attached to this. I never saw House of Wax, but was aware how much of a victim her character was in 24. After watching lots of Buffy and Kill Bill, I was ready for her to do something! She made a courageous choice with 'The Girl Next Door' (which I positively loved), but then played another victim ("Daddy's Girl") in The Quiet. Thankfully her next few flicks (via IMDB) look better. She deserves to not be typecast.
There are a lot of mixed up issues here. I see this billboard as wrong because it is exploiting images of violence against women for profit, with no apparent artistic or intellectual or social-justice-y purpose. (Though, of course, I could be mistaken, having not seen the movie.)

I also see it as totally subject to government regulation, because it is not pure speech- it a big honking scary, ugly unavoidable object in the middle of a community. Billboards are subject to zoning, as well they should be. No problem.(I'm not crazy about billboards in general- though I've seen some that are pretty cool.)

The movie is protected speech, as long as it's not shown on giant, unavoidable screens in the middle of town. No government entity whatsoever should be able to shut it down, or so limit its showing as to render it essentially banned.

People who think it is wrong, bad, and/or harmful are well within their rights, and, indeed probably morally obligated to some extent- to boycott it, bad mouth it, and make life uncomfortable for people who profit from it.

Naturally, if this is happening to you, it feels unfair, especially if you have some sincere purpose you feel is being overlooked. Then, it feels like debate is being stiffled. And maybe it is. Gray areas abound. But your first amendment rights are not being violated.
The reason why torture-porn is so offensive is because it sexualizes violence towards women. If this were being done to men, the same would stand true, I just personally have never seen it. Guys are watching these films and getting turned on by scantily clad women being brutally tortured. I just really don't think that's healthy for society.
Gossi - No the poster for Hostel did not show the man's dick, but neither does the poster for Captivity show the woman's vagina. It doesn't actually even show her full breast. My point was it was a poster that I found quite disturbing, depicting what appeared to be the torture of a man - but did not (to my knowledge) arouse this much controversy. I actually find that poster more disturbing than the Captivity one because it left more to the imagination.

Shapenew - from memory (and the image is somewhat burned in there) the poster for Hostel that I saw showed a man tied to a chair and covered in blood. I believe there may also have been a severed head, but my mind could be making that up as the poster did not actually show the man's head. The only reason I can think of for a man being tied to a chair and covered in blood (possibly with their head missing) is that they have been tortured in some way. I could be wrong, it may have been a terrible accident involving a chair, some rope and a very sharp comb, I haven't seen the film so I couldn't tell. After all accidents like that do happen in Sandford all the time.

[ edited by Cider on 2007-03-28 20:09 ]
Buffy could just as easily be described as violence-porn or emotion-porn.


I'll join jam in disagreeing with this one. Although I had to think why. For all the torture that happens on Buffy/Angel/Firefly, you see very little of it. They show enough so that the viewer recognizes what is going to happen next, then cut to the end. The emphasis is not on the torture, but of the (emotional and physical) aftermath.

Saje said:
What people used to do is not a good indicator of what people ought to do today IMO.


I'm thinking of the season 2 Battlestar Galactica episode "Black Market". When Apollo is questioned about being a hypocrite, he says something like:
Just because a lot of people are doing something doesn't make it right.
It just makes a lot of people wrong.

"The reason why torture-porn is so offensive is because it sexualizes violence towards women. If this were being done to men, the same would stand true, I just personally have never seen it. Guys are watching these films and getting turned on by scantily clad women being brutally tortured. I just really don't think that's healthy for society."

I know more than a few people (all online and not in real life--im not sure I could be friends with someone who was turned on by this but hey thats me) who were turned on by Spike attempting to rape Buffy. Is it Marti's fault that these people get the wrong message or do the wrong thing? To me, thats why I fear the slippery slope, and so Simon asks me about whether I dont think they willfully abuse free speech but that isnt my point. Im sure that they abuse free speech, im sure that hate speech is an abuse of free speech, but it simply doesnt matter. Free speech is free speech, which means you get to say anything you want. Its a slippery slope that I fear more than anything, and its because I think that if you say "torture" porn is bad, then you have to say other things are bad too in order to be consistent. And those things arent bad, at least in my book...

ETA: BTW, Onetev, all those torture scenes that are meant to get at emotion and all that stuff? Yeah, all that stuff, do you know how much of that is used on fanfics or fan generated art as something sexual and hot? THe picture of Angel being tortured by Drusilla is part of so many fan fics and sexual pics of David Boreanaz that I wonder how you can say this about Captivity and not Buffy? See thats my point...

[ edited by jerryst3161 on 2007-03-28 20:23 ]
(cause it's not like you normally sit and stare at a billboard for any length of time unless your stuck in traffic)

I'm guessing you don't live in LA, RavenU? Not only is there the infamous traffic, but many of the main streets have stoplights practically every ten feet. And of course those are the streets with the highest concentration of billboards. There are many, many billboards that people see for more than a few seconds.

I understand your hypothetical questions about the images, but the fact is that the billboard was intended to shock and/or entice consumers into watching a woman undergo torture in the name of entertainment. That's pretty clear-cut. Perhaps Captivity, being about a couple, is actually more of an equal-opportunity torture porn flick. But that sure as hell isn't the emphasis of that billboard (or any of the movie adverts, for that matter.) And in any case, that really wouldn't make it any less tasteless.

I know I've seen the chain link poster around town, but I'm pretty sure I missed the billboard. If I had seen it, I'm sure I would have wondered why people enjoy watching that sort of thing. Because honestly, the box office numbers and the prevalence of such ads tend to make me feel like I'm in the minority when I'm turned off by such entertainment trends. Glad this thread is around to prove me wrong.

Give me emotion porn any day of the week.
I think Joss said it all. There's no need for my comment.
A wonderful piece of dialogue from Steven DeKnight in the Angel episode Deep Down seems ever more relevant in light of this discussion:

But that's why there's us. Champions. It doesn't matter where we come from, what we've done or suffered, or even if we make a difference. We live as though the world was what it should be, to show it what it can be.

If we don't live our convictions, that even though we abhor censorship, we abhor this sort of thing even more (excuse the probably bad football terminology); a sneaky left end run by [Edit:} AfterNear Dark (let's give credit where credit is due, silly Tonya), rather than them playing their game up the middle in plain view, what does that make us? Probably a bunch of hapless sheep, willing to let the people who make these kinds of films, who pander to the basest human impulses and desires, try to drag us down into the mire with them. That's not even a place in my head I want to go or think about too much.

[ edited by Tonya J on 2007-03-28 22:26 ]
Free speech is free speech, which means you get to say anything you want.


I'm used to mine being qualified.
"I'll join jam in disagreeing with this one. Although I had to think why. For all the torture that happens on Buffy/Angel/Firefly, you see very little of it. They show enough so that the viewer recognizes what is going to happen next, then cut to the end. The emphasis is not on the torture, but of the (emotional and physical) aftermath."

I wasn't talking about the torture, just the normal slaying violence that happens in every episode. Sure, it's a much smaller part of the show, but it's part of the shows hidden structure. If it wasn't there something would feel off. Even The Body had a vampire attack at the end.
LOL, this is all I have Simon:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
I have kept out of this thread, after my initial comment, because if I could have, I would have climbed up on the billboards, ripped 'em down, and paid the fine and/or done the time.

So just a few points. There are so many issues involved here. I'm probably not the person to argue 'em.

I have friends who work in advertising - despite my having an almost Bill Hicks-ian view of the biz - and the thinking has traditionally been that if something is too outrageous for the zeitgeist, they put it in a (metaphorical) drawer, and in a few years, the mores will have changed enough so that it'll be fine.

I don't think that there is a lag-time anymore, and I think people are not exercising their fundamental right not to see disturbing images - for many reasons.

I live in L.A., and when you look up "tawdry" in the dictionary, there is a picture of my fair city, so believe me, we get a daily inundation of tasteless images if we drive across town, as we must each day.

1) This was in a different class.
2) It was huge, and there were a bunch of 'em. They were near schools, etc., etc.
3) I personally don't walk down the horror aisle in the movie rental store, and don't go to sites on the internet where I know I'll be upset by such or similar images. I didn't know about the billboards till we saw our first one while sitting at a stop light. It felt assaultive.
4) I absolutely do not get the ever-widening split between our public outrage over something like a wardrobe malfunction or a swear in a war flick, etc., (*sigh*) etc., and our ever-increasingly acceptance of snuff-like images like the ones on the billboard. There's a big split in the "public mind," if such there be, and there's trouble brewing.

I don't watch much horror, myself - I generally cannot get the images out of my head - but I watch the ones recommended by trusted friends, or Joss. I don't watch what I consider "torture porn" which is an increasing number of horror flicks.


RavenU: "Sorry, I know things that cause real nightmares and I know images that have invoked personal nightmares these images wouldn't even merit a yawn of boredom."

I found this a little problematic, for a couple of reasons, but all I want to say now is I'm guessing we can agree that things "that cause real nightmares" or invoke "a yawn of boredom" vary from person to person, and it's safe to say that whether or not the writer feels that the images were disturbing, they were distressing to a number of people, myself included. About this there is no controversy, and we need not decide on here what is "real" or upsetting to other people.

And I believe that everyone involved in the billboard creation, at different steps along the way, has some (but varying) degrees of responsibility for the billboard's, um, erection. For instance, if I were the graphic artist presented with the sketches or ideas for the billboard, that would have been the bell tolling for me to quit.

Sorry - my patience is limited. We just came back from accompanying the police & my girlfriend to the apartment she used to share with her husband, until he beat the crap out of her Sunday night.

I'm sure it's unrelated to this thread, but why do I keep connecting it?

(ETA: Forgot to say "Awwww, billz. You are just the most best.)

[ edited by QuoterGal on 2007-03-28 21:09 ]
As a side note, just because you can see these images on DVD covers in stores doesn't make it right either. When you walk into a DVD store, you expect to find these images, and if you don't want to see them, you purposely avoid them to the best of your ability. You don't get that privilege if you're assaulted with a billboard image.

I always tried to ignore the fact that graphic movies existed, but my real outrage began one Saturday morning near Halloween, when I was watching The Nightmare Before Christmas on TV, and a ridiculously explicit advertisement for one of the traditional slashers (maybe Nightmare on Elm Street?) came on during a commercial break. Sure it was Halloween, but are you really going to tell me it was their right to put it on in the middle of a children's movie?
Yes, because Jason Vorhees and the Friday the 13th films are not realistic. They create tension and shocks out of tricks of the film making trade - not by recreating the most nauseating stuff a writer or director can imagine.


I suggest you go back and watch the early Friday the 13ths. The first four take themselves incredibly seriously -- trying to create the 'most nauseating stuff a writer or director can imagine.'

And no, torture-porn isn't the worst sub-genre in horror. It's the most gruesome, but it also tends to develop its characters a little more than your standard slasher flick, and yeah, I'd call that a plus.
I think it's pretty straightforward here. The film obviously broke the MPAA rules. The penalty for that is removing the rating. Why wouldn't they remove it? It would be stupid to have the rule if they don't.

Also, there's definitely a difference between choosing to see a film and being confronted with a violent and horrifying billboard that you had no desire to see, especially since it would be seen by children.
bobtaylor, I'm taking back what I said because I don't want it to detract from the point I am trying to make. But I think you're picking a fight with me, and I think it stinks.

I think the whole issue is very interesting and I am impressed, for the most part, with the intelligence, passion and thoughtfulness of the points you all make. The biggest and most salient problem, IMNSHO, is that it is a very slippery slope. Only a few people are saying that the *billboards* shouldn't have been removed (and their arguments are very sound, even if I don't happen to agree :-), but I get a bit itchy with the idea that perhaps the *movies* shouldn't be made or distributed. Censorship is dangerous and opens up another whole can o'worms as to who should get to make those decisions, etc.

I will go another step: I am of the firm belief that violence in movies and on television doesn't promote violence in real life UNLESS the viewer is already predisposed to violence. I wrote my college thesis on it (a thousand years ago ;-), and I have continued to keep up with the research and have yet to be convinced otherwise. Your average, mild-mannered Joe isn't going to take off for Eastern Europe and go looking for a place to torture people just because he rented "Hostel" any more than a regular old teenaged girl is going to start staking her paler classmates after watching a lot of "Buffy." The seeds have to be there first, and the tradeoff for the many, many freedoms we enjoy in our society is that we have to take the risk of those who MAY take the aforementioned 'entertainment' as a guidebook misusing that freedom.

[ edited by OzLady on 2007-03-28 21:39 ]
What was that, Quotergirl?
betwixt, I don't really think that the issue here is that Buffy contains violence. The problem is the context that the violence is in. Violence in Buffy is usually not sexualised (exception being Buffy/Spike). And that was clearly shown to be a mistake and destructive to both people.

In this instance, the main character is clearly female, barely dressed and shown to be trapped and tortured. The emphasis is what I have a problem with. Sure, action/horror films like Serenity contained lots of violence against different people. But look at the marketing. It didn't have posters of reavers about to take down an undressed River. Much as I disliked the actual Serenity poster, the message was one of empowerment. I haven't seen the movie or even the trailer, but the message that I get from this poster is "female", "undressed", "trapped", "tortured", "needs help". It is disgusting, offensive and demeaning to me.

Also, yeah. I'm with the people who think that it has nothing to do with freedom of speech. This is a marketing ploy to GENERATE argument about whether it should stay up or not, and draw attention to an otherwise-unremarkable film. It's exploitation in the extreme, and arguments about "rights" draws attention away from the fact that studios are willing to go to such lengths just to get attention.
The "ugly" truth is that all rights have limits and none are absolute. Frankly, when it comes down to it, the right to free speech is more often and more properly abridged than a lot of other rights (like the right liberty, the right to life, etc.).

I've looked at the images at issue here and it seems to me that this is precisely the kind of thing for which we have all of the limits on free speech that we do have (ratings boards, decency codes, FCC regulation, etc.). As others have said, the First Amendment guarantees that people have the right to produce such images; it does not give them the right to display them in public any more than the right to publish Hustler gives Larry Flynt the right to advertise it with graphic, sexual billboards. (In my opinion, that would actually be MORE acceptable, but I'm in the minority in the U.S. on that issue.*)

From what I can see, the images pretty clearly present a sexualized vision of the torture of a woman. Personally, I think that such images are harmful and are part of a larger societal trend that approves of and even enjoys violence against women. That is why, actually, I think it would be different if it depicted the torture of a man, and that is also why it doesn't. I don't know if the movie is the same way since I haven't seen it, but judging from the ad, it probably is, and that is why I assume (as Joss, obviously does) that it is "torture porn," a film whose purpose is creating in the audience the excitement of watching graphic depictions of torture (which I think is probably always sexualized in some form or another, and which is clearly sexualized here).

(*Why, for instance, would it be so much worse if the actress's breast were exposed in the final image? How would that, really, make it more disturbing than it already is, depicting the capture, torture, and penetration of a woman?)
Lady Brick wrote:
I'm guessing you don't live in LA, RavenU?

Nope but I have visited the city over the years and I am aware of the numerous billboards.

Not only is there the infamous traffic, but many of the main streets have stoplights practically every ten feet. And of course those are the streets with the highest concentration of billboards. There are many, many billboards that people see for more than a few seconds.

In away you make my point, if they are there everyday and you are there every day they become routine, you expect to see them there they are visual garbage to wade through.

I understand your hypothetical questions about the images, but the fact is that the billboard was intended to shock and/or entice consumers into watching a woman undergo torture in the name of entertainment. That's pretty clear-cut.

Yes it is clear, to get noticed in the sea of billboards you have to do something that will attract attention, in this day and age that typically means it has to be disturbing on some level.

Perhaps Captivity, being about a couple, is actually more of an equal-opportunity torture porn flick. But that sure as hell isn't the emphasis of that billboard (or any of the movie adverts, for that matter.) And in any case, that really wouldn't make it any less tasteless.

True but would your reaction be the same. According to marketers it would not. A man in distress doesn't evoke the same emotional gut punch as a woman in distress. They are playing to the bases of all human emotion, what we as a society are conditioned to respond to. The damsel is in destress and no one saves her. It sells tickets. Always has and always will. My point is this, if it effected you - why did it effect you and the opposite why didn't it effect others. It is perception no matter what malcontent wraught it, it is the individual perceptions that add the meaning behind it. In my case, I look at it and I am indifferent, I have seen better and worse and in the end the imag will disappear from my thoughts as quickly as the sign disappears from my view. I have had reactions to billboards, that is what they are there for but when I thought about it, I tossed it out of my mind like the trash it is. If you let it inffect you then perhaps there is something there within yourself you should look at. Will I see this film, nope. Do I really care about the images on the billboards, nope. I do find it intersting how other people seem to have been derailed by it and formed such seething oppinions about it.

I know I've seen the chain link poster around town, but I'm pretty sure I missed the billboard.

Yes, but as you pointed out LA is full of billboards perhaps you did pass it and the images didn't warrant your attention or notice until they were pointed out.

All around the world people passes by billboards and signs everyday, and unless they are informing us of food or sleep. We become accustom to them and after awhile they blend into the background of our lives, until they smack us in the face. Well for some this was a smack, for others a chance to observe people working off the recoil. It makes for pleasant observation but what does it accomplish other than free publicity for a film no one would have watched except for those already interested in that type of movie. I think it was interesting topic for a whedonesque thread and a nice change from the regular news of the day.

Now I am backing away from the keyboard for now.

Oh before I go, I found the SMG photos from the magazine shoot right after Buffy ended and seem to me a bit simlar in some frames to the images on the billboard.
The first time I saw that billboard out here, I was pretty horrified. I was all "wow, Elisa Cuthbert has another acting gig"?

Kidding, I love me THE GIRL NEXT DOOR. But seriously, those billboards freaked me out when I first saw them. It's a step-by-step primer on how to kill a lady. And that's supposed to help sell a movie? Our world is not a good world sometimes.

Just passed where they used to have one up, and now it's a bragging "CAPTIVITY WAS HERE" billboard. For a group of people that claim to have put that up accidentially, those jerks are really trying to squeeze their fifteen minutes of free publicity out of it.
I certainly don't think that there is a direct causal relation between violent/sexual/racist media and acts of violence or sexism or racism, but I also think it's laughable to think that an accumulation of such images just pass us by without affecting how we understand the world (especially for children who are just learning how to understand the world and pick up on cues from everywhere to do so).

And, those SMG images ARE a bit disturbing, RavenU. They are more deliberately aestheticized than the billboard, and therefore less realistic, but I'm not sure if that makes them more or less troubling, since they make the violence seem more palatable but also have more artistic value (they're all references to famous films).

[ edited by Septimus on 2007-03-28 21:34 ]
RavenU, please don't. Hey, here's the point. We need to stick together as a team. Where did we lose that? We are by far the strongest force on the internet.

RavenU, wonderful pictures!
bobtaylor, you're picking a fight and I don't go into a battle of wits with an unarmed man"


Wait ... what?! I only made one small post since your "bobtaylor, I wasn't stepping on your amended first toes ..." post. I didn't swear again. Nor did I even respond to your follow-up.

So where exactly am I picking a fight? For someone so concerned about Whedonesque etiquette rules, I'd say you just broke one, OzLady.
I did and that is why I took it back, before I saw your post, actually. But I still think you're trying to irritate *me* rather than make a point, and I still think it stinks.
Guess your founding fathers probably wouldn't approve of this then jerryst3161. Just for convenience, here's a pertinent quote:
Bond's bill is the exact language included previously in the FY 2001 intelligence authorization bill. The bill, including the leak language, was passed by Congress, but was vetoed by President Clinton.

(my emphasis)
Do government agencies have non-disclosure agreements or similar ? Find it quite difficult to see how secret agencies can function without some legislation about keeping their secrets.

Just because a lot of people are doing something doesn't make it right.
It just makes a lot of people wrong.


Quite. Or as Bertrand Russell said: "If a million people believe a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing." ;)

@Saje - If you likied Blink. I suggest Stumbling on Happiness which is an interesting take on how we view past, present, and future events in our lives.

May try that RavenU, thanks ;).

Re: the rest of your post(s), good points but to paraphrase, i'm smellin' a lot of ifs coming off it ;). Sure, a lot of people probably weren't bothered/didn't register the images but enough clearly were and did and the fact is neither you nor I actually know how other people were affected or who saw what for how long except by what they say (and they say they're offended, even 'damaged' to some extent).

If 2 of the panels were of the other captive in the same poses would people have even noticed them at all.

Depending on which two panels, probably not and at least it would put less of a sexual light on the proceedings (assuming the man wasn't sexualised). I also looked at the alternative posters and the one with bound hands caught my attention (not because I found it particularly disturbing - though ripped fingernails are another of my 'things') but because again it seems to be linking sex and violence (the polished nails are surely meant to connote sexuality ?).

I just know my perspective on it may not match others and you know what, that is what keeps life interesting.

Aye, no truer words ... ;)

The film obviously broke the MPAA rules. The penalty for that is removing the rating.

ah, but the film didn't (or we don't know it did) just the advertising. For the record, I am absolutely NOT against making the film, showing the film to consenting adults, even enjoying the film (it's not my thing but i'm not about to say people that do are somehow deficient or weird, in fact I know a few people that are into that sort of film and they all seem normal, well adjusted folk) i'm just against foisting its imagery on the public.

Why, for instance, would it be so much worse if the actress's breast were exposed in the final image?

Because the link between sex and violence would be even more explicit (and I guess because some people are just offended by the sight of a naked breast or willy even if I personally find that hard to understand).
Why, for instance, would it be so much worse if the actress's breast were exposed in the final image?

Because the link between sex and violence would be even more explicit (and I guess because some people are just offended by the sight of a naked breast or willy even if I personally find that hard to understand).


Yeah, that was my point, actually, although I put it poorly. (I was working off of the idea that an image of a woman's naked breast would be in and of itself offensive.) Further sexualizing a violent image is troubling, but a purely sexual image should be (in my opinion) less troubling than a purely violent one, but culturally we don't seem to see it that way.
But I still think you're trying to irritate *me* rather than make a point, and I still think it stinks.


I'm sorry you feel that way. Once again, the only post I've even made since your "amended first toes" follow-up was this one ...

Hey, it could be worse. They could be producing movie posters that feature a naked girl holding her own severed head. Oh, wait ... crap.


So, unless you're Eli Roth's sister or poster designer, I'm at a loss.

[ edited by bobtaylor on 2007-03-28 21:57 ]
RavenU, I'm sure that I did miss it, as I tend to be very aware of the billboards I pass. They are generally how I find out about upcoming movies these days. But for me, it's the LARGEST billboards that hold my attention the longest, not the most provocative. My route to work does have a smaller concentration of billboards then some areas, though, so it isn't to the point where I have to block them to function.

All around the world people passes by billboards and signs everyday, and unless they are informing us of food or sleep. We become accustom to them and after awhile they blend into the background of our lives, until they smack us in the face. Well for some this was a smack, for others a chance to observe people working off the recoil.

I don't consider the desire to make money or an interest in psychology/sociology valid reasons for forcibly inflicting disturbing images on people who don't want to see them. Also, you may want to rethink your phrasing... "a chance to observe people working off the recoil" makes it sound like you are referring to those who enjoy watching people deal with the resurgence of traumatic memories and such. In which case, perhaps they should go watch movies like Captivity, where only fictional people are harmed.

It makes for pleasant observation but what does it accomplish other than free publicity for a film no one would have watched except for those already interested in that type of movie.
It clearly DOESN'T make for pleasant observation for a significant contingent of people. And the only accomplishment appears to have been getting those involved in the placement of the billboards in trouble.
Saje: "For the record, I am absolutely NOT against making the film, showing the film to consenting adults, even enjoying the film (it's not my thing but i'm not about to say people that do are somehow deficient or weird, in fact I know a few people that are into that sort of film and they all seem normal, well adjusted folk) i'm just against foisting its imagery on the public."

Hear, hear, and words to that effect, except that I don't tend to know any folks that are (at least openly) into that kind of film. Anyhoo, re: the film and films like it, I vote with my dollars. Re: the billboard - didn't have a vote.

And I think it's obvious that the campaign's main instigator, Courtney Solomon of After Dark Films, didn't feel able himself to stand behind his creation, since he said it was a "mistake" and apologized for it. You don't apologize in that way for something that you think is okay. You may say you're sorry that they're offended, but you stand behind it.

Aside from my own (and others) visceral and personal reactions to the billboard, obviously (I hope) I object to its trivialization of torture and violence, and its objectification of humans ("total dehumanizing not just of women [though they always come first] but of all human beings"). And just 'cause there's stuff out there that's equal or worse has little or no bearing on the subject.

And, sorry, don't believe that public outcry and call for rating-removal is "censorship." They don't have to give a fat rat's ass about the rating, nor we folks that don't like it - though they obviously do, in the sense that they're using it for further publicity.

That's why I'm done talking 'bout it. I'd like the movie to fade away and die its own, slow, tortuous death, resulting in termination...


ETA: Did anyone else notice that our own "Marti Noxon Bynum" was one of the original signers of the 3/21/07 letter to Dan Glickman of the MPAA? (http://www.removetherating.blogspot.com/) Yay for Marti.

[ edited by QuoterGal on 2007-03-28 22:30 ]
bobtaylor, I'm Eli's cousin, something I have posted about on Whedonesque enough for me to feel like I've been name-dropping. And, btw, the poster to which you are linking is not being used to promote "Hostel 2" anymore, I believe; the new one is a juxtaposition of the 'old' poster showing something like a piece of meat (and which Eli described as looking like one of his mom's paintings)and the one to which you refer. However, the new poster doesn't show Bijou Phillips' naked body and doesn't make it clear that it is HER head she is holding. Whether that is better or worse I can't say.
Saje, I love you to death. Please, lets not bring that into the mix. As a favor towards me.
QuoterGal, why don't you crash out a bit, we'll talk tomorrow.
bobtaylor, I'm Eli's cousin ...


Well, firstly, I had no idea this was so. I was in no way trying to personally goad you by posting a link to that Hostel II poster. I was merely showing that the boundaries of taste continue to be pushed with movie promo art. That particular poster was never meant for theater display (uh, obviously) but has indeed been used to promote the film at a New York Comic Con and other events. Judge for yourself if that's appropriate or not.

I won't apologize for not enjoying Eli's films to this point. He has every right to make them, and I know the guy has a sizable audience. Good for him. But his movies, especially Hostel, certainly qualify as torture porn, a sub-genre of horror I'm just not interested in.

I guess I'm old school when it comes to horror. Whatever happened to the good, old-fashioned, socially relevant George Romero zombie flick? (Oh, that's right. Land of the Dead opened, and nobody came. Everyone must have been waiting for Saw IX.)
For the record, bobtaylor, I loved "Cabin Fever" and didn't see "Hostel" since it's not my thing at all. But I have known Eli his entire life, and I know that in spite of the films he makes (and the fact that people seem to think that ALL people who make 'those kind' of films must be misogynist sociopaths who glory in the crime sprees that result in their films) he's a sweet, smart guy who loves his folks, has a great sense of humor and genuinely loves what he does with a passion I think most people would die to have (er, no pun intended). I am a bit uncomfortable posting about a film I haven't personally seen, but I had thought that a good portion of the message behind "Hostel" (and "Hostel 2," I believe) is in opposition to the 'ugly Americans' who go to Europe looking for cheap drugs and a cheap lay. So these guys end up getting it all turned back upon them and then some. I am guessing from the posts that people have made about the "Saw" movies that they also have an underlying message. My point is that 'torture porn' may very well be in the (disembodied ;-) eye of the beholder.

Oh, and you will be delighted to know that when Eli was sick with the flu recently, he comforted himself with a zombie filmfest. Guess you guys have something in common after all. ;-)
I live in Salt Lake City, Utah. I remember when Brokeback Mountain and Hostel opened the same weekend, and Brokeback got banned for its homesexual themes.

I was one of the many people who thought, "Wait, you'll ban Brokeback Mountain but show Hostel?" I thought it so strange that Brokeback was considered worse than the "torture porn."

[ edited by Succatash on 2007-03-28 23:54 ]
This is the billboard photo I saw

Ravenu, that's similar to, but not identical to the one I saw. That one is still plenty disturbing to be displayed on the street.

Lady Brick, I'm surprised you didn't see it. It's the one over the building on the SW corner of Hollywood and Highland. You can still see the taunt they left in its place.
You know, I really don't mind graphically awful horror movies if they a) care about their characters and b) have a point. "The Descent" is a good case point, I think. I showed that to my girlfriend, and she said it was "horrible, but a good film". It's kinda horrific, both in setting and what happens to the characters. But it cares about those characters -- it finishes with a photo of them all together from near the beginning -- and is a geninue horror film in my book. It takes you on a journey which is scary and where you learn about the characters.

If GONERS is advertised with the hook "Women tortured and killed for fun", I won't go and see it. That's a deeply worrying direction on So Many Levels. If CAPTIVITY is a good film, tell me why, studio.

I'm made up Marti signed this, also.

[ edited by gossi on 2007-03-28 23:23 ]
Well, I make no apologies for not liking these kinds of of films, and if some of you liked saw for its existential wisdom, great. I still suspect that most people without the televisual knowledge that we have here went to see it just to see the crazy killing machines and could care less about the subtext. But that's me. I won't see movies like this.

But this reminds me of something. I love a musician named John Zorn. He makes wonderful avante garde jazz and chamber music. For one of his CD covers, he used an image of a man undergoing the torture of a thousand cuts. I have a hard time describing the image because it shakes to this day, but suffice to say the man had had both arms and legs vcut off and was haning on a pole. Alive. Why in God's name would anyone use such an image? What the hell was gained? I wrote to Zorn about this, because I just cannot understnad how you go about selling records with such images used to sell them- and which was covered when I bought the CD so that I did not know it was there until I opened it. So here, we have a similar kind of thing- the person on the street cannot avoid the image there. A lot of argument here surrounds whether or not it was violence toward women, etc. BUt that is besides the point. For anyone who thinks they shold have the right to post the billboard, should they if it were the image I saw on Zorn's CD? Or if it were a picture of a concentration camp victim in death? Or a man with his intestines hanging out? There is a real slipperly slope here. Make whatever film you want- people have to want to see it and pay for the right. But when you inflict it on people who cannot avoid it, you cross a line.
I'm just happy to see people getting as worked up over violence as a nipple!
I enjoyed Hostel, and all the Saw movies. (Though for some reason my stomach almost couldn't take the most recent Saw.) Not like, 'I gotta own that film', but they were better than say, Norbitt or Wild Hogs looks to me. But I like dark, noir, gritty films. And sometimes I like a little excessive violence. The torture parts do exactly what they're supposed to do-make me cringe and hope the protagonist can overcome his/her terrible fate.
But there are reasons that these films aren't rated G. They're not meant to be seen by little ones, as we as as society have deemed certain things inappropriate for them, rightly or wrongly. (I personally hate being assaulted with 'family-friendly films', but I imagine the nightmares I get from those will be less traumatic than if a kid sees a graphic, violent image.) If we as a society deem the movie unfit for children, why would we allow the movie images or images that are representative of the negative aspects to be seen by children? It's akin to showing a horror trailer before a Disney film. They're not seeing the film, but they're getting enough to be disturbed.
I hate censorship, but if we can't let kids see naked bodies on billboards, which are actually very harmless, then we shouldn't let them see violence unnecessarily. Which is presumably more mentally harmful than a boob.
dreamlogic: I actually haven't been past Hollywood and Highland in several weeks... I generally avoid driving Hollywood Blvd between Vine and Highland. And that's actually the one place I'm LEAST likely to see the billboards... I'm too busy looking for character costumes in front of Graumann's. And occasionally attempting not to hit pedestrians.
Oh, and you will be delighted to know that when Eli was sick with the flu recently, he comforted himself with a zombie filmfest. Guess you guys have something in common after all.


Well, a good zombie marathon heals all wounds, I always say.

For the record, Eli always seems like a pleasant and intelligent guy in both print and filmed interviews.
What I have never understood is why anyone would see such a film at all. This entire genre- Saw, Hostel, etc.- is so utterly appalling that it is beyond my understanding how anyone could find this appealing. It is like a sex flic- the story exists solely as a means to get to the sex, or here, to the torture. how can a movie such as Saw be in any way enjoyable, no matter how much those lauding it say it is well done? The story exists for no other reason than to create incresingly byzantine ways of harming people. How sad


I make no apologies for not liking these kinds of of films


I have no problem with people who have differering opinions to my own, I just dislike when some people state their opinions as if they are the correct ones. I also object to people who assume they know everything about a film from some promotional material.

As I mentioned I strongly agree with others that any horrific imagery should be kept away from public places. Regarding the movies themselves I'm not going to stick up for Hostle, Captivity or any other film I know nothing about. However having watched the Saw films, I would say that anyone who has actually watched them would have understood at least on some level the message from that series: "make the most of your mortality." It's not really a hidden metaphor. The terminally ill man, Jigsaw tells each participant how they could have lived better lives and why he is putting them through the tests.

"I believe the subtext here is rapidly becoming text"

Also I don't think there were any sexual scenes in the whole Saw triology? And in my memory the only person who was given a life-threatening test by Jigsaw for a sexual crime was a man.
People are judging Saw without having seen it. That's a bit funny. And no, there's no sex at all in any of the movies. When there are mentions of sex, it's about infidelity.

Further, if we're going to label the whole torture-porn sub-genre as misogynistic, I'm going to use the three Saw films as an example here, too. Through 310 minutes of film, (by my very quick count) five women are killed, compared to fourteen men.

[ edited by The Dark Shape on 2007-03-29 00:57 ]
I saw the first Saw, and thought it was a good film, in actual fact. The killer didn't work, but it was an interesting character study in a way as to how far people will go. The advertising for 2 and 3 put me off.
2's a pure slasher flick. It's basically Cube with Jigsaw. But Saw 3 is great.
I also object to people who assume they know everything about a film from some promotional material.

I know nothing about this film. If I someday catch it on cable and it turns out to have some value, it will be too late for me to really pay for my enjoyment, because I am far down the potential revenue stream due to the objectionable marketing.
I think that's an unlikely scenario, though.
"BTW - The description of that first shot, the gloved hand one covering the girls mouth. Did it remind anyone else of the shots in Movieline (I think) from a few years ago, with Sarah Michelle Gellar, right after the end of Buffy. Where she did a similar shot in a photo layout for that issue. Strange how one makes people wince and the other really doesn't. It's all about perception and context in the end, I guess."

When those pictures were published I noted my distaste for them. It was like porn and horror mixed together but other people just said I was overreacting.
Okay, I'm probably going to be called a monster for this, but here we go:

I hate movies like this (re: Saw), and I think it shows a disturbing trend in the film industry, pop culture, and pretty much humanity in general that our preferred form of entertainment is seeing bad actors tortured and brutally beaten to death. Plus, the movies are just really really bad. I mean, I get no satisfaction out of the Final Destination movies (which seem to be at least marginally tamer than these) or anything like that.

I do not support Captivity, I will never see it, and yes, I find the billboard very unpleasant and distasteful.

All that said, however, I think this is being blown way out of proportion. I hunted down a pic of the billboard, and I expected to see something heralding the coming of Satan...which it most definitely was not. Like I said. It's unpleasant. It's distasteful. It's an extremely off-putting ad. But that's about it. An unpleasant ad.

I'm very sorry for those who've said awful memories come back to them when they see that; I will admit I have no idea how that would be, and cannot even imagine what that must be like. But, to me, as me, I find it a terrible poster and utter trash cinema, but not much more. I can get the sexist vibes, but I don't think that's necessarily the point. Birth of a Nation--totally different themes, I know, but I digress--is far more disturbing in its blatant cruelty.

I agree with Joss on most things, but it seems I only agree with him about halfway here.
It's disappointing that some of the reaction to this has "What's the big deal" and "I've seen worse". Congratulations, those people win the award for being the Most Desensitised. Bravo!

There was also some suggestion that there would be no furore:

1. if it was a man depicted

Hard to say. Possibly so. But I tend to think my visceral reaction would be the same.

However, it's hard to refute that women are more vicitimised than men and most right-thinking people are now raised to learn that men and women are equal; so images like this will make us react more accutely to something we needed to learn (women are equal) than something we take for granted (men have the power).

2. if these images were for a centre for abused women

A ludicrous example, given that images like these constitute an assault on our senses and a centre for abused women are hardly going to brand the images with words like "Abduction," "Confinement," "Torture" and "Extermination"

No those kind of images are only ever going to be used to promote a film. And it's not just the images, but the words as well. A step-by-step guide to torturing and killing women - which is obviously supposed to be the hook.

Whoever threw out the synopsis of the film suggests that maybe the husband and wife will be subjected to equal opportunity torture - oh, yay, that makes it so much better. But we aren't seeing a billboard or posters depicting a man getting tortured; clearly this is to entice young teenage males, who make up a great percentage of the audience for horror films.

Elisha Cuthbert continues to play victims and the suggestion that "Girl Next Door" is the highlight of her career is just sad - yes, there she is not a victim, merely a porn star.

Her other horror film House of Wax is a good example of how horror films are different now - none of the characters in that film are likeable. At least in the Freddy and Jason days we were at least supposed to want the kids to survive; that film made it impossible for me to care.
How about something concise, because this thread has gotten so far off the point. I'll use a couple of quotes as examples.

jerryst3161 said: I know more than a few people who were turned on by Spike attempting to rape Buffy.

Point: This was not depicted on a billboard in public view. Nor was it perpetrated against a *helpless* woman. Nor was it the *intent* of the writers of Seeing Red. The intent was clearly showing that this was unacceptable, that Spike had crossed a line that even he realized was horrifying. An attempted rape in a TV show is not even remotely comparable to the sexualized image of a tortured woman on a huge billboard in a public place.

RavenU and Eddy both pointed out the post BtS photoshoot of SMG.

Point: This was in a magazine, not a monster billboard in public view.

Concise points with which I totally agree:

Toast said: The movie is protected speech, as long as it isn't shown on a giant, unavoidable screen in the middle of town.

And from fortunateizzi:
The reason why torture porn is wrong is because it sexualizes violence toward women.
And I would add (for Cider, amongst others)... if it were an image, displayed on a giant billboard in a public place, that sexualized violence being done to a man, I would feel the exact same way.
Further, if we're going to label the whole torture-porn sub-genre as misogynistic, I'm going to use the three Saw films as an example here, too. Through 310 minutes of film, (by my very quick count) five women are killed, compared to fourteen men.


There could be one female death compared to one hundred male deaths and it could still be a misogynist message. It is dependent on the context and imagery employed. As it is, I have seen the first ‘Saw’ film. It was rather by accident when I made a random daytime trip with my wife to our local cinema and there was nothing showing that either of us was desperate to see. I knew this was a “horror film”, I genre I like generally, and thought it might be the best of an uninspiring bunch. I didn’t think the film was particularly good and I didn’t really enjoy it, but I didn’t leave the cinema identifying a misogynist theme or context. I can’t comment about the two sequels. Having got nothing out of the first film, I could find no compelling reason to want to watch more of the same.

I haven’t seen ‘Hostel’. For all I know, it might be a very good film, and I cannot comment about the themes or subtexts employed. All I can say is that from the various articles and interviews I read it sounded repellent to my personal sensibilities and I could think of no good reason to want to see it.

Do I think films like this should be censored? No, with certain reservations. I read comments made by Alexandra Aja, the director of ‘The Hills Have Eyes’, in an article in, I think, Empire magazine, that I thought carried a definite misogynist slant. Whatever the intention of these comments (I no longer have the magazine in question, so I cannot quote them – and I haven’t seen the film) they left a nasty taste in my mouth. If it is shown that these films carry a deliberate misogynist message, do I think they should be censored? I think they should, but it should be self-censorship by the people responsible for producing this stuff in the first place. They should know better and until they can see that enough is enough we will not see an improvement. I witness sexism and misogyny all around me every single day, but simply attempting to “ban” it or sweep the problem under the carpet is not going to solve it.

As to the billboards, obviously I didn’t see the actual billboards and can only go on what I have seen. I can find nothing defensible about the images and I think the criticism and subsequent decision to remove them was correct. Equally, since it has already been mentioned here, I think the Gellar photo shoot was probably misguided, but I found it all rather bland and boring and it is difficult to build up to anything greater than an apathetic response to it.
robocod- like it or not, I still don't understand why people like these movies and want to see them. Where did I state that this is the only correct opinion one can have? I honestly don't see the appeal. Obviously, other people feel different. You are taking this a bit too far in your comment.

But I don't get it. There are great films that get made, and these are the ones people see. And this faux blow-up over the advertising does nothing more than help sell the movie further. I'm tired of guerilla advertising.
"And this faux blow-up over the advertising does nothing more than help sell the movie further. I'm tired of guerilla advertising."

Are you saying you think that people getting upset over the advertising is phony? That is what it reads like, but I am having a hard time imagining that that is what you meant. I am assuming you meant that the "mistakes" that were made that got the advertising in the public eye, were phony...or am I off base?
Joss has a thing or two to say about cap.......

Ah, boys? We're elsewhere.
Argh...against my better judgment, I went Googling for that John Zorn album cover Dana5140 mentioned. Then I checked out more pictures from that set. That was horrible...sometimes my curiosity gets the better of me :(
Okay, way too much has already been said on this subject for me to actually wade into it now. I'm not sure I could really contribute anything useful anyways... (I'm intelligent enough to understand these issues but not "educated" enough to write convincingly on them.)

Also, I'm far too much of a Devil's Advocate to not get myself in trouble here.

But I can't possibly go without saying... OzLady, Cider and jerryst3161, I absolutely LOVE you all!

And UnpluggedCrazy, you continue to be one of my favorite posters.


ETA: About the Zorn CD cover Dana wrote to the artist about... um, what was his explanation? Did he justify it to you?

[ edited by Haunt on 2007-03-29 15:55 ]
I think newcj it's more that the film advertisers knew exactly what they were doing and were banking on this outcry to provide them with reams of extra free advertising for their film.
I'm far too much of a Devil's Advocate ...

Bloody lawyers ;-).
A number of years ago a fashion magazine decided it would be fun to show off a line of clothes (or something) with models depicted in bondage, and I think it ended up getting pulled from the stands. My point is that it isn't just movies trying to sell tickets to young boys who go this route, and I'm not always sure the misogynistic message is that boys find that a turn on. I'm not sure what the message is sometimes. Personally I find it impossible to watch 'Law and Order: SVU' because in my opinion we are getting 40 minutes of women and/or children being hurt, and people discussing the topic of women and children being hurt, followed by a couple of minutes of the arrest (that doesn't attract prurient interest?).
newcj- no, you read me wrong. I think the billboards were wrong. What I meant was that I think the company that created the billboards helped to create the controversy, ie, faux blow-up. That's why I took issue with guerilla marketing.
Joss - I appreciate your speaking so eloquently on this topic. Ultimately the film makers are out to make money and this is bringing attention to their stuff. Hopefully it will blow over. I am glad that the Jill Solloway spoke up. On the other hand Ravenu had a good point - this awful stuff is happening all the time around the world but no one over really cares too much because it's not pretty blonds dying in the Sudan.
Dana5140 & helcat That was what I thought the intent was. The phrasing, calling it a faux blow-up, made it sound like the outrage over the advertising was fake rather than that the advertising had been created specifically to stir outrage. I just wanted to get it clear before someone who had not read Dana5140's other comments, got the way wrong idea.

"this awful stuff is happening all the time around the world but no one over really cares too much because it's not pretty blonds dying in the Sudan."

OK, but I have never understood the point of that...point. Should we not object as strongly about what is happening here because it is happening all over the world? IMO it just means that horrible things need to stop all over the world. It makes sense that one would try to clean-up their own backyard before trying to clean up someone else's...especially if right at the moment one has been accused of sticking one's nose in everybody else's business anyway.
newcj - my point was - we DO react more strongly to stuff like this campaign rather than to the larger injustices going on the world. I think we need to react to all of it - not just to billboards. Like I said - I am really glad that Jill Solloway spoke up.
ruthless1: "we DO react more strongly to stuff like this campaign rather than to the larger injustices going on the world."

ruthless1 - not sure who your "we" is - but you can't possibly know what the folks on whedonesque or this thread "react more strongly to." This site is restricted to Whedon-projects and related, and as such, usually reflects only those concerns.

Not gonna list my own political, economic, social concerns or groups or orgs, etc., but can state categorically that your "we" does not include me. This billboard and related kinds of densensitizing materials is just one of my areas of involvement, and I'm certain sure I'm not the only one on whedonesque who would say that.

And like newcj, I have never understood why people have to invoke that, as if profound suffering on one side of the world should make us shut up about other kinds of pain and suffering closer to us.
This discussion has made me flinch enough to want to know what organizations I can become affiliated with to try to effectively deal with these kinds of issues. I'm sure most of us around here care deeply about injustices being perpetrated on people all over the world. Certainly governments getting in the way of the help we could and try to give, including our own, reports of how ineffectual the United Nations has become, reports of the skimming done by relief organizations of charitable dollars, has done its part to add to my "somewhat" apathy. But that's of course, no excuse in itself (perhaps Equality Now is a good place to start).

It was sad to see how unaffected some people were by that billboard and the story behind it, but I think it was a minor percentage. I'm 49 and I still am outraged by these kind of issues. I hope I always will be. But it was a civilized exchange of views, and for that I'm appreciative. Unlike the thread that was started (and thankfully deleted) yesterday at W.org that began, "I never took Joss for a", this board still has the least amount of snarkiness I've ever seen on the Internet, for which I'm grateful.
Nicely said, Tonya J. :-)

(and I don't know what W.org is, but I thought maybe it was a site devoted to our country's 'noble' leader? ;-)
Sorry, when I'm in a hurry at work I shorten things: whedonesque.org .
Hm. Not sorry I missed that Whedonesque.org thread, but sorry I missed the activity in this one. I think this thread is on-topic, for what it's worth. I think it's a recurrent theme in Joss's work that he's very careful what messages his writing (and others') conveys, and although violence is a frequent plot element, it's used to make a point, rather than being the point. It reminds me of whatever DVD commentary it was that mentioned Joss rejected a writer's idea to use two men kissing as punishment. There is a big difference between not what one is willing to portray and what one is willing to convey with it. Kissing could convey punishment through a curse, or it could convey love. Violence can convey empowerment and conflict but it can also convey powerlessness and victimization.

The growing degree to which violence and victimization are becoming the point on tv and in moves really disturbs me. I am in some ways a fan of the horror genre (zombies, vampires, werewolves) but most of what comes out in theatres and is labeled as "horror" leaves me cold or even sickened. I don't watch the Law and Order: SVU type shows for that reason. I realize other people like those shows, and they aren't as bad as this movie from the sound of things, but it's just not entertainment for me, either. What I really appreciate is writing that does something besides use violence to shock me or to align my viewpoint with the "hero" so that when he is horribly violent later, I feel like it's ok.

Perhaps I'm merely rehashing what others have already said here, though.
Aww, thanks, Haunt.

And, to whoever else mentioned it, I am also glad that .Org thread got deleted. Totally violates Whedonesque's whole "play the ball, not the player" policy. Plus it was just really mean.

[ edited by UnpluggedCrazy on 2007-03-30 01:32 ]
that began, "I never took Joss for a",

OK, sounds like that thread wasn't on but i'm really curious to know what Joss was, anyone want to fill in the blank ?

(you know that joke "How do you keep an idiot in suspense ?", first time I heard it I followed the teller around for 5 minutes pestering them to tell me before next week. Not necessarily the sharpest knife but, hey, persistant ;)
I'll e-mail you what I remember, Saje.
I feel a small need to rephrase something. I will speak for myself only and not as a 1) member of the human race, 2) an activist american citizen who could probably do more, 3) Whedonesque member.
For myself - I know I have a stronger reaction to something like the billboards described than to what I see NIGHTLY on the BBC about what is going on Darfur. I feel so overwhelmed by some of the international situations that I see on television, I just shut it out. I find at times, it is easier for ME to react to a billboard here in the US with a person that looks a little bit closer to what I look like than to try to reach out across the the cultural differences to try to stop what is going on in Darfur. I have reread my earlier comments and nowhere did I say that people should not do anything to stop something like the billboards we were discussing.
I know that people haven't been here in a while, so no one will probably ever respond to this. But I still have to put it out here for posterity.

Saje sez:

See, that's my problem. We have two competing 'freedoms' here and, though it's a means/ends argument and those are notoriously slippery, the most 'freedoms' are preserved by disallowing the poster.

No, no, nonononono. There is a huge difference between freedom of speech and freedom from viewing an offensive billboard. Only one of those freedoms can be construed as American in any way. The United States was built on the concept of PERMISSIVE freedoms...freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press...the right to do something if you chose. Nowhere in the Constitution are RESTRICTIVE freedoms enshrined. Restrictive freedoms, or freedoms "from" something, are garbage concepts, yet for some reason they're big today. What's going to happen is that we Americans, as a society (not meaning to exclude our fine non-US cousins here), are going to restrict everything out of the public sphere that offends anybody, and then there won't be anything left.

Look, I'm a little offended by the billboard too. (Not much, but then, I've seen worse. It's still pretty bad.) But there's a better way to deal with it than censorship. It's called boycotting. Now that is taking advantage of your freedom NOT TO DO something, and is a very American form of protest. I won't see this hack job, and I will recommend to my friends that they don't either. We should take matters into our own hands instead of relying on authority. In America, WE ARE THE AUTHORITY.
I feel like I should salute the flag or something ;-).

(i'll restrain myself though - don't salute my own, not likely to start with someone else's)

Yep, I can totally see your point, it's a slippery slope and we need to make sure we're pretty secure at the top but how exactly do you boycott a billboard ? My point being that whatever damage the poster may do will already have been done when it's time to not go to the cinema. And also, what about if someone does it specifically to get a reaction, i.e. not even to advertise anything, just to offend (and I agree it's relatively simple to be much more offensive than that poster) ? Are the general public to be left then with no recourse (i'd be surprised if this hasn't happened before which makes me think there are already mechanisms in place to prevent this happening, despite the fact it may curtail freedom of speech) ?

I respect the constitution (in the abstract obviously, doesn't apply to me) as a wonderful result of enlightenment thinking but isn't it surely the case that there are a lot of things proscribed under US law that aren't even mentioned in the constitution ?

And anyway, to be honest I don't really see this sort of thing as a freedom of speech issue, more public decency. Does the constitution for instance guarantee the freedom to walk around in public exposing your private parts to members of the opposite sex (cos i'm sure i've seen people arrested for that in US cop shows - admittedly not exactly bastions of legal accuracy ;) ? Could one distribute hardcore, even violent, pornography to kids and claim you were just exercising your right to free speech ? Why is that deemed wrong and damaging but this is somehow protected ?

I absolutely believe in freedom of speech it's just, in human affairs, I also don't believe in absolutes ;).
You make some interesting points. Let me address them.

First off, obviously you cannot boycott a billboard. (Well, perhaps you could, by taking a different route to get wherever you were going, but that hardly seems practical.) You can, however, boycott a movie. You can organize your friends to boycott a movie. You can exercise your own freedom of speech rights and write letters to the company and anyone associated with them saying that you'll never buy anything related to them again unless they pull the film. You can take out ads of your own in newspapers proclaiming women's rights demonstrations and picket lines at any theater showing the film.

Is it easier to just seek legal sanctions? Of course. No one denies that, and that's why it's done so often. But then two things will happen. First, the people responsible for the film will have a soapbox to say that their First Amendment rights were violated. (It's not actually true, but we'll get to that in a minute.) In fact, they have already said such a thing. Now their film is being given all sorts of free publicity as the "most controversial" blah blah of the year. Second, even though freedom of speech may be only tangentially involved, you HAVE indeed helped to undermine it by saying, in essence, it is absolutely verboten to do this...instead of what you should have said in the first place, namely: if you do this, there will be massive consequences.

So what if someone says something designed to offend? Whatever happened to the old Enlightenment saying, "I do not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it?" (I think I just paraphrased Voltaire.) This is not like handing out porn to kids, which they could keep and look at for a good long while...this is much more like the case of a street preacher saying vile and racist things. You'll be out of earshot in a few seconds, so you can pretty much ignore it. Or you can stand around and try to shout him down. (Has no one thought of holding anti-film vigils AT THE FREAKIN' BILLBOARDS?)

There are plenty of restrictions on freedom of speech, but the only ones I truly agree with are the ones that will cause immediate harm to other people (i.e., shouting "Fire" in a crowded theatre), because those can have devastating impacts on other people's freedoms. Since when is there a freedom not to be offended by something? Because if there is, I need to retain a lawyer--I could file about sixty lawsuits a day. Granted, the Constitution says only that Congress will not restrict freedom of speech, not that nobody has the power, so technically this isn't a free speech issue. But even so, I wish people would explore other options before restricting others' rights. It's often the case that you'll find yourself on the other side later.

And I'm sorry, but I'm suspicious of any sanctimony involving "our most precious resource." I just don't buy this "It's for our children" crap. This is the excuse that EVERY group uses when they don't like something, as if kids were just some fragile porcelain creation that would shatter if breathed on improperly. I don't remember being that delicate. Do you? Whether it's Christian groups saying that Buffy should be banned from the airwaves or Times journalists calling for the destruction of all things 700 Club, I just don't see it being an honest form of argument.

Do I think that freedom of speech should be construed to mean "Anyone can say what they want all the time?" No. But I do think it should be as broadly interpreted as possible, and I absolutely think that it should take precedence over "freedoms from" something or other.
Yep, Voltaire indeed, sterling fellow. I think we're sort of agreeing at cross-purposes in as much as we both seem to think it's a matter of lines, we're just drawing them in different places.

Re: "Won't somebody think about the children ?" *sob* and maybe *rend*, i'm also suspicious of that sort of argument and I bring up children NOT because of it but because children are already protected from various influences by ratings on violent films/games etc. and so serve as examples in that way (or possibly you disagree with ratings or any kind of restriction on media consumption ? That's not a poke, BTW, it'd be consistent with your position so i'm curious).

You say giving away porn is worse because they could keep it. Ignoring for now the fact that kids with camera phones, scanners etc. can keep more or less any image they want these days, that seems to imply that it'd be worse if they were exposed to the images for longer and yet, in billboard form, it apparently doesn't matter if they're exposed to it for longer while we're having marches, writing letters etc. Seems inconsistent.

I (and others) mentioned the '"Fire !" in a cinema' point upthread and again that seems to raise an inconsistency in your argument since those people are most definitely being protected from something (i.e. danger/death). Again there seems to be a line in that you think it's worth curtailing free speech to protect from death, I think it's worth it in context, in limited circumstances to protect from psychological trauma (as attested by a few upthread) - note not 'just' offence, something worse. If the billboard was making a serious point of some kind (and was tweaked slightly maybe) i'd find it much harder to justify 'banning' it (as I mention upthread, context is important) no matter how offensive it was. Some things are worth psychological trauma, some issues are too important.

I also think that bodies like the MPAA (who had already said this poster was 'verboten', note the PR firm aren't taking a courageous stand for their rights, they're merely claiming a printer SNAFU caused the wrong poster to be hung) simply serve as a shortcut through all the processes you outline (boycotts, marches, letters etc. - which, BTW, would also provide a lot of free publicity of exactly the kind 'banning' has, only spread over a longer time period) allowing people to achieve the same results more quickly.

As I say I think we both agree some situations in the real world require the curtailment of free speech, bitter pill though that may be to swallow, I just think we disagree on the specific situations where that applies.
"You can, however, boycott a movie. You can organize your friends to boycott a movie. You can exercise your own freedom of speech rights and write letters to the company and anyone associated with them saying that you'll never buy anything related to them again unless they pull the film. You can take out ads of your own in newspapers proclaiming women's rights demonstrations and picket lines at any theater showing the film.

Is it easier to just seek legal sanctions? Of course. No one denies that, and that's why it's done so often."


...but my understanding is that the people involved did exercise those rights. I do not remember reading that they asked the city government to take action. Instead they protested to the companies responsible to remove the posters, which they eventually did. Now they are asking the organization responsible for policing such advertising, the MPAA, to punish those companies for having ignored the MPAA's original directive. This is not a "legal action" or a suit, it is a group of people asking for there to be consequences for specific actions.

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