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June 26 2007

Could Joss Whedon and critics of 'torture porn' at least watch the movies? Could this reviewer just think "there are tons of things more important than a horror movie"?

[ edited by zeitgeist on 2007-06-26 20:45 ]

Link titled edited for readability.
Sums up my feelings on the matter:

"I'm not that big a fan of scary movies, even the hokie ones. Sometimes they go to a place that I think kids could stand to avoid. Once you see true evil, it can have some serious after burn, and then you can't unsee what you saw. Ever. That's just one opinion."-Principal Wood
It ain't about the damn movies Nigel Floyd, it's about a world in which this is brainstormed, discussed, approved, edited, and printed; and that so many people don't get why that image isn't cool.
This is an interesting look at it - unfortunately, it is an opinion piece and does call for a careful eye. What I find most interesting is that for this writer, the films are distinct and have more subtext and context within the genre. What he seems to think is that the critics are seeing these films as representatives OF a genre, not as individual entities within a genre.

It would be like saying Buffy, Hex, Charmed and Ghost Whisperer were all the same just because each of them has supernatural elements and feature female protagonists, when obviously to those in the know they are each very different.

The problem I have with accepting his argument though is - why do you even NEED to see a movie like "Captivity" or "Hostel"? I'm all for seeing the evidence for yourself before judging but the torture porn genre can be oftentimes very obvious. The trailer for "Captivity" is exactly what the movie is - the kidnapping, torture of a young woman. This is not Marcel Proust we're talking about - that is what it is and Joss was very correct, imo, to criticize the genre.

I am not a fan of excessive violence and gore, though I like horror films. Since the "Saw" films I find myself staying away from the modern "horror" flicks and have focused more on thrillers such as "1408." Again, I go back to the wise words from one of my former professors: "What goes into your brain stays there." What has come from these directors and producers - the goal may really be just to make money and cash in on the genre, but that desire to push the envelope in a way that is supposed to literally make people feel sick, that is more representative of the individuals, and not in a good way.
The title of this article, "Could critics of 'torture porn' at least watch the movies?" doesn't really have much to do with its content, which is kinda all over the place for such a short article...

While I understand that it must be frustrating to an afficiando of horror movies to have what he considers both lame and intelligent movies lumped together with no "detailed knowledge of the horror genre’s complex genealogy," he objects to it, and then makes no case for why, in the context of exploitation of women in film, they should not be. I can think of some reasons why they should not, but he doesn't state any in the article. It apparently just bugs him, which is not much in the way of pertinent criticism...

Though he calls this Joss characterization of Captivity astute - "‘a concise narrative of the kidnapping, torture and murder of a sexy young woman" - he nonetheless takes him to task for writing about the movie on the basis of its publicity alone, though Joss was primarily objecting to the publicity.

"A few of you may know that I took public exception to the billboard campaign for this film, which showed a concise narrative of the kidnapping, torture and murder of a sexy young woman. I wanted to see if the film was perhaps more substantial (especially given the fact that it was directed by 'The Killing Fields' Roland Joffe) than the exploitive ad campaign had painted it. The trailer resembles nothing so much as the CNN story on Dua Khalil. Pretty much all you learn is that Elisha Cuthbert is beautiful, then kidnapped, inventively, repeatedly and horrifically tortured, and that the first thing she screams is 'I’m sorry'."

And the writer's, I guess, explanation? of the genre's current use of torture, which he does say is predominantly against young women, is that it isn't generated by these films; the films are just tapping into the (pardon me) zeitgeist.

Finally, he says about Roth's Hostel II that "one would be hard pressed to claim that it advances our understanding of the torturer’s mindset." And he notes this, as well: "Nor does the reworked ‘Captivity’ say anything new about the sadistic, controlling gaze of voyeurism."

But Captivity is a "confused and repellent film" which " depressingly lives down to the generalist critics’ expectations, while Hostel II is an equal opportunity torturer: "Its most gratifying element is the way it anticipates and wrong-foots its critics, cleverly subverting their assumptions about its inevitable misogyny. Operating an equal opportunities policy for torturers and victims, Roth hits the male audience members right where it hurts."

So the main specific points he makes about specific films is that neither of two movies is particular edifying, nor do they, according to his analysis, use torture of men and women to any end other than entertainment purposes, but "it is only by analysing and contextualising the actual film that one can cut through the fat to the heart of the matter."

Yeah, I dunno. I don't think he made much of a case for seeing at least these movies before writing about their exploiting natures or images, (or deciding that you don't need to see 'em if you don't like torture as entertainment.) Nor does he even remotely get into the deeper issues that have prompted the response he's reacting to - of exploitation of women (and men) for amusement. It's just in the air, and some folks do it to men, too.

ET: Correct a mistake, thanks to bivith.

[ edited by QuoterGal on 2007-06-27 00:24 ]
"The problem I have with accepting his argument though is - why do you even NEED to see a movie like "Captivity" or "Hostel"?"

Not need. Want. Why does the horror genre exist at all? People like being scared. Maybe PG-13 ghost movies are scary to you, but the only thing I'm afraid of is pain. Even "torture-porn" movies are only slightly disturbing. There's nothing like a good nightmare.

Movies can make me cry, but they stopped making me scared when I turned 10. Being disturbed is the next best thing, and there isn't anything more disturbing than mutilation and murder.
Nothing more disturbing to turn on the news and see people killing and murdering in the name of some supernatural being they invented.
I agree, QuoterGal, the heart of the issue is the exploitation of men and women and the violent imagery that is being used. Why is this entertaining? Of course people enjoy pushing buttons, enjoy going farther and farther to see how extreme they can be, but since when does this, to use Jayne's line, "get fun"? And when are "artistic pursuits" such as this able to be properly defended?

[ edited by HelloSpooky on 2007-06-26 22:52 ]
They don't need to be defended IMO. Informed consenting adults are (and should be) allowed to watch anything that an artist can create (provided it's created without actively harming others). Even if these films aren't my bag, people I know to be level headed, humane guys and gals watch them and enjoy them so i'm categorically not of the 'you must all be mental' point of view.

Reckon there's a serious point here about coping mechanisms. I think these sorts of films are popular right now to allow us to put real life atrocities into boxes so that we can deal with them better (as the 'radioactive monsters' or 'red menace' films of the 50s and 60s were).

My worry is, we shouldn't be finding ways to cope with these things, we should be disgusted and disturbed, hopefully that'll inspire us to stop them (or try to). If we can shift torture just off to the side of reality it gives us an out, a chance to escape thinking about the real stuff going on all over the world. It makes it an external thing that we can leave behind with the popcorn dregs.

I also think the title of the article has a point (one that I reckon Joss took seriously) i.e. you can't criticise a film without seeing it. And it's a valid point that without understanding a genre, you can't form an accurate idea about what an individual film is trying to do. It's like watching Buffy without knowing that, traditionally, the sexy blond that goes into the dark alley is always the victim. Without that knowledge you can't know which stereotypes are being subverted and which glamourised and perpetuated.

(which is why, for my money, the opinions of people like Mark Kermode or even Joss with their extensive genre and film history backgrounds are more telling than a standard review from a general mainstream journalist - even a mainstream film journalist)

ETA: And I agree with QuoterGal that the article itself is a bit unfocused and doesn't make a coherent case either way.

[ edited by Saje on 2007-06-26 23:14 ]
I saw that image in a poster for the movie at my local cinema, looked very wrong in between a poster for Shrek and a poster for the Simpsons.
Following includes SPOILERS about "Hostel Pt. 2." SPOILERS about "Hostel 2" here (I don't know how to do spoiler font on this board). I haven't seen "Captivity," but I did see both "Hostel" films. Unlike the "Saw" films or something like, say, "Wolf Creek," the "Hostel" films actually have the same ultimate payoff as everything from "Jaws" to "Die Hard" to "Aliens" -- extremely provoking person/creature commits extremely provoking acts, until understandably (by now) provoked ostensible victim commits an act that would be unthinkable at the outset but now seems reasonable (self-defense and vengeance in the same action). What was most interesting to me about "Hostel Pt. II" was that one of its points was that even people who fantasize about torture and are generally jerks don't necessarily want to commit torture/murder in actuality, while people whose self-image is that they never do these things may actually go ahead if they suddenly believe there are no consequences/that they may be judged weak by their peers if they don't go ahead. There are, I am sure, more mainstream ways of getting the latter message across, but I think the former actually benefitted from this context. Of course, most people who believe that people who make/watch horror are prone to real-life violence will never see "Hostel 2" anyway, but whatever one things of the graphic violence, it's not about misogyny. I think perhaps that's one of the things the article is talking about -- the discussion of violence as pornography and the discussion of pornography as misogyny are *not* necessarily always the same discussion.
" Later, Joss saw the film and said this: "

Joss saw the *trailer* and said that.
If I remember correctly, Joss' discussion, and a lot of the discussion here was about the billboard, rather than so much the movie itself. The billboard Joss did see, and plenty of other people saw it and the trailers on tv too, involuntarily. It was imposed on them as passed, in all its awfulness. You don't need to see the whole movie to know that the advertisement you saw stinks, and is exploitative and appalling.
It's fine to see an advertisement and say that the advertisement is disgusting. It's also a matter of opinion to see the movie, and then say that the movie is disgusting. I think the issue here - or some of it, QuoterGal and Sage were right, this article is all over the place - is with people who see the trailer or billboard, and use that to judge a movie.

I think it's always smart, when you dislike something, to put it in the contest of something you do like. Take Serenity. (This is gonna be a loose example.) It's a scifi-western. That doesn't sound like a great movie. But most fans would be annoyed if a non-fan took that summary, said, "oh, that sounds stupid," and walked away. They're judging it on its appearance. That's one of the points of this article - seeing a billboard is not enough to judge a movie.
If I remember correctly, Joss' discussion, and a lot of the discussion here was about the billboard, rather than so much the movie itself.

True toast but from Joss (my emphasis):

But coincidentally, right before I stumbled on this vid I watched the trailer for “Captivity”.

A few of you may know that I took public exception to the billboard campaign for this film, which showed a concise narrative of the kidnapping, torture and murder of a sexy young woman. I wanted to see if the film was perhaps more substantial (especially given the fact that it was directed by “The Killing Fields” Roland Joffe) than the exploitive ad campaign had painted it ...


I think most would agree that the trailer is also part of the publicity for a film and doesn't necessarily show what the actual film is like. As I said above, I do value Joss' opinion but, IMO, Bivith makes a valid point (that i'd missed). If you're going to talk about the film, you have to have seen the film, uninformed opinions are worthless (even heartfelt and genuine ones).

ETA:

Shapenew said: the discussion of violence as pornography and the discussion of pornography as misogyny are *not* necessarily always the same discussion.

Another good point I reckon. Ironically, because of ingrained sexism and misogyny, when people think 'porn' they think 'exploitation of women' so when they're told 'torture porn' and then see a film like 'Hostel' (which i've been told features men) they think "Well, that's not porn, what are these bleeding hearts on about ?". In one sense 'torture porn' is a perfect summation (IMO) in another it's misleading (and probably applied with too broad a brush) because most people don't think of porn as 'lurid or sensational material' they think of it as explicitly sexual material (and with women at that).

[ edited by Saje on 2007-06-27 00:40 ]
This is quite a ponder of a discussion. While I by no means care about this trend of torture flicks, it's obvious many people do because of these latest movie releases. Yes, I find it disturbing that people would actually want to watch these movies.

With that said, I much more concern with the censorship that is often stirred up by these matters. Just because you disagree with an artist opinion, should they be silenced? Yes, a rather slippery slope, isn't it?

A case in point is the response of the "Parent Television Council" in regards to 'BtVS' and 'AtS'. Remember? They watched clips of certain scenes and deemed the shows bad for children. I got a bit angry over those comments. Well, perhaps we're seeing the other side as of now.
I think the best way to characterize our discussions about Captivity would be to say we talked about the movie, and the publicity about the movie, on the basis of its publicity.

My inference from the film's promotion, and my implication in the discussions, has always been, certainly, that the billboards and trailers and posters said an enormous amount about the movie itself. As much as I feel I need to know, actually.

And if they don't - if there's a huge disconnect between this movie and its promotion - that would seem to me to be another entirely different problem. I haven't heard anyone say yet, though, that there is disparity between the nature of the film and its marketing...

I would never say, though, that I can talk about the film itself in any depth or with any authority without having seen it. I feel comfortable sacrificing my ability to do so in favor of not having any further Captivity images in my brain's library. C'est la guerre. I can certainly discuss a whole lot about its impact on our world without having seen it - it already had had a huge impact on world before it opened.

(I have corrected my post above, bivith, thanks to your post - I mistook what Joss said in his "Dua Khalil" post about the trailer for remarks about the movie. At the time, I was actually surprised that Joss had gone to see the film...)

ETA: And let's not talk about censorship again in this context - please. I'm pretty sure that hasn't been brought up here, as per usual...

BTW, has any here actually seen Captivity? I'd be interested in hearing from someone that has.

[ edited by QuoterGal on 2007-06-27 00:45 ]
As would I, Quoter Gal, as I do not want to be able to talk about it enough to try watching it myself. Has anyone seen it?

I do feel we can legitimately discuss the publicity for it without seeing the movie, though, as long as we've seen the publicity, voluntarily, or otherwise.
Must confess i've considered seeing it for the reason mentioned above. But so far i'm thinking, basically, it's just not worth being more informed.

I haven't heard anyone say yet, though, that there is disparity between the nature of the film and its marketing...

Quite the reverse in fact (all the reviews i've read have indicated it's a fairly worthless, violent and misogynist film). Still, the principle holds IMO.

(talking about the publicity is fine though, i'd have to check but I think, for the most part, we were pretty good about sticking to that during the last thread - no-one having seen the film at that stage)
It amazes me that people go see these films because they want to be scared. We're looking for that shocker factor; something that will really get us. But here's where it mirrors reality: these films depict females as victums, not smart or strong enough to escape or beat their captors.

Okay, lets point out the sterotypes:
1. females weak/males strong
2. females dumb/males smart

So, women, ladies, girls, females, whatever you want to call us, we are refered to and considered as 2nd class homo sapiens. Every partical of our world mirrors this message, and some people do not see the reflection, or do not see the importance of what this means. After all, we're just talking about a movie - a meaningless thing that which provides entertainment. Who wants to think about something so serious as gender roles and sterotypes and the imbalances? They're bad things and we don't want them in our world; we don't want our children and future generations to have to deal with this, but for entertainment as long as we don't think about it, its okay.
So, if impressionable youths see this, and movies reflect our world, where are we going?

I feel like we're in a downward spin. Which I think Joss just might feel too. He wasn't necessarily critiquing a movie, but our society at whole. And honestly, I can't find a single reason to fault him for doing so.
Do remember that a lot of times, the marketing and publicity of a film is not entirely controlled by the film-maker. Different folks cut the trailers, make posters, do billboards, and so forth. I can't tell you the number of times the trailer gave me an entirely different movie than the one I actually saw.

Personally, I liked Cabin Fever. Have yet to see Hostel. However, you wouldn't catch me saying zip about Hostel 2 other than, "I heard X about it" until I had actually seen the movie. Maybe twice, if I found it particularly troublesome to digest.

One of the moments of great loss of respect for me for a different public figure was hearing Diane Rehm complain about American Beauty on her show, on the basis of advertising and what she had heard ... but she had yet to even see the film. She was rather harsh about it, although I think she stopped short of suggesting a ban, but when I found out that she was operating on heresay, well ... I pretty much took everything she ever said afterwards down a couple of notches.

So, yeah, however unfocused the article is, if you wanna talk about something, see it first. I used a pretty similar phrasing when suggesting that people not badmouth something they hadn't seen back in 1997, a little known TV show judged by its name alone ... well, you guessed it.
I dunno, his name was Dawson and he lived by a creek, seems pretty sensi ... nevermind.
Ama-4000, I agree that these films (for the most part) point out the stereotypes of female characters in many of these movies. For some movies, such as Cabin Fever and Saw, the victims were of both genders. With movies such as Touristas, it is obviously female. To say "oh well it's different if the victims are male" does not make sense, but it seems that there are two parts to the protest - 1) The violence and disturbing content, and our fascination with it and 2) The role of female protagonists and their portrayal.

I agree with several others who say that the opinion article was unfocused and does not make quite rational arguments. I would definitely like to see an article that actually makes compelling or at least rational arguments.
"But here's where it mirrors reality: these films depict females as victums, not smart or strong enough to escape or beat their captors."

Which ones? Hostel didn't, the first 2 Saw movies didn't. Have you actually seen these movies?
I have seen Hostel 2, and, I gotta say, it really does fit the description "torture porn".

It's just excessive. There's one death scene that lasts, no exaggeration, about 5 minutes from beginning to end. It's the one where the girl is hung upside down. It was filmed in the sort of Coppola or Kubrick style of long, drawn out, matter-of-fact shots, without any of that shaky camera you see so much in horror movies. There isn't any suspense in the scene, because you already know how it will end; it exists just for the sake of itself.

I'm not even what you would call a feminist, I'm probably more of your average viewer, but it's plain as day what Joss and others have a problem with here.

When the torture exists just for the sake of itself-- not futhering the plot, or for suspense (because the audience already knows she can't escape)-- then, those cases are the ones we can definitely call torture porn, and some scenes in Hostel 2 definitely fit the description.

The sad thing here is that Eli Roth seems to be a decent director. He definitely has more of a sense of style than most. He's a Tarantino acolyte but he's missed the things that made Tarantino's movies great.
Ama-40000 said:

It amazes me that people go see these films because they want to be scared. We're looking for that shocker factor; something that will really get us. But here's where it mirrors reality: these films depict females as victums, not smart or strong enough to escape or beat their captors.

Okay, lets point out the sterotypes:
1. females weak/males strong
2. females dumb/males smart


This is exactly the problem I think the article was talking about.

I've seen both Hostel and the Saw movies which all of the "torture porn" movies are supposedly basing themselves upon the formula of, and it took until Saw 3 for the movie to be about a female captive. The first Hostel was all about male stereotypes, because there were three protagonists and they were all suckered into the torture scenario because they thought they were going to get laid. If anything, the stereotype was that

1. Male= stupid
or
2. Male= easily manipulated into the dumbest of dumb situations just because they were tempted by attractive women.

It seems as the genre was all fine (at the very least ignorable by the masses who were not into that sort of thing) until the movies started focusing on women. Saw 3 and Hostel 2 were based on women as is the upcoming Captivity. Suddenly, backlash.
Joss Whedon is a great man. He understands what he's talking about, and I understand what he's going on about. It doesn't even matter what the actual movie is like because their advertising campaign also operates as a subtle form of information distrubution and if that's what they are putting out there, then that's enough. And enough is too much.
Inherently, I don't think this is an issue of feminism, I think that, if it's an issue at all (and I am not entirely convinced it is), it's a human issue. These movies don't just show females as lesser beings, they show human beings as lesser beings, and I think thats important.

The thing that really gets me is this: some people who are making the argument about Captivity seem to claim that they are opposed to censorship, unless of course, they disagree with the manner in which others choose to express themselves. So my question is this, how is that any different from those who want to censor things like hate speech or want a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning? What seems to be happening here is that censorship is fine to some people if you they agree with what is being said, but if it's an issue that they personally agree with then censorship is alright. To me, that seems a little disingenuous or at the least inconsistent.

I think if you want to claim a feminist agenda or if you want to argue against things like "torture porn" then thats fine, but I think there is an inherent elitism and inconsistency that plays out in the arguments I have seen on the net and the censorship angle is just one aspect of the debate. I don't think this is a feminist issue of ideology, I think this is a human issue, and it's much more complex than "torture porn" or the like. Further though, I think you do feminism a great disservice by using it to charge these movies with the crimes of sexism prejudice, and then employing those crimes to censor the movie. But maybe thats me...

[ edited by jerryst3161 on 2007-06-27 05:27 ]
I just got back from seeing Hostel 2, and though the main victims were women, the movie did not seem exploitative or misogynistic (certain characters might have been misogynistic, but they, were, uhm, emasculated during the course of the picture).

Hostel 2 should not be considered "torture porn." There is actually very little torture in the film. The scene that dispatch mentions is probably the longest in the film, but in my opinion it was not gratuitous because it showed what that place really is, and what danger the other characters were in. Plus it showed us a bit about the torturers.

I thought that I would hate the film, since I really don't like gratuitous violence, but it managed to avoid going over the line.

The thing that really gets me is this: some people who are making the argument about Captivity seem to claim that they are opposed to censorship, unless of course, they disagree with the manner in which others choose to express themselves. So my question is this, how is that any different from those who want to censor things like hate speech or want a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning? What seems to be happening here is that censorship is fine to some people if you they agree with what is being said, but if it's an issue that they personally agree with then censorship is alright. To me, that seems a little disingenuous or at the least inconsistent.


I think it's not so much that people are asking the government to regulate these movies, or asking some higher power (I'm not talking divine powers :p) to shut them down. They're asking movie makers not to make them. Like asking your friend to be quiet if he's... making rude jokes, or something. You're not taking away his right to make rude jokes, you're asking him to have the decency not to.

But I have a history of being an uninformed idiot, so don't quote me on that.

[ edited by Jobo on 2007-06-27 07:54 ]
"Nothing more disturbing to turn on the news and see people killing and murdering in the name of some supernatural being they invented."

Okay, Pumps, since you threw the gauntlet down, even worse is seeing people kill other people in the name of stamping out belief in a supernatural being. It happened. The 20th century. Under communism. They killed more people to kill religion than any group of religious people ever did.

As for torture porn: I hated, hated, hated HOSTEL and have no intention whatsoever of watching HOSTEL 2. What was my favorite movie of 2006? CASINO ROYALE of course. A film in which a man, James Bond, is out for a good time gambling in a high stakes poker game. When the Big Bad uses alcohol and a woman to lure Bond into a sitch where he's taken into captivity and sexually tortured. In a rusting Eastern European factory. Darn that torture porn to heck.
SPOILER for movie "Bug" SPOILER -- while I haven't seen either "Captivity" itself or the trailer, I have seen both the trailer and the film "Bug," both from Lionsgate -- as is "Capitivity." "Bug" wins my personal prize for most misleading trailer that I can remember seeing, ever. If you've seen the trailer, the implication is strongly that it's about a character played by Ashley Judd and perhaps the character we see with her fending off an attack of bugs from outer space. When we see the movie -- there are no aliens, there are no actual bugs. There's a paranoid schizophrenic who *thinks* there are bugs and a drug addict who buys into her boyfriend's delusions. There is some gore and violence -- but no bugs, no scifi aspect whatsoever (it's actually a fairly realistic depiction of spending time with a paranoid schizophrenic and a drug addict -- if you've done both or either, you understand why the trailers want to make you think it's about something else). So Lionsgate has made at least one really misleading trailer. "Captivity" does look pretty sexist and lame. The overall genre is not necessarily sexist and lame -- again, most of the films we think of as classic horror, like "Halloween," "Alien," "Terminator," involve a *woman* ultimately kicking the monster's butt after the men have failed and/or died. For those of us old enough to remember, it seemed for awhile there that the real message of horror movies was, "Never make Jamie Lee Curtis angry." Now, in both "Hostel" and "Hostel 2," it seems that the narrative purpose of the torture of the secondary characters is to show what the leads are up against, and also to rouse us to fury against the bad guys. The purpose of the terrorizing but *not* actual torture and then the killing (but still not torture) of one character seems to be there to dramatize first the concept that people who fantasize about torture don't necessarily really want to do it in real life, and then to show that another character has a truly evil side -- again, making us that much more concerned for the main character, who survives and acts in self-defense/vengeance. As vengeance generally turns out to be a bad thing in the Jossverse, it may be that there's a philosophical component here that may rub people the wrong way on top of the whole torture business.
What is this "you must try it before you're informed enough to have an (accurate) opinion" of XYZ?

Yes, that's a set up question...I do understand the cry of those who decree the question to be viable and necessary...but they're mostly wrong. Too close to the action, seeing all the brush strokes, commenting about the intelligent use of this or that technique, admiring minutiae because they already dove into the painting.

I don't need to examine the painting in closer detail to see it from afar and say "I don't like it. I don't like what it represents. And I'll be damned if I'm going to examine the thing up close."

You know, I'm reminded of The Breakfast Club...

"CLAIRE: Well, you wouldn't know, you don't even know any of us.

BENDER: Well, I don't know any lepers, but I'm not going to run out and join one of their fucking clubs."

I fell a-okay passing judgment on things that present themselves to me with an IPO that I find distasteful.

It's not like passing judgment on food I've never tried. This movie, isn't a chunk of food I've never tried...it had a billboard that assailed the senses. Consider that a taste test. Much like tasting grandma's perfume before the hug and knowing the impending kiss isn't going to be pleasant.
RazorBlade, in the movie "The Piano" Holly Hunter's character engages in a sexual act on screen with Harvey Keitel's character.

Should we, could we, then, label "The Piano" as a porn flick?

I don't think so.

I'm uncertain if there was an argument being made that, in some form, "Casino Royal" could be considered "torture porn."

If such an argument was made, I denounce that argument.
Oh, criminy. I don't know why people gotta make a beeline for the censorship notion in here. Objecting to a film, or finding some or all of it exploitive, misogynist, pointless or even vile is emphatically not asking for its official removal or censorship.

That conversation would appear to me one held with folks not involved in the discussion on this thread, so why do it on this thread?

Saying "look at it" or "consider this about it" or "ponder this potential effect" or even "I hate movies like this" is not calling for some Official Body to adjudicate, pull it from distribution, cut scenes from it or remove it from the t.v. schedule, or anything remotely similar.

Arguing in here against censorship, or pointing out that somewhere else people advocate such censorship, would seem terribly irrelevant to the current discussion, and it'll remain irrelevant to it until someone in here does call for it -- which I consider highly unlikely.

I don't think that it is a particularly slippery slope from discussing what one doesn't like to calling for its official or legal public removal. It's a very large leap, and takes a particular mindset -- one that thinks it always knows how to legislate civic morality -- and that mindset does not tend to be the province of freedom-loving humanists such as myself and most other whedonesquers.

These distinctions are very clear -- in my head at least -- and I've seen little evidence on this thread that anyone else on here is calling for censorship or heading down that so-called slope. Until someone does, I fail to see why the grim spectre of censorship is so frequently brought up as somehow a valid argument against folks who have strong objections to movies such as the ones under discussion. It evades the actual points of contention, which are myriad.

If however, anyone on here thinks that getting the original Captivity billboards removed was censorship, I'd have to take issue with that characterization. The Motion Picture Association of America has its own system for evaluation and approval of movie promotional materials, and the Captivity folks submitted Courtney Solomon's brutal billboard campaign to its evaluating body and it was rejected. They put them up anyway, violating the rules of a body to which they adhered. What was also called for there (and won) -- by Joss and others -- was for the removal of the unapproved and brutal material, and for the MPAA to enforce its own system, and remove the film's rating as a consequence, which is the penalty in their published rules. That ain't being silenced, it's just failing to receive the approval one wanted from an official body for being in violation of its rules. That's just hard cheese, as me Mum would've said, and not terribly surprising.

From: Joss Whedon
Sent: Thursday, March 22, 2007 10:17 PM
To: Advertising
Subject: CAPTIVITY BILLBOARDS/REMOVE THE RATING

To the MPAA,
There's a message I'm supposed to cut and paste but I imagine you've read it. So just let me say that the ad campaign for "Captivity" is not only a literal sign of the collapse of humanity, it's an assault. I've watched plenty of horror - in fact I've made my share. 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.

As a believer not only in the First Amendment but of the necessity of horror stories, I've always been against acts of censorship. I distrust anyone who wants to ban something 'for the good of the public'. But this ad is part of a cycle of violence and misogyny that takes something away from the people who have to see it. It's like being mugged (and I have been). These people flouted the basic rules of human decency. God knows the culture led them there, but we have to find our way back and we have to make them know that people will not stand for this. And the only language they speak is money. (A devastating piece in the New Yorker - not gonna do it.) So talk money. Remove the rating, and let them see how far over the edge they really are.

Thanks for reading this, if anyone did.
Sincerely, Joss Whedon.
Creator, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"

Thanks QuoterGal, for re-posting Joss's letter to the MPAA. You *don't* have to watch an entire movie to know that the advertising is totally inappropriate when it's on a huge billboard that you can't avoid seeing. And that you can't keep children who would never be admitted to the theater, from seeing.
It doesn't take an entire film to ingrain an impression, and the visual impression here was that torturing a woman is sexual, and a women being tortured is sexy. And to hopefully avoid the "it's not just women who get tortured in these films" protest, depictions of graphic torture are totally inappropriate in public places, period.
What are ratings for, if the advertising is so graphic (and I'm including TV here) that a five year old can have these images ingrained in their unformed minds?
Being totally against censorship is about being against limiting what is *available*, to adults, who choose to see/read/experience the material. I personally find it more disturbing than I can express, that anyone wants to watch films that are built around graphic torture. Of men, women children or animals, for that matter. We've come a long way from *including* this material in horror films as part of a story, to stringing a story loosely between the torture scenes.
I understand why a growing number of film makers are taking pains to redefine their works as "psychological thrillers", because in the majority of films that are now defining themselves as "horror", the story exists only to serve the scenes of torture, mutilation and graphic blood and gore, rather than the other way around.

[ edited by Shey on 2007-06-27 09:59 ]
... even worse is seeing people kill other people in the name of stamping out belief in a supernatural being. It happened. The 20th century. Under communism. They killed more people to kill religion than any group of religious people ever did.

Err, why is that worse ? Just as bad I can buy but worse, except purely by quantity ? And if we totalled all the people killed through the ages in the name of religion I think it'd probably put Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot in the shade anyway.

And what Stalin did is fairly widely considered to be about power and his own paranoid delusions (he knew the church is a powerful force in swaying people's opinions and he wanted that power to rest with him alone) rather than 'atheism vs religion' (atheism is a pretty incidental part of Communism anyway).

"CLAIRE: Well, you wouldn't know, you don't even know any of us.

BENDER: Well, I don't know any lepers, but I'm not going to run out and join one of their fucking clubs."

I fell a-okay passing judgment on things that present themselves to me with an IPO that I find distasteful.


That's actually a startlingly good analogy given how incredibly unfairly lepers have been treated throughout history (mainly due to ignorance and fear). And wasn't the point of 'The Breakfast Club' that Bender actually comes to understand and like Clare when he does get to know her, when he transcends his own ignorance and blinkered outlook ?

Deciding you don't want to see a film based on imperfect information is fine (we all do that), deciding it's completely worthless based on that same imperfect information isn't (and apart from anything else, it makes it easy for the 'other side' to shoot your argument down, witness the comments about 'Hostel' above for instance).

A film in which a man, James Bond, is out for a good time gambling in a high stakes poker game. When the Big Bad uses alcohol and a woman to lure Bond into a sitch where he's taken into captivity and sexually tortured. In a rusting Eastern European factory. Darn that torture porn to heck.

Not sure if that's a deliberate parody of the 'low information' opinion RazorBlade but obviously the focus of 'Casino Royale' isn't the torture, nor is that how it was sold, so it's not 'torture porn' (valid point, if you're making it, that that's also maybe true of some films that are categorised as 'torture porn').

And yeah, interesting as it can be, I also don't think censorship is relevant here (yep, i'm "censoring" your right to talk about censorship, the irony's not lost ;) since i've said a few times that i've nothing against the films being made and shown to consenting adults (and certainly wouldn't call for the government to ban them). Reasonable, representative promotion that's not going to offend those that haven't 'volunteered' to be offended is also fine IMO.

ETA: "your" != "you're" except in Evilsville, planet Evilonia

[ edited by Saje on 2007-06-27 11:38 ]
I think the article has been pulled? Even after doing a search on the site, finding the link that way, "Page not found" error comes up. Interesting.

From reading the comments here by those who read the thing, I have a pretty good idea of what it said. Personally, I've never been a fan of what I call "hack-em-slash-em"s. Violence for the sake of bloody violence not a real turn on in any way. Action should support a story, not the other way.

Most people see movies as escapism, a way of living a different life vicariously through the screen. Perhaps a person's enjoyment level of extremism in movies is related to how sheltered/exposed they are in real life, in that the less one experiences life's hard cruel realities, the more likely he or she is to seek out the vicarious experience.

Armchair Psych Session over.
Most people see movies as escapism, a way of living a different life vicariously through the screen. Perhaps a person's enjoyment level of extremism in movies is related to how sheltered/exposed they are in real life, in that the less one experiences life's hard cruel realities, the more likely he or she is to seek out the vicarious experience.

I think this is precisely the reason I wonder why people like these films in particular. Why enjoy this? What is there to be enjoyed? I think part of it is cultural - the main demographic is males 18 to 30. I think many males are raised with the cultural norm that men are powerful - to some people, men having power to control life and death is the best example of that.

What scares me just a bit about these movies is that for the normal people out there, these are just entertainment flicks. fine. But for a small population out there (and they are definitely out there) these movies are just a stepping stone into a realization of what they find fascinating. And for another smaller population, it could be an inspiration, not to make a movie, but to do the real thing. One could argue that "Must Love Dogs" a boring romantic comedy, could do the same and that there is no way to tell - Hostel, Saw, these movies aren't harmless, imo.

A better way to relate would probably be M-rated video games. Just like kids 18 and under can't see R movies, they can't buy M games. but they do anyway, and that is something to consider. After all, at that age what do you do when you see someone get hacked up? "Cool."
THIS IS NOT A TORTURE PORN MOVIE.

It's a boring "psychological thriller" with a creative ad campaign that has very little to do with the actual movie.

I've seen the movie and there's more violence in a typical episode of CSI. And there's more violence against women in Ashley Judd's Kiss the Girls.

I can't read the article, but I agree that if people "at least watched the movie", they would see that the ads are ridiculous and the movie itself is boring and tame.

It's baffling that this movie is the one everyone freaks out about while Hostel Part II went off without a hitch. Well done, marketing department.
I feel rather jaded by the whole horror experience anymore, having seen every type of horror film there is (only Slither and The Descent have done anything for me lately), but Saw et al, Hostel I & II, and Captivity stop me in my tracks. Captivity only stands out because of its heinous poster/billboard campaign. It mystifies me that filmmakers think they're what, pushing the envelope by making human torture the plot? I already wrote in the Mark Kermode thread that I'm not interested in any of these movies, and also wrote Mark Kermode an e-mail to express my gratitude to him and his colleague that they spoke out about the demeaning quality of films like this.

I can't find the video on the Heather Matarazzo interview I saw on IFC, but if you read this interview with her (the first half) some of you might see why I found it even more offputting:

Latino Review Interview

[ edited by Tonya J on 2007-06-27 18:31 ]
Saje, you're right about "The Breakfast Club" insight. Good point and bad me for the less than stellar analogy.

The "IPO" of lepers and that of "Captivity" are markedly (yep) different. A marketing brain trust decided on the presentation of their movie. No such luck for the leper crowd.

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