Date: October 2000
Applicant: The AXIS Group
Date: January 2001
Applicant: AXIS (A Division of Adultshop.com)
Comment: Review Board Appeal
In September 2000, stricter guidelines were introduced for the X18+ rating. This resulted in confusion between the OFLC and distributors as to what was now permitted. In November 2000, as a way of clarifying the new standards, appeals against nine RC-ratings were made to the Classification Review Board.
The titles and outcomes were:
Board Report T00/2918
REASONS FOR THE DECISION:
In the Board's view this film warrants an RC classification as according to Part 1(a) of the Films Table of the National Classification Code, it falls into the category of films that "depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adult to the extent that they should not be classified".
Pursuant to the Guidelines for tile Classification of Films and Videotapes, the film is in a special and legally restricted category which contains only sexually explicit material. That is material which contains real depictions of actual sexual intercourse and other sexual activity between consenting adult'!. No depiction of violence, sexual violence, sexualised violence or coercion is allowed in tile category. It does not allow sexually assaultive language. Nor does it allow consensual depictions which purposefully demean anyone involved in the activity for the enjoyment of viewers. The Guideline prohibit certain fetishes together with depictions of non-adult persons or persons over 18 being portrayed as minors.
In the Board's view a scene at 117 minutes warrants RC classification for sexualised violence. A female with a rubberised bullet bandolier over her shoulder and rifle in hand fires at a bulls-eye target draped over the buttocks of a female who is bending over masturbating with her back to the camera. There is the sound of a gunshot as the girl aims her gun at the female's buttocks, although there is no indication of any bullet contact.
In a minority Board view a scene at 113 minutes warrants RC classification. A female is dressed to look like a guerilla fighter wearing a rubberised bandolier over her shoulder and carrying a rifle which she fires at some sporting targets.
The minority of the Board also considered that a scene at 116 minutes warrants RC classification. The same-female with the gun held in a non-threatening pose is joined by a second female and they participate in sexualised activity.
In the majority Board's view the two scenes at 113 minutes and 116 minutes do not warrant Refused Classification.
9, 10,17 NOVEMBER 2000
23-33 MARY STREET
SURRY HILLS NSW:
8 DECEMBER 2000 (BY TELECONFERENCE)
PRESENT: Ms Barbara Biggins (Convenor)
Mr Jonathan O'Dea (Deputy Convenor)
Ms Glenda Banks
Ms Joan Yardley
Ms Robin Harvey
Mr Ross Tzannes
APPLICANT: AXIS, a division of Adultshop.com Limited
BUSINESS: To review the decision of the Classification Board to assign the classification RC (Refused Classification) under the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 to the film Joey Silvera's Butt Row Unplugged (said to be Buttrow Unplugged)
DECISION AND REASONS FOR DECISION
The Classification Review Board decided to confirm the decision of the Classification Board to classify the film Joey Silvera's Butt Row Unplugged RC.
2. Legislative Provisions
The Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (the Act) governs the classification of films and the review of classification decisions. The Act provides that films be classified in accordance with the National Classification Code and the classification guidelines. Relevantly, the National Classification Code (the Code) in paragraph 1. of the Table under the heading "Films" provides that films that "depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified" should be classified "RC".
Further, the Code provides that films that
a) contain real depictions of actual sexual activity between consenting adults in which there is no violence, sexual violence, sexualised violence, coercion, sexually assaultive language, or fetishes or depictions which purposefully demean anyone involved in that activity for the enjoyment of viewers, in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult; and
b) are unsuitable for a minor to see.
may be classified "X".
In addition, the Guidelines for the classification of films and videotapes. (Amendment No.3, 18 September 2000) provide, in part that, "No depiction of violence, sexual violence, sexualised violence or coercion is allowed in the category. It does not allow sexually assaultive language. Nor does it allow consensual depictions, which purposefully demean anyone involved in that activity for the enjoyment of viewers. Fetishes such as body piercing, application of substances such as candle wax, 'golden showers', bondage, spanking or fisting are not permitted".
3.1 Four members of the Review Board viewed the film at its meeting on 9-10, 17th November 2000.
4. Matters Taken into Account
In reaching its decision the Review Board had regard to the following:
(a) the applicant's Application for Review
(b) the film Joey Silvera's Butt Row Unplugged
(c) written and oral arguments made by Ms Elvis Caneers-Barnes and Mr John Davey on behalf of the applicant
(d) the relevant provisions in the Act
(e) the relevant provisions in the National Classification Code as amended in accordance with section 6 of the Act and endorsed by Censorship Ministers
(f) the current Classification Guidelines for the classification of Films and Videotapes determined under section 12 of the Act.
5. Findings on material questions of fact
5.1 The content of the film was a variety of vignettes of real depictions of actual sexual activity between couples and threesomes.
5.2 The Review Board considered the scene cited by the Classification Board as leading to an RC classification. This occurred at 117 mins in which a female with a rubberised bullet bandolier over her shoulder and rifle in hand fires at a bullseye target draped over the buttocks of a female bending over masturbating with her back to the camera.
5.3 The Review Board found that this scene constituted a scene of sexualised violence.
5.4 The Review Board also reviewed the scenes at 113mins and 116mins which a minority of the Classification Board considered also warranted an RC classification The scene at 113 minutes portrayed a young women dressed as a guerilla fighter, wearing a rubberised bandolier over her shoulder and carrying a rifle which she fires at some sporting targets. There was some verbal interaction with the 'photographer filming the action' at this point which contained some sexually suggestive material. The scene at 116 minutes portrayed the same female, holding the gun in a non threatening but sexually suggestive manner, engaged in sexualised activity with a second female.
5.5 The Review Board found that the scene at 113 minutes could be incorporated into the X category but the scene at 116 minutes constituted implied sexualised violence.
5.6 The Review Board also found that the three scenes in sequence constituted a depiction of ongoing, implied sexualised violence that had higher impact than when each scene was considered separately. Accordingly, the Review Board found that the film was appropriately classified "RC" Refused Classification.
6. Reasons for the Decision
6.1 The Review Board based its decision to confirm the Classification
Board's decision to classify the film "RC" on its content as described in 5.2 to 5.6 above.
6.2 With regard to the scene at 117 minutes, the Review Board concluded that the association of a gun, which had been realistically fired in a previous scene, with the sexualised activity of masturbation constituted sexualised violence albeit at a low level. Although this scene had a light hearted approach, the strong association between the gun, which would be regarded by most reasonable adults as an instrument of violence, and the sexual activity of masturbation were sufficiently connected to fall within the meaning of sexualised violence as used in the Code and Guidelines. This association was enhanced by the sound of a gun firing during this scene, although no evidence of the consequences of this shot was seen on film.
6.3 The Review Board also concluded that the scene at 116 minutes was framed to encourage viewers to perceive the gun as a 'phallic' symbol. In this scene, the two females were viewed in profile kissing and participating in sexualised activity with the gun briefly but prominently displayed in front of their faces.
One of the females had her hand wrapped around the barrel of the gun in a way that was sexually suggestive. Although no actual violence was portrayed, the intimate association of the gun (an instrument of violence) and the sexualised activity portrayed was considered to be an example of low level sexualised violence.
6.4 The Review Board concluded that the scene at 113 minutes did not constitute sexualised violence. This scene occurred before the portrayal of any actual sexual activity in the vignette and there was no close association between any sexual activity and the shooting of targets with the gun. The Review Board considered this scene could be viewed as an attempt to develop character and plot. However, the Review Board also concluded that when the three scenes cited in this decision were considered in sequence, the association between implied violence and sexualised activity had more impact. The ongoing use of the gun as an instrument of 'play' in these scenes containing actual sexual activity suggested that this association was an integral part of the vignette and as such was not acceptable under the Guidelines.
6.5 The applicant argued that the Classification Board failed to:
(a) take sufficient account of the comedic nature of the scene on which the decision to classify the film RC was based,
(b) take full account of the wording and intent of the Act and the National Classification Code.
(c) reasonably apply the Film Classification Guidelines as they relate to depictions of violent activity.
6.6 The Review Board took the view that in its own considerations,
(a) It had fully considered the tone, style and context and content of the film (b) Fully taken account of the wording and intent of the Act, and the Code
(c) Applied in a reasonable manner the Guidelines as they apply to sexualised violence.
6.7 The Review Board concluded, for reasons set out in 6.2 to 6.4 above, that the film was one that contained a strong association between an instrument of violence and sexual activity, leading to implied sexualised violence. As the film also contains real depictions of actual sexual activity in a way that is likely to offend a reasonable adult, the film cannot be classified X and is appropriately classified as "RC" Refused Classification.
7 . Summary
7 .1 The Review Board's decision is to confirm the decision of the Classification Board to classify the film Joey Silvera's Butt Row Unplugged "RC."
This decision is taken after full consideration of the applicant's submission, and after assessing the film as a whole against the relevant legislative criteria, including those contained in the Code, and in the current Classification Guidelines for Films and Videotapes determined under Section 12 of the Act.
Butt Row Unplugged
DIR: Joey Silvera
Grounds for Appeal
This appeal is against the decision of the Film Censorship Board to refuse to classify the above named film. The grounds for the appeal are that the decision makers:
- did not take sufficient account the comedic nature of the scene
- failed to take full account of the wording and intent of the Classification Act and, in particular, of the Code attached to the legislation as a schedule; and
- did not reasonably apply the film classification guidelines as they relate to depictions of violent activity with reference to the offensive weapon clearly being for amusement and sporting purposes. '
In our opinion the film is not so offensive that it falls into the Refused Classification category, and should be given an X classification. It does not offend, in our view, against the stricture that X films should not contain depictions of violence or sexualized violence and believe correlations between a female masturbating and a toy gun used in the context of a games area, with no actual firing mechanism, being aimed and implied sound effects of a gun going off, very clearly as a dubbed off stage sound do not constitute actual or perceived violence to any reasonable adult.
The plot, such as it is, in this collection of lighthearted vignettes introduces us to a sassy woman called Rain-Ahh, who is dressed in fatigues, shoulders a bandolier of obviously oversized and fake rubber bullets, then clumsily wanders around some kind of an amusement park aiming at targets with her toy rifle. She meets up with another female, with whom she engages in foreplay while the toy rifle is passively slung over her shoulder.
She then joins a group of young men and women one of whom has a paper target saucily taped to her buttocks as she is provocatively masturbating, The toy gun is pointed at the paper target and an 'off screen' shot which is clearly unrelated to the actual toy is heard, this effect does not come from the weapon, and it is not accompanied by any of the signifiers of actual gunshot, i.e. a kick back or smoke.
A dialogue accompanies the scene in which Mark Davis humorously accuses her of being an appalling shot, she retorts that it was perhaps he should show her how it's done - the scene then immediately cuts to the female performing fellatio on him, a clear pun and reference to 'shooting' as a colloquial term for ejaculation. The target remains on the woman's bottom and there is comic reference made to it again at approximately 118 minutes.
Factors supporting the appeal
The nature of the film
The film is essentially in the genre of many American adult films, a series of vignettes which are occasionally themed or have a scant plot, and after a premise has been established, revert to sex for the duration of the scene. As an entity, this film is lighthearted and spiritedly sexual, Joey Silvera the director/producer has a particular style about his work that reveres the female form and tends to celebrate it rather than demean or abuse it.
This particular scene uses the visual referent of a gun to set up the feistiness and strength of the female character, no doubt also in a quest to entertain us with the obvious sexual signifiers and puns contained by the female's ineptitude at doing anything more than using it as an accessory. This is a scene which in no way articulates the gun as anything more than a toy, implicitly and explicitly making no direct reference to it, or to its violent use; it is incorporated merely in the observation of the girl being a bad shot.
The Act and the Classification Code
The Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995, Section 9, requires that films are to be classified in accordance with the Code and the classification guidelines. Section 1 1 (a) and (d) of the Act requires the classifier, in making a decision, to take account of:
(a) the standards of morality, decency, and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults;
(d) the persons or class of persons to or amongst whom it is published or is intended or is likely to be published,
We are of the view that, in respect of S 11 (a) no reasonable adult would see this as so offensive in relation to community standards that it should be refused classification.
In respect of S 11 (d) people who view this film will be well aware of the conventions attaching to sex films, particularly their function as fantasy, and are not likely to see this as a film, and in particular the section from 117 minutes as anything more than a toy gun simulated as being discharged toward a paper target
The National Classification Code (Amendment No.2) requires that:
Classification decisions are to give effect, as far as possible, to the following principles:
(a) the standards of morality, decency, and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults,'
(d) the need to take account of community concerns about:
(i) depictions that condone or incite violence, particularly sexual violence
We are of the view that an X classification for this film would give effect to these principles. (N.B. We believe that principles (b) and (c) are satisfied in this case by the restricted category into which the material is likely to fall.)
The Code further states within Amendment No 3 the following definition of the classification process with regard to this matter:
"The board makes classification decisions based on the impact of individual elements and their cumulative effect. The content and treatment of such elements contributes to the impact. The board takes into account factors such as tone. duration, frequency and the amount of visual or verbal detail. The relationship of classifiable elements to the narrative also contributes to the impact of a film and therefore its classification."
While we would not dispute the fact that a gun may be used in other situations as a violent weapon, we strongly disagree that this specific visual representation has any elements of violence, threat, malice or potential for same for any of the participants, or is in any way constructed to valorize violence or gun play in a sexualized context.
Application of the classification guidelines
The guidelines for REFUSED CLASSIFICATION films, specifically the phraseology relating to the refusal of classification due to depictions of violence, state titles will be refused if they contain:
a) violence with a very high degree of impact or which are
excessively frequent, prolonged or detailed
b) cruelty or real violence which are very detailed or which have a high impact
c) sexual violence
In our view the Classification Board did not reasonably apply the film classification guidelines as they relate to depictions of violence and. sexualized violence as there is a distinct difference between the type of violence stated and alluded to in the guidelines and that which appears in the offending scene in Butt Row Unplugged. This scene presents a lighthearted and brief appearance of a young woman in the apparel of a military person playing with what is obviously a toy, shooting at a target sticky taped to the rear of a woman and a very obviously simulated in its firing, presenting no danger to any of the participants in the scene at any point or being treated as anything but a toy.
In conclusion we would reiterate that in our opinion the film Butt Row Unplugged does not offend against current community standards as it does not depict violent activity such as that referred to in the guidelines or the categories for which refusal is indicated. We would also like to state our contention of the decision to classify this title RC on the grounds that it implies a basic conflict with the adult viewer living in a society where the effects of actual violence are known and available at any age through a range of media in a real and fictional portrayal.
The concept of suspension of disbelief is a well-documented psychological convention describing the adult and adolescent's ability to understand the differences between fictionalized and fantasy accounts of actions such as are housed in the narratives of most mainstream film and television as well as in the adult film genre. It must be assumed that the viewers of adult product are able to continue that suspension of disbelief within scenes and plots such as this one where the viewer is clearly able to see the gun is a toy and the sound effects are merely cosmetic. This film is not about violence, nor does it contain violence. This film is entertainment. To ignore the common sense of the viewer makes a mockery of the incredibly tight restrictions on sale/hire of X rated product."
As a company we are committed to selling a product that complies with the intent of the guidelines to remove gratuitous violence and images that demean or harm the position of women in our society. We do however uphold the right of adults to view sexual acts for entertainment that reflects at least some nuances of a society that is far from sanitized, and at best acknowledges fantasy and context as being able to be differentiated by a reasonable adult from the ramifications of 'real' violence and abuse - that being that they remain a construct of the filmmaker rather than a depiction or intention of actual harm.