Article Title:Arousal of the lusting dead
Author or Credit:Craig Young
Published on:2nd May 2011 - 01:10 pm
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Story ID:10305
Text:LA Zombie, starring gay porn star Francois Sagat, is in the sights of The Society for the Promotion of Community Standards It was probably inevitable that the Society for Promotion of Community Standards should lurch out of its grave, wanting to ban Canadian gay independent film director Bruce La Bruce's LA Zombie. What's at the root of all this controversy? SPCS is one of the oldest and most decrepit New Zealand Christian Right pressure groups. It was founded in 1970 by Patricia Bartlett, former SM (Sisters of Mercy) nun (1926-2000). The hornrimmed character in question was known for pestering parliamentarians through sending sexually explicit material to them in the post. Insofar as SPCS went, there was never any pretence that the pressure group was censorious out of any concern for the incidence of violence against women. In 1982, Bartlett infamously crusaded against Attorney-General Jim MacLay's campaign to criminalise spousal rape. Her organisation lost that battle. As it turned out, it was the first of many defeats that SPCS would endure over the next four decades, as LGBT lobbyists successfully fought to liberalise censorship policy and forced SPCS to try to provide evidence that 'porn' led to adverse social consequences. While SPCS fielded subcultural luminaries like Australia's John Court and US 'media scholar' Judith Reisman, court decisions increasingly went against them. Worse still, Bartlett discovered that she'd inherited her mother's heart condition and had to retire in 1995, before her death in 2000 ended that era. Since then, SPCS has largely shrivelled to a noisy pressure group centred on the Kapiti Coast, Johnsonville and Upper Hutt environs of Wellington. Occasionally, when it has enough cash, it tries to single out a contentious film from the Wellington International Film Festival or another to target, usually because of its kindred connections to fellow Australian Christian Right pro-censorship group Family Voice in Adelaide. As for LA Zombie, it has the following history. Created by Bruce La Bruce, Canadian gay indie film maker, LA Zombie consists of either (i) a homeless amnesiac gay man who has schizophrenia and who hallucinates about sexual encounters with sexy corpses at accident sites et al; or (ii) a bona fide gay zombie who reanimates his undead brethren at aforementioned sites of blood, gore and carnage. In Australia, the Office of Film and Literature Classification is reliant on a judicial regime that focuses on 'community standards', which gives Family Voice and the rest of the Australian Christian Right opportunities to play havoc with freedom of expression. Aesthetic merit seems to be an ambiguous defence, as witnessed by their repeated attempts to ban Pasolini's antifascist re-enactment of the Marquis de Sade's depredations in Salo or 120 Days of Sodom. However, it doesn't seem to apply to works of alternative cultural value, like Bruce La Bruce's fusion of gay porn and zombie horror subgenre splatterfest. The Australian OFLC banned LA Zombie from the Melbourne International Film Festival and there was even a police raid when organisers tried to stage an underground screening. MIFF's organiser was recently fined $A750, paid to the Royal Childrens Hospital in Melbourne. However, given that New Zealand's censorship regime is based on what is, or is not, 'objectionable' based on purported media effects instead, how will LA Zombie fare? The OFLC has passed it with an R18 certificate, although SPCS seems to be gambling on the remote possibility that the OFLC might review its decision based on the presence of sex and horror in LA Zombie, notwithstanding that it's been over fifty years since the great moral panic against imported US horror comics hit New Zealand, Australia, Britain and Canada in the fifties. And given that one of New Zealand's chief cinematic icons is Sir Peter Jackson, creator of the subgenre classic Braindead, this will be interesting to watch. One does wish the SPCS would topple back into its coffin and return to its own mouldering state of quasi-oblivion, though. Recommended: LA Zombie: “Zombie porn screening leads to police raid:” ABC Online: “Banned horror film to screen” New Zealand Herald: 01.05.2011: Out Takes: Not Recommended: SPCS: Craig Young - 2nd May 2011
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