Codes of behaviour

The question I've encountered most commonly lately is, "Are you going to see The Da Vinci Code?" To which my typical response is to roll my eyes.

No, I haven't read the book either. Yeah, I'm a literary snob --- though an erratic one, which means I'll admit to enjoying the first Bridget Jones's Diary but there's something about the whole book-reading market's love affair with Dan Brown that makes me not want to touch it with a twenty-foot pole.

But I didn't quite expect it to come down to this:
The censorship board [of Singapore] gave the movie an NC16 rating, barring viewers under 16, arguing that "only a mature audience will be able to discern and differentiate between fact and fiction."
So the censorship board of our world-class, first world country, is on record as opining that one who reaches the magical age of 16 then magically matures, mastering overnight the very difficult task of differentiating between fact and fiction --- which makes me wonder what the censorship board thinks our children and teenagers are doing everyday when they watch The O.C. or whatever popular Nickelodeon cartoon is on. Or, for that matter, when they watch or read the local news.

Which makes me wonder if the censorship board thinks that Singapore cinema audiences, brought up on a steady diet of overwhelmingly melodramatic Hollywood and Hong Kong films (and, increasingly, Korean ones), have trouble recognising that they're mostly watching fiction and not fact, and need to be safely guided to see what's what.

Which makes me wonder, if they think we're that stupid, why don't they simply have a ticker-tape running below the Chinese subtitles of any film, reminding viewers that, "The story you are watching is fiction. F-I-C-T-I-O-N. It is not real. People don't live like this in the real world."

If I were under the age of 16, I'd be insulted. For that matter, I'm insulted on their behalf.


Technorati Tags: , ,

Labels: , ,


At 5/18/2006 9:48 am , Blogger sternstadt said...

Official statement aside, I have a feeling the censors are doing it more as a political move.

As the article stated, the National Council of Churches petitioned MICA to ban the movie, and apparently some churches have been holding anti-Code talks for months. Religious harmony being the issue that it is... yeah it's just a movie, but the gahmen has always been one for playing it safe.

The NC16 rating can appease the NCC somewhat without depriving the majority of S'poreans of the movie (which I've heard, entertainment-wise, is pretty blah anyway) =)

At 5/18/2006 11:18 am , Blogger strangemessages said...

Hear hear.

I can use a rifle, withstand a steady stream of homophobic comments...but cannot watch Brokeback Mountain.

same old, same old.

At 5/18/2006 1:16 pm , Blogger cour marly said...

Well looky here - I have a first class ticket on the literary snob train too!

Everytime someone asks me excitedly if I've read the book, I have to erm and ah and mutter something about not having time to read. Bleh.

At 5/18/2006 3:27 pm , Blogger NARDAC said...

Well, guess I'm out of the club because I read the bugger one stale night in summer. It was a quick read, an insulting read, quite laughable at parts. Whatever.

I'm sure someone I know will download the film and we'll watch it in a moment of sin.

At 5/18/2006 7:44 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

you make a ridiculous argument. as it is, all age limits are somewhat arbitrary, and if your argument were valid, then it could be applied to the drinking, driving, and voting age. in fact, are you saying that people under 21 are incapable of choosing the right leaders for their country? wow, i'm insulted on their behalf.

At 5/18/2006 9:04 pm , Blogger Tym said...

dio > Just because a movie is a bad movie doesn't mean it ought to be censored or banned. Bad movies deserve their day in the sun just like everyone else --- just that we hope few enough people watch them so that Hollywood realises it should stop making those bad movies ;)

strangemessages > Indeed.

Anonymous > I think you missed the point of my "argument".

At 5/18/2006 10:05 pm , Blogger sternstadt said...

tym: Respectfully, you missed my point =)
In my entire post, I did not say the movie deserved to be banned. I said that the censors did it for political reasons, not because they think 16 year-old S'poreans can't handle the material. But of course they can't come right out and say "We are giving this an NC16 rating so you all Christians dun angry with us and scold us religiously insensitive hor!"

Basically, in a nutshell: the rating was not given to protect lil innocent peeps -- it was given to appease a certain religious faction in this country. Yes, it's still censorship, but for a different reason than the one you are displeased with.

At 5/18/2006 10:15 pm , Blogger L'oiseau rebelle said...

Add me to the list of literary snobs. Ok, I did read Harry Potter - the first four books - last summer: first two on the flight back to Singapore, third and fourth on the flight back to America.

I don't particularly like the idea of censorship - so who's going to censor the censors?

At 5/19/2006 5:50 am , Blogger sternstadt said...

TaLieSin: I think the reason why the censors slapped an NC16 rating on the film (note I did not say "*only* an NC16 rating")is because the rating, in being a rating at all, "proves" to the NCC that the gahmen does care about their beliefs and all. Thus, NCC cannot complain that the gahmen is being insensitive etc.

Yet in being an NC16 rating, rather than R21 or M18 or whatever more stringent ratings are out there, the censors are also attempting to accomodate the "secular liberals" you mention. The percentage of people who might conceivably want to watch the movie in cinemas but can't (hmm 10 to 15-year-olds?) is much smaller than the percentage of people who can (16 up). While it is indeed unfortunate that some are being deprived of an entertainment experience (and I am confident, having once been under 16 myself, that most can differentiate fact from fiction), it is a compromise the censors have come up with to accomodate both parties (NCC and secular liberals). It's not the perfect solution, but it is not a perfect world.

PS: Aiyar anyway under 16 can just watch VCD from M'sia lor ;)

At 5/19/2006 6:29 am , Blogger Tym said...

dio > Yah, sorry. I just found that last comment more interesting to riff off than the first part.

I think there shouldn't be censorship, period. But I'm not getting into a full-blown argument about why right now. However, I will say that I suspect I am from the really teensy minority of extremely secular liberals.

Oh, and TaLieSin, feel free to debunk or whatever. As someone who hasn't read the book (yet? Maybe someday I'll read it so I'll know what the hell all this fuss is about) and who will probably not see the movie (except by accident, you know, like it's playing in someone's house when I walk in), I just won't have a clue what you're talking about :)

At 5/19/2006 9:01 am , Blogger ichoisarius said...

Read the book, hated it ('prose' aside, it goes into Langdon: "You don't know what xxx is?", Sophie: "No.", Langdon: "three hundred pages of textbook history" every other page).

Saw the movie, hated it for the same reasons, but considering the movie itself is even tamer than the book ('an apology for the book' is how the Times described it I think), the whole furor over it is even more unjustifiable. Every evil Church guy in it is either misguided or psychotic, and it keeps stressing the importance of faith, and so it comes off, in the end, as being more sympathetic than opposed to Christianity.

At 5/19/2006 9:05 am , Blogger ichoisarius said...

Uh. My point was that while I don't agree with censorship in any situation, by attempting to impose censorship on so harmless a target the Church is really only hurting itself in any case.

At 5/20/2006 3:30 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

"So the censorship board of our world-class, first world country, is on record as opining that one who reaches the magical age of 16 then magically matures, mastering overnight the very difficult task of differentiating between fact and fiction"

I don't agree with the censorship but anyway, the rating is just a general guideline to measure the maturity of the youth. Some people of age 21 are still unable to differentiate fact from fiction and some below 16 can do it much better. The board just has to cut it off somewhere.

At 5/20/2006 3:39 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find that with the Da Vinci Code it IS more difficult to decipher what is "fact" or "fiction" as compared to your typical Korean/Hong Kong drama. The movie and the book both don't claim to be pieces of fiction and what's fact or fiction in this story is not entirely clear.

At 5/20/2006 7:23 am , Blogger Tym said...

I think mr brown has said it all.

Anonymous #2> It's precisely because age is such an imprecise yardstick that this particular approach to censorship irks the hell out of me.

At 5/21/2006 7:20 am , Blogger Agagooga said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 5/21/2006 7:33 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You conveniently forget to mention that the Da Vinci Code movie adversely affect its viewers if seen from the point of view of the people who may find the movie 'morally repugnant'.

However, if seen from the point of view of someone who doesn't find the movie 'morally repugnant', the movie in question might be nothing more than just yet another movie.

Unless there is concrete evidence pointing to the fact that people who find this movie repugnant are in the majority, it'd be difficult to use this as a justification for its censorship, would it not?

At 5/21/2006 7:34 am , Blogger Agagooga said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 5/21/2006 7:35 am , Blogger Agagooga said...

Gah. I keep getting my comment wrong.

"The interests of a non-religious group of secular liberals"?! What nonsense.

Every ideology has a very specific group interest of championing freedom of speech as long as the ideology itself is being expounded, exposited, defended or agreed with. The difference is that while many ideologies grow hysterical at other ideas being expressed, liberalism (secular or otherwise) is adamant that one should be free to vocalise views antithetical to it - instead of "a very specific liberal group interest" it instead promotes the interests of all - people would rather be free to be offended by others' views than escape offence but be unable to express (or hold, even) their own views.

The red herring of secular liberalism's tyranny simply disguises the face that you feel oppressed by other people's vocalising of their views and ideas. To call the championing of freedom for all "hegemonic dominance" is like complaining that tax cuts have suddenly made you richer.

As for the Da Vinci code, even a historical, non-Christian perspective based in reality can "debunk" it. I don't see why people don't go around debunking Superman instead.

I love how, as usual, "liberals" are pigeonholed and the promotion of freedom can be seen as oppression. Sheesh.

War is Peace
Freedom is Slavery
Ignorance is Strength

`When /I/ use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'

`The question is,' said Alice, `whether you /can/ make words mean so many different things.'

`The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master -- that's all.'

--- Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

Unless there is concrete evidence pointing to the fact that people who find this movie repugnant are in the majority, it'd be difficult to use this as a justification for its censorship, would it not?
If you find it morally repugnant, don't watch it! Simple.

Do we ask for condoms to be banned because people find them morally repugnant? Oh wait...

At 5/21/2006 9:11 am , Blogger Agagooga said...

You think the Da Vinci code is some vast conspiracy to discredit Christianity? I think most people would rather do other things - like earn money.

Incidentally, Dan Brown describes himself as a committed Christian. But that aside, you seem to have problems telling fiction from truth. The Da Vinci code is FICTION.

At 5/21/2006 9:15 am , Blogger Agagooga said...

I hope you similarly do not offend conspiracy theorists, UFO witnesses, Elvis fans, Scientologists and members of other religions, who would feel very hurt if people belittled their *strikethrough*faith*/strikethrough* knowledge (which incidentally is often contradictory to yours).

At 5/22/2006 12:46 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear TaLieSin, what I find extremely amazing and painfully apparent is that you proudly profess—with all supposed lack of hypocrisy and in all honesty to boot—that you are so offended and hurt by what is portrayed by DVC when you have never read the book nor watched the movie.

So may I ask: on what basis do you derive this supposed slight or offence? How do you know it is so offensive when you have not seen it for yourself? Is it on hearsay? Or just something that your church tells you and which you blindly accept without question?

So you say you want to read the book, you want to watch the movie, but before that you're already denouncing it, and you're already approaching it from the perspective that all this is BAAAAD, 'mmkay—even though you don't know why. How is that making an objective judgment and therefore lacking in hypocrisy?

I too am a Christian, but I don't see what all the big fuss over DVC is all about, because ultimately I know that DVC, like any and every other novel, is fiction. Most people don't have a problem differentiating fiction from the real world, and those who do (which for some reason only happen to be rabid Christians) need to get a grip on reality. Raiders of the Lost Ark drew inspiration from biblical stories, but ask yourself how many people, in all honesty, seriously believe that the Ark of the Covenant currently resides incognito in some US Army warehouse amongst thousands of other boxes. No one does, because Indiana Jones isn't real, just like DVC.

At 5/24/2006 11:06 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

And here is Studdert Kennedy's poem, "Indifference"

When Jesus came to Golgotha they hanged Him on a tree,
They drave great nails through hands and feet, and made a Calvary;
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns, red were His wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days, and human flesh was cheap.

When Jesus came to Birmingham they simply passed Him by,
They never hurt a hair of Him, they only let Him die;
For men had grown more tender, and they would not give Him pain,
They only just passed down the street, and left Him in the rain.

Still Jesus cried, "Forgive them, for they know not what they do,"
And still it rained the wintry rain that drenched Him through and through;
The crowds went home and left the streets without a soul to see,
And Jesus crouched against a wall and cried for Calvary.

At 5/24/2006 11:25 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

And here is my response:

Do I find the Jesus story moving? Yes.
Do I find it possible to convert based on this story? Yes, I almost did once.
And how did I become indifferent, as this poem was charging me?

By thinking of how LONG AGO and HOW FAR AWAY it was. I don't believe Jesus died saving the Chinese souls he knew nothing about. The man (Good though he was, but whose godhood I doubt) may have wanted to save the world, and I would have let
him too, except he just doesn't seem
supremely wise if you considered all his other actions in total.

As for the Da Vinci code, well, it really isn't very insulting (to me) to consider a human Jesus Christ who had a marriage before he made a sacrifice. I don't consider incidental details like marriage to be very important, if the central tenet of the faith was to believe in his SACRIFICE. In fact, his sacrifice seemed more, better if he was married.

Yes, I also watched "The Last Temptation of Christ." I guess whoever felt insulted by that story to be insulted by this too. I can put myself in those shoes, but I won't wear them.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]