I got back to Sydney yesterday, and Nick invited me to dinner and drinks with good friends of his here, Joseph and Darren (and their friend Tiffany). When I asked (as I often do) how Nick knew them, I was told that he and Joseph both used to work for the Australian Classification Board. This led to a very interesting discussion about what the board does. In essence, they give films their classification (what we in the US would call their rating). So at first I just thought they were the rating board. But here in Australia, EVERY film must be given a classification, and those that are refused classification are banned. I then started asking what sorts of things would be banned and it was a very interesting (and quite subjective) list. Much of it compares quite similarly to the recent British moves to ban representations of certain sex acts. Basically, the government is in the business of deciding what you can fantasize about and have represented on film, either in real or simulated form. As a gay person, I obviously find this utterly abhorrent. It was not so very long ago that activity comprising my own love life would have fallen into such categories and been banned. I don’t have problems with a rating system. But the government that tries to ban a list of sexual practices represented on film between consenting adults is the same government that can ban any idea it disagrees with. And the censorship does not stop at films, the Australian government also bans video games and TV programs and a whole lot of things on the internet.
If you have been following my blog, you know that I have been singing the praises of many of the programs and policies here in Australia in the past few weeks, but here is something where I wholeheartedly prefer the much weaker censorship we have in the United States. The Australians don’t have anything like our first amendment, and perhaps that is the reason for the huge difference.