Bruce Lee Vs the BBFC

If there is one thing that infuriates me it is censorship. The very fact that one group of people have the job of deciding what another group of people see, or don’t see, is bizarre, and sometimes completely bewildering. I think the main reason for my deep hatred of all kinds of censorship is something that happened to me as a child.

I grew up in the days when Kung Fu was cool, where you couldn’t move for Kung Fu films on the TV (Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee, The Karate Kid, Monkey etc) and my all time hero was of course Bruce Lee. It was also the age of video, a time where you could actually own your favourite films and watch them whenever you wished to. No waiting for them to be on TV, no more waiting for special screenings at the cinemas. Kung Fu night could be any and every night.

So naturally as soon as I had my own money I bought all five Bruce Lee films, The Big Boss, Fist of Fury, Way of the Dragon, Enter the Dragon and Game of Death. By the time I was old enough to buy them Kung Fu had gone out of fashion and the only one of the Bruce Lee films ever on TV was Enter the Dragon, albeit in a very cut version, but that is TV. At the time Nunchaku were banned, not just for sale, they were not allowed to be shown in any movies either, so I was expecting those scenes to be cut but as I sat down to watch my favourite films, films that I hadn’t seen for years I was struck almost dumb.

They were not the films that I remembered, in fact in one case in particular you couldn’t accurately use the word film at all. As soon as I noticed it on the first film I ejected it and tried a second, then a third until I had been through all five. Virtually all scenes of combat in the films were cut! I was beside myself with rage, I honestly believe that if a member of the BBFC had been right beside me at that time, I would have choked the life right out of him. Enter the Dragon was the only complete film (minus the Nunchaka scenes), all the others were massively cut, Fist of Fury not too bad, Game of Death had several fights missing, making it a two level Pagoda, The end of The Big Boss, didn’t make any sense at all as the knife fights were cut. The worst though was Way of the Dragon. Every scene involving knifes, Nunchaku and other weapons were cut. At one point in the film Bruce is in the restaurant talking, next frame he is outside standing over four fallen adversaries, then within a few seconds he is back inside and the bad guys are all fleeing. All Bruce actually did in those ten seconds was take off his jacket. The film was a joke and didn’t even make any sense. Yet they’d butchered it so that it was incomprehensible and authorised it for sale, rated 15.

I was devastated, unable to get my head around why someone would do that to such great films, and yet still consider them OK to be sold. I couldn’t understand how they had not only decided that those scenes needed to be cut, but then went on to say “yep that still works,” and let the film be released in that form. What angered me the most was that some idiot had given them the power to decide what was right and not right for me to watch.

I almost took the films back, but realised that I couldn’t exchange them and technically there was nothing wrong. Instead they stayed on my shelf, unwatched.

Years later the laws were relaxed and the films were re-released in their entirety, nunchaku and all, on DVD, but even years later with the full versions sitting on my shelf, that anger and frustration hasn’t left me, it is still there bubbling away beneath the surface.

Which brings me to my point (yes I did have one, it just took a while to get there), the BBFC have struck again, banning a video game for the first time in ten years.

BBC NEWS | England | Leicestershire | Censors ban ‘brutal’ video game

The video game Manhunt 2 was rejected for its “unrelenting focus on stalking and brutal slaying”, the British Board of Film Classification said.

To be fair to the BBFC they have been a lot more laid back in recent years, I think that they have had to be though, as anger at some of their decisions has prompted others to ask “Just what gives them the right to decide what I watch?”

But I hate censorship in any form and I can see no reason to ban a computer game. The idea that children may watch it and decide to copy it is absurd. Children are far better than at differentiating between the world of games and the real world than we are, afterall my generation grew up thinking that Golden Axe had the most realistic graphics of any game ever, compared to that even the most basic game appears to have photo realistic graphics these days. But to children it is all still pixels on a screen, and not very realistic at all.

This action by the BBFC stems from the cries of hysterical parents, and unable to do anything about the initial game, and being heavily criticised about it at the time, the BBFC have decided to take it out on the new one. Because one boys parents claimed that the game inspired their son’s killer to murder, the media jump on the bandwagon and all of a sudden film, video games and the other usual suspects are causing all of the worlds ills.

Although I sympathise with the parents of the boy killed, and I understand that it must have been difficult trying to get their heads around the fact that someone did that to their boy, pointing the finger at the most convenient thing helps no one. Particularly as their son’s killer didn’t actually even own the game and as the police said:

“robbery was the motive behind the attack on Stefan in Stokes Wood Park on 26 February 2004 – and not the video game blamed by Stefan’s parents.”

Now what may well have been an enjoyable game (I have no idea I didn’t even play the original), has been taken away from people in Britain, so we’ll most likely never know. What worries me is where will it stop, afterall I am a big fan of the Hitman games, whose very premise is to murder people, will that be the next game to fall foul of the BBFC?

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