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Anglo-American film censorship and cult cinema in the digital era

Authored by: Emma Pett

The Routledge Companion to Cult Cinema

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  November  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138950276
eBook ISBN: 9781315668819
Adobe ISBN:


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The neoliberal character of Anglo-American film regulation has, across the last two decades, oscillated between the apparently contradictory poles of liberalising and restrictive regulatory practices. Beginning within a comparative analysis of US and UK regulatory contexts, this chapter draws out some of the key differences between the practices of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC); in particular, it considers the impact of their policies on the cultification of transgressive and controversial forms of cult cinema, and examines how these two institutions have responded to an increasingly complex cultural landscape by catering to both ends of the spectrum of popular opinion, albeit in very different ways. The second half of the chapter then discusses the regulation and circulation of five transgressive films that have been released and distributed, both legitimately and illegally, across the last decade: Antichrist (Lars von Trier, 2009) Grotesque (Koji Shiraishi, 2009), A Serbian Film (Srdjan Spasojevic, 2010), The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) (Tom Six, 2011) and Hate Crime (James Bressack, 2012). These case studies are firstly investigated to gauge the extent to which the censorship of the films has generated the same levels of subcultural cachet amongst Anglo-American cult film audiences as they did in the pre-digital era. These shifts in regulatory processes and policies, which have played out against the rapidly evolving backdrop of digital distribution networks and the rise of streaming culture, are thus evaluated in terms of their significance in relation to the cultification of cinema in the digital era.

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