A new media landscape? The BBFC, extreme cinema as cult, and technological change

Emma Pett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Disreputable films involving explicit representations of sex and violence have long attracted the attention of the censors and cult film audiences alike. In late 2012, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) announced it was tightening its regulation of representations of sadistic and sexual violence, simultaneously enhancing the subcultural capital and potential cult status of the films in question (Thornton, Club Cultures: Music, Media and Subcultural Capital, Cambridge: Polity Press, 1995, 11). The subsequent publication of the BBFC's revised guidelines in January 2014 confirmed its increasingly censorial stance (British Board of Film Classification, The Guidelines, London: BBFC, 2014a). The Board's rationale for implementing these changes was that a succession of technological developments had created ‘a new media and entertainment landscape’ requiring stricter regulation (British Board of Film Classification, BBFC Guidelines 2014: Research Report, London: BBFC, 2014b, 15). This paper traces a series of changes in film regulation during the post-Ferman era, focusing in particular on the pedagogical turn taken by the BBFC under the directorship of David Cooke (2004–14). Drawing on a range of reports and documents, I argue that by discursively framing these policy adjustments in the context of the so-called ‘sexualisation of culture’ debate, the BBFC have obscured a more fundamental shift in their purpose and remit during the Cooke era.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-99
Number of pages17
JournalNew Review of Film and Television Studies
Issue number1
Early online date28 Nov 2014
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2015

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