In early April, the UK charity Women's Aid, which battles domestic violence, released this public service announcement, directed by Atonement director Joe Wright and starring Keira Knightley. Without showing graphic violence you couldn't see on any crime procedural any night of the week, Wright creates a genuinely disturbing two-minute film that unsettles precisely because it's shot so straightforwardly.
The violence late in the piece isn't carefully choreographed with shifting angles and amped-up music; it's a woman being kicked, and it's far more disturbing for its simplicity.
But now, Clearcast, the body that's responsible for approving ads for British television, has reportedly decided that the PSA is not suitable for television unless they cut the end. You know, the part with the domestic violence in it.
I can't speak to the amount of violence that's been allowed in commercials in the UK in the past, but what makes this ad so disturbing is precisely the fact that it takes violence seriously and presents it as terrifying rather than balletic or devoid of consequences.
I was curious to see whether Clearcast has guidelines that explain why it might be making this decision.
The guidelines, after the jump...
The Clearcast notes on violence state that "violence, cruelty and injury are themes which must be handled with great care and only in cases where they can be justified are they likely to be acceptable. These cases are likely to arise in public service messages, newsreel footage, film trailers and some charity advertising."
What is the meaning of this exception if it is not for this?
Remarkably, the next note states that "leeway" may be given to violence in theatrical trailers. As to advertising video games, it says, "Clips from such games can often include realistic portrayals of violence, crime etc. and such material, particularly when the setting is an urban environment, is likely to attract tougher timing restrictions than more fantasy-based games."
So if you want to realistically depict violence to sell a movie or a video game, you may get "leeway" or a "timing restriction" (as far as when the thing can be shown). But if you want to realistically depict relatively brief violent behavior to fight actual violence, you are entirely out of luck?
I must admit, they have me stumped.