A farewell to Ferman

So, Jim Ferman, head of the BBFC has finally announced that he's going to resign at the end of the year. This has kinda been looming for a while, as he'd already gone on past the nominal retirement age. It always struck me as strange that it didn't seem to apply to any of those who spent their lives telling us what to do: censors, MPs and judges can all continue until they are senile -- or, indeed beyond in some cases. But this wasn't really an issue with Ferman, unless you count his obsession with a) The Exorcist (probably the most harmless movie never to receive a video certificate) and b) nunchakus.

He's actually survived pretty well -- a good measure of his impartiality is that he's been slagged off by both sides, which must get very wearing after a while (unless you're the sort of contrary bastard who enjoys picking arguments, not that we know anyone like that near here, dear me, no...). The latest fuss is over 'Lolita', which made front page news in our friend, the Daily Mail, with the predictable kneejerk comments. Maybe this is the start of Ferman's closing-down sale - "We must be crazy! For a limited period only, every film will be passed uncut! Submit now before Mary Whitehouse spontaneously combusts!" - following as it does on the heels of 'Crash' being passed uncut for video release. This, of course, leads to the ridiculous situation where it'll be on sale in, say, the Virgin Megastore on Oxford Street...even though the local Westminster Council banned it at the cinema. Duh...

So, the question is, who's going to replace him? I'm toying with the idea of applying for the post myself, just for a laugh, and see what happens. The initial signs might not be too promising, given Jack Straw's tight-assedness on the subject (just like on drugs -- so what's the betting his son can also do you a copy of Texas Chainsaw Massacre?). But then, similar fears were voiced about Andreas Whittam-Smith, when he became president, and he seems to have done okay. Well, the Daily Mail hates him, so that makes him alright in my books.

To some extent, it's not going to make a difference. I suspect that things like the Internet, European Union, DVD, satellite, etc, will soon render the role about as obsolete as that of the Lord Chamberlain, who used to censor the theatre. Ferman has perhaps done the equivalent of King Canute looking at the incoming tide, and saying to a courtier, "Be a good chap and keep an eye on this sea thing for a bit, will you?". All of which does tend to increase my grudging respect for the man: it's a thankless task, and one that should not be necessary, but given that it is, at least we've had an intelligent (sometimes TOO intelligent) man in the role for the past couple of decades. Let's hope his replacement is similarly endowed -- assuming it's not me, of course... ;-)


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