If we don’t act now on children’s films, a generation will grow up trying to fly like Buzz Lightyear and enslave Oompa-Loompas
Confession time: it was me who rang up the BBFC and told them to ban The Railway Children. Actually I didn’t say “ban”, I said “shred all known prints and burn down the internet before this film destroys our children!” Despite leaving my number, the censors – hedonists who spend all their time watching porn and rubbing chilli into their eyeballs to heighten the experience – didn’t get back to me. I assumed they were either observing an orgy or drowning in complaints similar to mine. It turns out not to be the case.
Yesterday, the BBC reported the following:
Forty-two years after it was released, classic family film The Railway Children has prompted its first complaint to the British Board of Film Classification.
“The correspondent was concerned that children may be encouraged to play on railway tracks as a result of seeing the film,” the BBFC’s annual report reveals.
The report, published on Thursday, said the BBFC judged that it was “very unlikely” that The Railway Children would promote “such dangerous activity”.
This official response comes as something of a surprise. I can only assume that no one at the BBFC has ever frolicked across rolling stock in petticoats. I have and nearly ended up spattered over the 14.37 to Todmorden.
I take some small satisfaction from the fact they were compelled to investigate my complaint, whatever the result. But in the intervening months it has become apparent that The Railway Children is far from the only cinematic deathtrap winking at children. There are many others, including:
The woman flies around London with an umbrella. This is a massive incitement to children to try and fly around using an umbrella too. Sounds great right? Wrong! A compact, telescopic umbrella would never offer enough resistance to the wind and any six-year-old, instead of flying, would end up face-down in a puddle and drown. A golfing umbrella, meanwhile, would occasion precisely the opposite effect and the child would end up in France.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
A health and safety risk from beginning to end. Eating the wrong bubblegum, falling into rivers of chocolate, transmitting oneself into the television: the potential for catastrophic behaviour is everywhere. This is nothing compared to the film’s most dangerous message however, that it is in some way desirable to grow up into an adult who wears a purple top hat, makes a living experimenting with confectionery and keeps an entire race of Oompa-Loompas subdued. As to what he gets up to in his glass elevator, that’s a whole other story.
It has long been said that this film teaches children valuable lessons that they can draw on later into life. But what lessons might they be? Have toys and you’ll be popular? Turn on the waterworks when you’re looking for attention? Yes, those are some great lessons right there. Bundle that in with the likelihood of a child taping cardboard wings to their back, shouting “to infinity and beyond” and throwing themselves down the stairs, and this film is on a one-way ticket to bannedsville.
A blowtorch to the hat, a steaming iron to the face, a redhot doorknob to the hand. It’s all fun and games isn’t it? Well no, it isn’t. We all cheer the child Kevin McAllister as he applies enhanced interrogation techniques to strangers, but do we ever stop to ask how it might affect the child’s ability to empathise? Or, more importantly, how it might affect his parents’ ability to pay for their contents insurance? No, no we do not.
How to Train Your Dragon
Dragons can’t be trained, I’ve tried.
By Paul MacInnes © Guardian News and Media 2013