Blog of Feminist Activism

The feminist activism of charliegrrl and co

Complaint about Torture Porn Film Adverts

Posted by charliegrrl on August 7, 2007

About a month back, Hostel 2 and Captivity were out in the cinemas. As you may remember, the films eroticised and made entertainment out of violence against women.

What Mark Kermode, a film critic, said about them:

…misogynist claptrap…of which all involved should be deeply ashamed.

What Nuts magazine said about them:

…’the definition of torture porn’… sounds right up our street.

There was a lot of promotion for these two films. Anyone remember the advert on tv for Hostel 2, with the woman hung upside down by her feet..? Buses and billboards all round the country held huge posters advertising these two films.

In the US, adverts for Captivity were withdrawn after feminists campaigned against them. Here in the UK, people complained about them, including a SWAP campaigner who complained to ASA and Lothian bus company for advertising Captivity.

“For the last two weeks, Lothian buses have been carrying advertisements for Captivity, a film that serves up the kidnap and torture of a woman as entertainment. The posters in question depict a woman being buried alive. Captivity is only one film in the emerging genre of torture-porn, which also includes the films Paradise Lost, Black Snake Moan and Hostel Part II. Posters for Hostel Part IIstarted appearing on Lothian buses a few days ago.

City of Edinburgh Council is the main shareholder of Lothian Buses plc. I would like you to explain to me how the promotion of
films like Captivity and Hostel Part II, which eroticise the torture of women, can be squared with the Council’s own policy of Zero Tolerance of violence against women. As a woman, I should be able to walk through the streets of my home city without being exposed to images of women being violently abused. I call on City of Edinburgh Council and Lothian Buses to take a real stand against violence against women and remove these posters forthwith.

Here is a snippet of the response she received from the ASA:

Out of the complaints we received some complainants expressed concerns about the location and the violent, misogynistic content of
the advertisement. Some complainants were concerned about the effect the advertisement could have on children who saw it. The
Council noted these concerns but also that we have received only one report of a child becoming upset at the advertisement. The
Council agreed with our recommendation that the advertisement depicted one of the scenes from the film, the advertisement reflected
the content of the film, that it did not depict any violence against the female featured and there was no obvious sign of injury to
the female character…
In this case, the Council considered that the advertisement was unlikely cause serious or widespread offence or undue fear and
distress…

We have notified the advertisers of the reaction which this campaign has provoked. The Council is also undertaking a general
discussion about this particular issue and we will continue to monitor reaction to the campaign.

I’d like to say thanks to the SWAP campaigner for complaining to her local bus company and to the ASA. It would be good if Councils and companies refuse to promote these misogynistic films.

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14 Responses to “Complaint about Torture Porn Film Adverts”

  1. delphyne said

    “that it did not depict any violence against the female featured”

    Men who refer to women as “females” in this manner are almost invariably misogynists.

    I’ve never had any luck complaining to the ASA or Ofcom about sexism. They just don’t seem to think it exists.

  2. It doesn’t give you much faith in the ASA, does it? Well done for complaining and making the point, it’s a shame it wasn’t taken a bit more seriously.

  3. Arantxa said

    The ASA will readily admit that they have not a single code dealing with sex discrimination. The ASA IS the advertising industry. The advertising industry regulates itself and guess what? They think they are doing a good job of it. In fact, they even advertised themselves a little while back. I made sure I ammended their posters to reflect their [de facto] policy of dismissing any and all complaints about sexist advertising.

  4. polyestergirl said

    Where are the grafity artists when you need them?

    Funnily enough, the almost certainly male response to the SWAP complaint summed up the ad as “violent” and “misogynistic”, yet came to the conclusion that this type of promotion is totally acceptable in society.

    “The advertisement depicted one of the scenes of the film, the advertisement reflected the content from the film, that it did not depict any violence against the female featured and there was obviously no sign of injury to the female character.”

    The response states that the advertisement depicts the content of the film, which is about kidnapping and torturing women! So how can this representitive come to the conclusion that no harm is being committed towards the woman in the image?

    Perhaps the responder should give their account of what it is they are seeing in the image and then define whether or not an act of violence is being committed. And it is not just the visual aspect of the advertisement, but the context.

  5. Dusty said

    Don’t lose heart! Keep collecting those ASA (Aiding Sexist Advertising) responses. ASA can only keep up the ‘independent’ bluff for so long.

    There’s a lawyer somewhere just aching to take them on, all we have to do is find them and give them our back catalogue..

  6. The SWAP campaigner said

    Thanks for the words of support.

    Delphyne and Polyestergirl – the ASA response was from a woman but she was only communicating the Council’s decision. It would be interesting to know the gender ratio of the Council.

    I went on to request a review from The Independent Reviewer of ASA Adjudications, arguing that there were at least two major flaws in the Council’s decision. I pointed out that the poster clearly did depict an incidence of violence (someone being buried alive) and that violently misogynistic images will inevitably cause serious and widespread offence, fear and distress, particularly to women.

    The Independent Reviewer failed completely to engage with the issues or the specific points raised in my letter. He basically repeated the content of the ASA letter. He reported that the conclusion of ASA’s ‘general discussion about this particular issue’ was that “the policy of the ASA in response to complaints about the advertising of such films and games should continue to be to try to strike a fair and reasonable balance between the legitimate rights of those who produce such products and the need to protect children from seeing disturbing and possibly harmful material”.

  7. Michelle said

    “… the advertising of such films and games should continue to be to try to strike a fair and reasonable balance between the legitimate rights of those who produce such products and the need to protect children from seeing disturbing and possibly harmful material”.

    It’s always the same response isn’t it? Protecting the ‘rights’ of those who want to produce and promote this material and protecting children. Women’s human rights never come into it.

  8. LH1 said

    To SWAP Campaigner, Excellent! and thank you for complaining on behalf of all of us that share the same views!!. I to have been writing to ASA for many years and guess what?? I’ve received very similar responses to yourself and I would imagine many others have to. But we have to continue! But also complain to the source itself and encourage others to as well. I believe that everyone of us can influence just one other person, imagine how far that could go??? Please believe that we all can influence others, we can make a difference no matter how small!!.

    People like your self are the exception let’s all work together to make it the ‘norm’ yes we can do it! we just have to believe it!! Just remember many ripples in the pond can come from one stone beinging thrown! Thank you SWAP Campaigner X.

  9. Rachel H-G said

    Mark Kermode is a highly-regarded critic. Hopefully people will take notice of him. The Nuts lot have just shown themselves up to be the misogynist philistines we know they are – they are not even in line with any critical opinion any more.

  10. Grace said

    “Council noted these concerns but also that we have received only one report of a child becoming upset at the advertisement…In this case, the Council considered that the advertisement was unlikely cause serious or widespread offence or undue fear and
    distress…”

    Well! Obviously unless every single person who is ever offended by something speaks out about it they’re just going to deny that it offends anything other than one or two sensitive people! Hmmm, of course it might not occur to them that so many people are jaded by the lack of notice taken by earlier complaints.

    Here’s the plan: Drama or mime groups – going round towns in clusters gasping and caterwauling at the things we find offensive – this seeming ‘extreme’ reaction is surely the only thing that people will notice! Would also effectively block other people from having to see some things (like magazines that can be easily hidden by groups ‘reading’ them).

  11. Polyestergirl said

    Shouldn’t the council be more focused on representing women in the community rather than the welfare of some misogynist film makers who’s only interest is to make money and marginalise women. Gah!

  12. Maxine said

    Just a thought. I had the misfortune to sit through “Hostel” a few weeks ago. A truly dreadful and disgusting film indeed, but most of the victims of violence and torture in the film were in fact male. Hard to claim that it was particularly focusing on violence against women.

  13. NikitaJade said

    As a woman, and a consumer of horror films, I have to wonder what all of the fuss is about. If you find advertisements of this sort to be troubling, shouldn’t that only (and I do mean only) be an indicator that the film isn’t for you?

    Also, if the torture of a particular character – a woman in the case of Captivity – is at the core of the film, the filmmaker’s have every right to promote their film by highlighting it’s plot. I would think the more disturbing thing would be to have an image of a woman who seems just fine – shopping, writing, baking, sleeping, etc. – and then to be completely surprised (and likely disturbed) when you view the content of the actual film.

    As well, I question the amount of time that people spend complaining about such things as film advertisements. Perhaps feminism would be better served if we complained about inequality in salaries, the ratio of male to female heads of corporations, the growing prevelance of sexual harassment, the frequency of rape in third world countries, or that in the States, our rights about choice are being slowly but surely taken from us.

    Maybe that’s just me though.

  14. Courtney Maguire said

    I am a vegan feminist I also saw Hostel 2. In the meat industry, when being slaughtered, cows and pigs are hung upside down from their feet and their throats are cut open to drain the blood. In our society, women are referred to as peices of meat and other farm animals, who are treated horribly by society and their main use is for human consumption. In Hostel 2, the young woman hung from her feet was brutally murdered the same way animals are murdered in slaughterhouses. The connection between both violence against women and animal cruelty was so distinct and uncomfortable in this film, that i hope something is done about it.

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