Banned in the UK: Approaching the Industrial Analysis of “Video Nasty” Distribution

5th June 2014
Posted in Speaking
5th June 2014 admin

At: Industrial Approaches to Media: Methodological Gateway to Industry Studies, University of Nottingham.

In 1984 the Video Recordings Act (VRA) was introduced and it effectively criminalised the sale or rental of 72 videos that had been released by what turned out to be, largely independent distributors. Most histories frame these distributors as ‘merchants of menace’, and suggest that they were actively courting the controversy that led to the introduction of the VRA, through the lurid artwork used to promote the videos. Historically, discussion around the ‘video nasties’ has quite rightly foregrounded debates around ‘harm’ and censorship. While these debates are essential in our understanding of the period and the implications that this rhetoric may have upon future ‘moral panics’, they have often been at the expense of a deeper industrial analysis – preferring to depict the distributor as a comic book villain, preying on children with their debased product. This paper seeks to demonstrate some of the difficulties inherent in approaching a revisionist history, and will present some of the problems encountered both from a practical and a methodological perspective.

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