Exit To Uncertainty

LETTER

Stephen LaRose claims in his opinion piece, “That’s Immoral!” (Prairie Dog, April 2-15 issue; online here) that the Saskatchewan Film and Video Classification Board banned the Hollywood movie Exit to Eden in 1994, then reversed its decision a week later. This is only partly true.

As a member of that six-person board, I disagreed with other members about the ban. I explained to them that the cops-and-robbers comedy (including “SM lite,” according to one of the stars) was a slapstick version of an erotic novel by Anne Rice (writing as “Anne Roquelaure”) which includes in-depth exploration of the appeal of BDSM as well as a male-female relationship which ends happily.

Anne Rice has never been an author of lightweight rom-coms, but after her first gothic novel Interview with the Vampire became a surprise bestseller in the 1970s, she acquired a cult following. Her edgy erotica was discovered by readers who already loved her glamorous vampires. The movie version of Exit to Eden was obviously an attempt to put a “family-friendly” spin on the work of an author whose name was expected to pull in crowds.

The movie was a bizarre mishmash, but I thought adequate warnings would be enough to protect movie-goers from watching anything they weren’t expecting. I offered to loan the novel to my fellow board-members, none of whom had read it. As it turned out, my efforts didn’t change anyone’s mind.

The chairman of the Film Board at that time told the rest of us that we should NOT evaluate films on the basis of our personal values. According to her, our role was to represent the values of the whole Saskatchewan “community.” This was clearly the directive that had been given to her by higher-ups in the Saskatchewan Department of Justice.

On another occasion in the 1990s, a journalist called the office of the Film Board to question us about our “role” in the shooting of a young boy by an older boy who had watched the movie Warlock over 20 times. The journalist wanted to know who was responsible for the shooter’s reckless viewing habits. This question carried the clear implications that 1) watching a particular movie too many times can drive a perfectly sane youth to murder, 2) the film board had been a negligent guardian, and 3) MORE banning or burning of films, not less, would keep Saskatchewan safe.

I came to realize that members of watchdog boards, supposedly drawn from the community at large to represent “community values,” are in a constant double-bind. Boards that try to ban something that anyone wants (especially if that something is easily obtainable, even after the ban) are accused of being hysterical prudes, and possibly religious fanatics. Boards that advocate consumer awareness and freedom of choice are accused of failing to protect the public at large.

The Saskatchewan Film and Video Classification Board never actually repealed the ban on Exit to Eden. The Appeal Film Board, headed by a Regina filmmaker, was quickly convened to reconsider the film, and THAT board voted to reverse the ban. Good for them, I said. I would have liked them to rescue some of the better-made porn videos that the regular board (on which I sat) had nixed on grounds that they contained some detail contrary to the Saskatchewan Film and Video Act. (Did you know that urination can’t legally be shown on film in this province?) But then, indie videos aren’t produced by big Hollywood studios.

I would still like to see a more respectful, art-house version of Anne Rice’s Exit to Eden. But I’m not holding my breath until that movie is produced.

Jean Hillabold, Instructor
University of Regina

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2015-05-14