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Fallibility of the Internet

August 10th, 2007 · Posted by Skuds in Life · 6 Comments · Life

Yesterday I came across what looked like a brilliant bit of trivia. The film Personal Services was on TV and I wanted to check up something about it on IMDb. In the trivia section it said:

Upon theatrical release, the film was banned in Ireland. Only four films have been banned in Ireland, and three of them (Life of Brian (1979), The Meaning of Life (1983), and this film) have been directed by Terry Jones.

I thought it was amazing that a country would ban four films, and three of them all by the same director. I wondered what the 4th film was and looked at Wikipedia’s entry on censorship in the Republic of Ireland, where it says:

However, many movies have been banned in Ireland in the past, including Life Of Brian, Disney’s Fantasia and A Clockwork Orange. A review in 2000 has meant that many of these have since been un-banned and rated anywhere from PG to 18. During that review process it was decided that no more films would be banned for either theatre or video release, but some bans are still in place.

The Film Censors Office’s official figures state that 2,500 films received theatrical performance bans, and over 11,000 films were cut, mainly pre-1965.

A check at the Irish film censors office reveals that Wikipedia is right and IMDb couldn’t be more wrong, which is a shame because it would have made a brilliant pub quiz question.

Of course, the issue of how many films have been banned in a foreign country is relatively trivial but it does go to show that you can’t always trust everything just because its on the Internet. You would expect a fair amount of rubbish, mistakes or even lies on blogs and message boards, but even ‘proper’ sites like IMDb are not infallible.

Ironically it was Wikipedia, which has come in for a lot of criticism over its reliability, that was correct in this case.

Its something to bear in mind if you are relying on the Internet for research or for homework, but there is no need to panic: just make do a sanity check on facts wherever possible. In the particular case of Wikipedia, it nearly always has links to source material and its a good idea to follow a few of those to corroborate things.

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6 Comments so far ↓

  • Rullsenberg

    but some bans are still in place.

    My nosiness asks ‘which are the still banned films?’

  • Skuds

    Well, according to the Wikipedia page on banned films (with all the usual caveats) three films are still banned which are Baise-Moi, Romance and Meet The Feebles.

    Its not an exhaustive list though – it only lists 13 films. Interestingly, Personal Services is not on the list there.

    Films which used to be banned but are now unbanned include Clockwork Orange, Natural Born Killers, Dusk Til Dawn, Ulysses, and Monkey Business (!). No mention of The Magdalene Sisters…

    There is probably a subtle difference between banning a film and not issuing a certificate but I’m buggered if I know what it is.

  • jams o donnell

    Ireland used to be capricious about censorship. One of the most ridiculous bans was a book called the Tailor and Ansty by Eric Cross. It was merely a piece of gentle humour based on an elderly couple who lived in Glendalough, near Cork, before WWII.

  • Skuds

    And yet they let Flann O’Brien get away with so much truly subversive stuff in his Cruisken Lawn column.

  • jrd168

    Can you come and tell some of my A level students that they can’t get all the info they need for their essays from t’internet please?

  • Skuds

    I can just see tomorrow’s lesson… “You can’t trust everything you read on the Internet. And its not just me that says so: here’s a website which backs me up!