INTO THE RIVER: The “C###” word was used NINE TIMES in a self-published book – Into the River by Ted Dawe – which recently won two categories in the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards: Margaret Mahy book of the year and young adult [ages 14-18] fiction award (announced on 24 June 2013).
In its September 2013 BSA Report, 70% of adult respondents rated the C### word as the most unacceptable word “in relation to the scenario of a television drama shown after 8.30 pm.” (i.e. “adult” viewing time). The quantitative research, a national online survey with 1,500 randomly selected individuals aged 18 years and over, stratified by region, age group, gender and ethnicity, was carried out by Nielson research company for BSA “to provide a monitor of the acceptability of the use of swear words, blasphemies and other expletives in broadcasting over time.” Since 2005 the “C###” word has consistently topped the BSA reports as the most offensive word – (thereby injurious to the public good)
The Office of the Chief Censor of Film and Literature, Dr Andrew Jack, recently classified Into the River [published by the fictitious “Mangakino University Press” – no such university exists!] as “Unrestricted – Suitable for mature audiences 16 years of age and over”, after it was submitted for classification as a result of complaints raised by Family First NZ, a registered charity. The 13 page Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) decision on the book, signed by Deputy Chief Censor, Ms Nicola (Nic) McCully, stated FALSELY that the “C” word only appeared once in the book. The Office informed SPCS that it had been examined by a number of highly trained staff who had read it. The Decision (ref. no. 1300727.000) dated 11 September 2013 states on page 8:
“This book contains a limited amount of highly offensive language, …. The word ‘fu##’ and its derivatives are used occasionally and the word ‘cu##’ is seen once. The language is not likely to cause harm…. The highly offensive language has a relatively low impact due to the context.” [Note: Offensive words spelt in full in OFLC decision and BSA decision. Emphasis added in bold].
Why was the deputy chief censor Ms Nic McCully failed to ascertain that the most offensive word according to 70% of adult New Zealanders – the “C” word was actually used nine times in Ted Dawe’s highly controversial book? Why did she sign the OFLC decision which is based on false information? Has she become desensitised to the offensive nature of the “C” word and other obscene words due the length of time she has been in the job? What real qualifications does she have to make determinations on the appropriatness of language in children’s books? Is there a link between the sexual orientation of censors and the attitudes/judgment they display towards the excessive use of the “C” and “F” words in children’s literature” or elsewhere?
The Deputy Chief Censor Ms Nicola McCully was appointed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Minister of Internal Affairs.
“The reappointment of Ms McCully will retain her significant expertise in the area of censorship and will ensure the continued solid performance of the Office of Film and Literature Classification,” said Hon. Nathan Guy.
Ms McCully was originally appointed as Deputy Chief Censor on 17th September 2002 on the recommendation of a former Minister of Internal Affairs, Hon. George Hawkins, with the concurrence of the Minister of Justice, Hon. Phil Goff, and the Minister of Womens Affairs, Hon. Laila Harre. She has been reappointed to successive three year terms of office, in 2002, 2005, 2008, and 2011. Her latest term expired on 2 August 2012. She has been viewing hardcore porn and objectionable content that degrades, demeans and dehumanises women in particular, as a deputy chief censor for over 11 years!
Prior to Ms McCully’s appointment, she had worked in the Classification Office for eight years which included her role as Classification Unit Manager and Senior Classification Officer. She was also previously an examiner for the Video Recordings Authority in 1994. Prior to that the only employment experience she had was working for one year with special needs children as a teacher aide, a job she got without any teacher qualifications (e.g. Dip. Tchg.) or specialist training certificate.
In total Ms Nicola McCully has been viewing hardcore porn and objectionable content as a censor for almost 20 years!
This “dirty job” (see quote below) that has commanded a gross salary of about $200,000 and which she apparently must enjoy so much, was described in an article available published on line by Sex Shops in New Zealand On Line (see below):
In a typical working week, Nicola McCully might watch a couple of dozen people having sex. Sometimes they might be doing this in twos or threes; other times, there’ll be a roomful, going at it like rabbits. Sometimes they might be going at it with rabbits. And if it’s not sex, it’s violence. McCuly looks on as people are murdered, tortured and maimed. Soft human bodies are set on fire, exploded by bombs, cut up and eaten. McCully might crunch her way through a tangy apple as a young man is slowly and gleefully decapitated. Other times a cup of tea might wet the whistle during a gruelling group rape scene. A gingernut with that? Sure, why not? It’s all in a day’s work for McCully, as New Zealand’s deputy chief censor.
For the last 10 years or so, she has spent her working week viewing all manner of distressing and depraved things to decide whether we can watch them as well.
Censorship. It’s a dirty job, and somebody has to do it. But who? What could possibly drive someone to be a censor? Not the money, that’s for sure. The salary for an experienced classification officer is less than $60,000. So why would someone voluntarily sit in a darkened room for days, months, years of their life, watching acts of extreme cruelty, harrowing sexual violence and the more repulsive ends of the porn spectrum?
McCully began her censorship career in 1994. After working in special education in Christchurch, she applied for a job at the Video Recordings Authority, an organisation that was amalgamated into the Classification Office that same year. A compact, quick-witted woman with a habit of getting straight to the point, McCully’s career choice means she has seen things no-one should have to see. She acknowledges that some aspects of her job have taken their toll emotionally. Certainly, her ready laugh is at odds with her sad eyes.
“Some days this work really is the pits. You see some incredibly horrible things. If there’s a court case concerning the sexual exploitation of young children, we spend weeks dealing with images that are genuinely grotesque. We’ve had computer hard drives submitted to us containing entire libraries of child pornography, with thousands of images and movie files that have been indexed and arranged like photo albums.”
Fortunately, cases as grim as this are relatively rare. McCully estimates that about 80% of her team’s work is classifying the kind of sexually explicit DVDs that will end up in sex shops and the “adult” sections of video stores from North Cape to Bluff.
“Those tapes really are tedious,” she sighs. “You might have six hours of sex DVDs to classify, and you have to watch them from beginning to end. There’s no fast-forwarding, in case you miss a section where things are verbally or physically rough. The misogyny in these sex tapes is very depressing. There’s the underlying idea that women are only on this earth to satisfy men in whatever way those men want to be satisfied, no matter how painful or humiliating.”
Returning to the September 2013 BSA report. It states:
31 words were presented to respondents, all of which are included in the 2010 survey
- Respondents rated eight words as Totally or Fairly unacceptable in relation to the scenario of a television drama shown after 8.30pm: C### (70%), Ni##er (65%), Mother f##### (61%), J#### F###### C##### (61%), C###sucker (56%), Get f##### (54%), F### off (50%) and F### (50%). The least contentious words, rated as Totally or Fairly acceptable, were: Bloody (15%), Bollocks (13%) and Bugger (13%). The order of the words found to be the most offensive to the least offensive remains largely the same as found in 2010 and in 2005 [Note: Offensive words spelt in full in BSA report]
Words such as C###sucker, and “Fa##ot”” are of particular concern to GayNZ.com which states:
“Two homophobic slurs are among the top ten words New Zealanders find most offensive on radio or TV.
“C###sucker” is the word ranked fifth most unacceptable in an annual Broadcasting Standards Authority survey. “Fa##ot” ranks ninth.” [Words spelt in full in GayNZ report]
No mention is made by GayNZ.com staff of the “C” word in their erudite media release “Gay slurs not welcome on NZ radio or TV” which comes with a nifty warning note: “Content warning”
1. Nathan Guy’s Media Release:http://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/deputy+chief+censor+reappointed
2. Briefing for Incoming Minister Internal Affairs. Department of Internal Affairs June 2009, p. 58.
“An appointment process for the Deputy Chief Censor is underway and is in the final stages.”
3. Report of the Office of Film and Literature Classification for year ending 30 June 2008
Employee Remuneration p. 55. Also see Annual Report 2007, p. 70.
5. For more details on the OFLC classification of Ted Dawe’s book Into the River and the NZ Post Children’s Book Awards see pages 2-4 in the SPCS September 2013 Newsletter.