Legal Beagle by Graeme Edgeler

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Legal Beagle: Into the River/Interim Restrictions

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  • Russell Brown,

    In my mind, the decision is clearly wrong. Whatever risk of harm there is, that harm is nowhere near the highest level, and the possibility of that harm is not enough that it is justifiable to ban everyone from accessing this book, even for a month.

    Thank you Graeme. I quite agree.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22759 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    Heh. I was going to write on this tonight, but you've saved me the trouble.

    I think it's also important to note that the reason for the R14 restriction was not on the basis of the sexual content or the strong language. It was because they felt younger children might struggle with the bullying depicted in the book. The sex was not considered a reason for restriction.

    Everyone's favourite, 50 Shades of Grey, was submitted for classification in 2012, and passed as unrestricted. A 13 year old can legally read that, but not Into the River. It's absurd.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Geddis,

    But there’s not really a lot any of us can do about it in the meantime.

    Or maybe there is. Under s.51(2):

    The President of the Board may, on the application of any of the following persons, or on the President’s own motion, revoke an interim restriction order:
    (a) the applicant for the order:
    (b) the owner, maker, publisher, or authorised distributor of the publication to which the order relates:
    (c) any other person who satisfies the President of the Board that the person is detrimentally affected by the existence of the order.

    I'd suggest that under (c), a librarian or bookseller who can't supply the book to a person wanting to loan or buy it could ask Dr Mathieson to invoke the order. Or, perhaps, even someone who wants to see what all the fuss is about, but is now unable to get hold of a copy of the book?

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2007 • 200 posts Report Reply

  • Pete Sime, in reply to Andrew Geddis,

    I'd suggest that under (c), a librarian or bookseller who can't supply the book to a person wanting to loan or buy it could ask Dr Mathieson to invoke the order.

    I just so happen to be a librarian. I think I could draft something.

    Dunedin • Since Apr 2008 • 167 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    “realistic war violence” as R15

    Presumably to uphold the state’s monopoly of violence, on which the government's authority (including its right to stop us reading books) ultimately rests.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Greg Presland,

    I was a member of the FLBR which allowed Baise Moi to be viewed. It was a strange case. An utterly crap film that was only going to be seen once by a Film Festival audience had a commercial run throughout the country. Although it was horrendous I thought that the general population was able to determine this without censorship help.

    This current banning of an award winning book seems excessive. And my perhaps tainted view as a West Auckland lawyer dealing daily with the sort of behaviour that the book describes is that it should not be hidden but discussed.

    Waitakere • Since Nov 2006 • 7 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Geddis,

    I just so happen to be a librarian. I think I could draft something.

    Excellent. Which library? Because it would be very helpful if someone reading this post could request to borrow Into the River from your institution ... meaning you'd have to tell them "no - you're not allowed to have it". Then we're on the way to showing actual "detriment".

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2007 • 200 posts Report Reply

  • Pete Sime, in reply to Andrew Geddis,

    Which library?

    The Hocken.

    Dunedin • Since Apr 2008 • 167 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    Just sliding into the comments to note that Andrew has also written a blog post about this, and to make sure people have noted the update, which has a link to the Dr Mathieson’s decision and reasons for imposing the interim restriction order (here as .pdf).

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    There were arguments that Baise-moi was so injurious to the public that allowing anyone to see it would be harmful.

    I'd forgotten about all that fuss around Baise-moi. When the ban was lifted, I ended up seeing it (on my birthday!) in 2002. I literally cannot remember anything about it and my diary doesn't record any emotional damage from seeing it.

    The webs tell me it was about a two women (both sex workers) who go on a killing spree. Killing men. I'm sure if it was about a couple of dudes who were killing women, there wouldn't have been such a fuss.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Emma Hart,

    I think it's also important to note that the reason for the R14 restriction was not on the basis of the sexual content or the strong language. It was because they felt younger children might struggle with the bullying depicted in the book. The sex was not considered a reason for restriction.

    I don't think that's a fair description. The mature content of the book, including the sexual content, were among the matters that added to the case they accepted for an age restriction. I quote the summary at the end of the decision below:

    Summary

    42. “Into the River” contains scenes, and deals with themes, that most people would find offensive and upsetting. Those themes include bullying, underage casual and unsafe sex, drug taking and other matters. The book also includes the use of offensive language by a number of the characters.

    43. However, the book is only “objectionable” under section 3 of the Act if it promotes or supports, or tends to promote or support certain activities prescribed in section

    3(2), or if it otherwise deals with certain activities in a manner which is likely to be injurious to the public good.

    44. Having read the book, and considered the helpful submissions received from Family First NZ, the Office of Film and Literature Classification and the author, the Board does not consider “Into the River” can be said to have a tendency to promote or support the activities it depicts. On the contrary, the Board considers that it usefully and extensively describes and illustrates the short and longer term negative consequences that such behaviours can have.

    45. Significantly, by the end of the book, the music teacher has been arrested and the two main characters have been expelled, or left school in circumstances where they would otherwise have been expelled. The two best friends have been forced apart by the expulsion and have no realistic prospect of seeing each other again. Promising academic careers have been ruined, friendships have been broken and lives are in tatters. Most importantly of all, the main character is left isolated and alone. Although Te Arepa may be too tough to admit regret, the reader cannot help but draw the conclusion that he has made a series of wrong decisions and has wasted the opportunities that were available to him.

    46. Accordingly, although the book describes a number of unacceptable, offensive and objectionable behaviours, it does not in any way promote them. On the contrary, the book clearly sets out to discourage and discredit such behaviours. Accordingly the Board does not consider the book generally to be “objectionable” as that term is defined in the Act.

    47. Having said that, there are scenes within the book that are powerful and disturbing, and in the opinion of the Board run a real risk of shocking and disturbing young readers. Whilst those aged 14 and above are likely to have a level of maturity that enables them to deal with this, those below the age of 14 may not. Accordingly, the Board considers the publication should be age restricted to those who have attained the age of 14 years.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Geddis,

    @Pete,

    Drop me an email (easily googled) and we'll conspire.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2007 • 200 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood,

    If it would be useful for some around the Dunedin area, such as myself, to request access to the Hocken copy (even as an additional person) , I could make an enquiry tomorrow.

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    The legal issues here are so far beyond my paygrade they've vanished over the horizon, but here's what I wrote over two years and I stand by every word.

    http://publicaddress.net/8647

    One of the least remarked ironies of the editorial was it saw print a few days before the first anniversary of Margaret Mahy’s death. Mahy did “bright, stylish and subtle” like nobody’s business, but she also wrote a string of remarkable YA novels. I hope nobody tells The Herald that her (much under-rated) 1985 YA novel The Catalogue of the Universe contains a startling chapter where a teenage girl recounts almost being raped. They might also just want to avoid The Tricksters (1986) entirely, because Mahy certainly opened my eyes to the notion that teenage girls also think about sex, or at least the possibility of it, and find it terribly messy and confusing. And cringe-inducingly funny. And sometimes even as bright and stylish as the hem of a summer skirt fluttering in a warm breeze.

    To say both novels were shocking, in the best sense of the word, to a teenage gay boy at a single-sex boarding school was a considerable understatement. So were Maurice Gee’s “children’s novels” – particularly the Halfmen of O trilogy, which also appeared in the mid-80’s to this SF/fantasy geek’s whole hearted approval – which worried away at the ambiguities and tensions of Godzone with all the spirited moral ferocity as his adult novels. And not without controversy either: “sordid” is an adjective that has hung around Gee his entire career, no matter who his intended audience is.

    The Herald on Sunday may have as little faith in the discernment of teenagers as I have in that organ’s literary judgement, but that’s no reason why anyone else has to follow suit. Just makes sure to brush up on your Shakespeare, and the keep the latest front page atrocity on the Sunday newspapers away from the kids.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Everyone’s favourite, 50 Shades of Grey, was submitted for classification in 2012, and passed as unrestricted. A 13 year old can legally read that, but not Into the River. It’s absurd.

    A thirteen year old can also legally read The Great Gatsby and watch Baz Luhrmann's film adaptation. Rewatching it last night, I'd forgotten how many times Joel Edgerton's Tom Buchanan hits women in the damn thing.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    Why was the novel ever brought to the attention of the Censors? Was that FF, also?

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3887 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    It sounds like the restrictions have effectively killed this book to date, at least in NZ. Just looked on Amazon and the kindle version isn’t available … but logged through anonymouse, there it was.
    I wonder if anywhere else in the world is so determined to protect children from literature? The kindle version doesn't seem at all restricted.
    Considering the other perils lurking, this just looks like paternalistic over-reach in precisely the wrong direction.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2092 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    Considering the other perils in the world, it sure smacks of paternalistic over-reach.

    When all our coastal land is underwater owing to climate change, we'll be so glad our young people didn't have to read the word "cunt" in that one book.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3887 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Lilith __,

    Why was the novel ever brought to the attention of the Censors? Was that FF, also?

    Yes. It won the Book Award, and they were somewhat aghast.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Pete Sime,

    Andrew. Sounds like a plan. I'll be in touch tomorrow.

    Dunedin • Since Apr 2008 • 167 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Andrew Geddis,

    Or maybe there is. Under s.51(2):

    The President of the Board may, on the application of any of the following persons, or on the President’s own motion, revoke an interim restriction order:
    (a) the applicant for the order:
    (b) the owner, maker, publisher, or authorised distributor of the publication to which the order relates:
    (c) any other person who satisfies the President of the Board that the person is detrimentally affected by the existence of the order.

    I'd suggest that under (c), a librarian or bookseller who can't supply the book to a person wanting to loan or buy it could ask Dr Mathieson to invoke the order. Or, perhaps, even someone who wants to see what all the fuss is about, but is now unable to get hold of a copy of the book?

    Thank you for the suggestion Andrew. I have just sent in an application to revoke the order. There appears to be no set form, and no fee, so I encourage others to do the same. Will update tomorrow, if I get confirmation I have sent it to the right place!

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • William Leander, in reply to Robyn Gallagher,

    The webs tell me it was about a two women (both sex workers) who go on a killing spree. Killing men. I'm sure if it was about a couple of dudes who were killing women, there wouldn't have been such a fuss.

    If I recall correctly, the fuss was mainly to do with the graphic rape scene (the women being raped by men).

    Since Apr 2014 • 9 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    I don’t think that’s a fair description.

    I was going by what the Censor's Office say in their case study on the book's censorship history:

    However, the Board also felt that the degrading and demeaning conduct depicted in scenes of bullying would be likely to shock or disturb children under the age of 14, and so the Board classified the book R14: 'parental advisory explicit content'.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to Robyn Gallagher,

    I'd forgotten about all that fuss around Baise-moi. When the ban was lifted, I ended up seeing it (on my birthday!) in 2002. I literally cannot remember anything about it and my diary doesn't record any emotional damage from seeing it.

    I remember seeing a DVD copy sitting next to 'I spit on your grave' in the local video hire shop when we moved to Devonport in 2006.

    BAN THIS SICK FILTH!

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Goodwin,

    Umm I've been a forensic psychiatrist for years, and no one ever said to me "I got this idea from a book".

    Auckland • Since Mar 2011 • 2 posts Report Reply

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