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Everything Is Offensive (Including David Bowie)

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DAVID BOWIE NEXT DAY
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David Bowie's rather brilliant promo video for The Next Day was briefly pulled from YouTube a few days ago. It was removed for 'contravening terms of use', and was then promptly reinstated because, well, it's Bowie for Christ's sake.

Everyone assumes that the ban was for the video's potentially contentious religious imagery; my own guess is that the near-nudity of the girl getting Marion Cotillard's impressively spurty stigmata liberally sprayed all over her chest was probably a contributing factor too. Either way, it was deemed to be offensive: in some way, to someone.

Funnily enough, in that very same week another offensive music video finally surfaced after 20 years underground. A notoriously tough-to-watch short made by Nine Inch Nails (along with Peter Christopherson) to accompany their Broken EP in the early 90s popped up on Vimeo after 20 years of incomplete versions being traded on the black market. Despite the official sanction of the band, it lasted mere hours before Vimeo removed it on the grounds of it being really really horrible and yucky and nasty and putting them right off their tea (well, 'violating guidelines', but I'm pretty sure that was the gist).

Two music videos removed in a single week in 2013. One went back up and one stayed down, but we're clearly still living in a world where music videos can actually offend people and, when they do, the first instinct of the content providers is to stop people accessing them.

After all, if people don't see the offensive thing, they won't be offended.

Will they?

Of course they bloody will. As soon as you start trying to protect people from the potentially offensive, the whole thing turns into a giant game of whack-a-mole. Potentially offensive things leap up from all directions, (probably gurning, using inappropriate language and playing with themselves whilst doing so), and no sooner have you squashed one than a dozen more potential shocking things pop up instead.

Because EVERYTHING is offensive.

In some context.

To someone.

A decade or so ago, I used to do stand-up. What I feared most were the punters who would drift up to me after a gig (usually, oddly enough, on the nights when I'd done pretty well) and explain to me why I really shouldn't make jokes about such-and-such thing because that thing had adversely affected someone that they cared about.

I used to call them AMMs (short for "Actually, my mother..") and they used to drive me insane.

You might imagine that I'm referring to contentious topics that were bound to upset someone. No, I'm talking about entirely innocuous references that happened to remind someone of something bad in their life and they'd felt the need to approach me about it. This wasn't a case of "You shouldn't talk about dementia, because actually my mother has dementia" but was more along the lines of "You shouldn't talk about buses, because actually my mother was hit by a bus".

Thing is, I never wanted to upset people. I naturally steer my life towards positivity and don't have a desire to hurt anyone's feelings with anything I write. If that goal sits awkwardly alongside being a stand-up, it doesn't sit a great deal better alongside my current role on this planet.

Nowadays, a lot of the writing I do is for horror movies with titles like Strippers vs Werewolves and Nazi Zombie Death Tales: the kind of titles that either make you recoil in already-offended horror or reach eagerly for the DVD case. I write those movies, and I love it.

However, that desire not to offend too much is still strong in me. I want to write fun, gory, over the top movies that people enjoy. I'm not looking to make people miserable. I also don't want the filmic equivalent of the AMMs coming up and berating me for including a scene about a bus, or dementia or a demonic cheerleader with bladed pom-poms stabbing someone through the face.

It's inevitable, though. No matter how much you try to avoid it, it's inevitable. In fact, I suspect that someone sidled up to Bowie at the video premiere, shook his hand and muttered;

"You know that bit in your video when half naked woman gets Marion Cotillard's impressively spurty stigmata liberally sprayed all over her chest? Well, I find that imagery offensive. Because, actually, my mother..."

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