For a good long while now, I have avoided a certain sub-genre of entertainment, because I do not find it entertaining. If I were to watch such entertainment, my viewing pleasure would be severely reduced by the very likely chance of me leaking snot on my clothes whilst my eye makeup melts down my face, imagining my end whilst feeling wholeheartedly ashamed of myself. The BBFC may have their ratings system, but I have and need quite a different one that is not determined by how many nipples I see or how many times Leonardo DiCaprio days ‘fuck’. Mine is about self preservation. It is for this reason that I still do not know who Walter White is, which prevents me from making knowing on trend pop culture references in my daily conversations.
The motion picture, and in this, I include the images received on the tele box, because that, apparently, is where real filmmaking creativity can be found in this modern world, is a form of escapism. Sure, it is not always a barrel of laughs, and it can be challenging, but it temporarily takes one away from their story, into somebody else’s. Unless you are watching Panorama that is, but I do not watch Panorama, so I can make sweeping comments like the one above. As Lina Lamont says, films can bring a little joy into our humdrive lives. I have found since August 2012, that my need for and enjoyment from other people’s stories has been greater than ever, and I really enjoyed them before myeloma happened. Now though, these stories cannot feature somebody with the ‘C’ word or dying from the ‘C’ word, for if it does, my enjoyment is severely compromised.
I am aware that a blanket ban on anything mentioning cancer is impracticable. Cancer, as I have discovered, is everywhere, not just generally, but hiding in programmes one would I assume safe. Take last year’s Oscar night coverage, when I wanted to be looking at the red carpet, feeling emotional that I am maintaining a tradition, one of the presenter talks about her cancer diagnosis and recovery invoking jealously and a swift return to my realty. Even The Sopranos can be ruined by a supporting character dying from lung cancer in prison. And my childhood favourite of Beaches has been vetoed forever, and it’s not just because I have taste now.
Apart from the fact that any reference to cancer reminds me of my personal situation, the problem with cancer on TV or in movies, is that the depictions are unrealistic and I buy into that, imagining the best or the worst, whatever they are serving up for their willing audience. Films are either so incredibly sanguine, cutting from a breathless deathbed conversation to an image of a coffin soundtracked by a power ballad, which is there to tell the audience that now is the time for them to legitimately cry, or it is unrealistically jovial about the treatment, the side effects, the timescale and the recovery. They paint false ideas of what it is like to have cancer. They don’t paint my story.
So, you can see from the evidence above, that for my mind’s sake, it is best for me to avoid the ‘C’ word when seeking a temporary respite from the reality of living with it. That is why I have developed a ratings system, so that I and my friends can know what it is safe and what is not safe. I think there are still a few tweaks to be made, but you’ll get the gist.
U – Universal
Films/TV can include, mass death and natural disasters like Dante’s Peak and Independence Day. Not like The Impossible. Also includes, any of the Lethal Weapon franchise despite the grief in 1- halfway through 3 and Back to the Future. Will also allow Disney/ movies, bar Bambi and Up.
PG – Parental Guidance
Films/TV can include murder stories with minimal to no mourning, definitely no funerals, to include Midsomer Murders or Jonathan Creek . All of Alfred Hitchcock films and Gosford Park.
15–Suitable for people aged 15 years and older
Films/TV can now be set in or be about people who work in the medical profession. If I watched Casualty, it would be shown after the watershed. Grey’s Anatomy is also permitted. Films that depict traditional multi generation family structures, for example, Parenthood, are permitted. Films about pregnancy, including Arnold Schwarzenegger’s underrated masterpiece, Junior. Crying to be expected.
18– Suitable for people aged 18 or over, contains cancer themes.
Films/TV will include somebody dying of cancer, showing grief of loved ones, people being diagnosed with cancer and then discovering who they really are before it is too late/atoning themselves before the angels come to get them. Can also include films with a happy final scene, showing people smugly smiling whilst thinking of their deceased loved ones whilst looking at a flying bird. To cover certain episodes of House, any soaps if I were to watch soaps, and any of the awful cancer films listed when I googled ‘Cancer Films’.
Is that clear now? Good. Macmillan need to produce a leaflet.
As I said, sometimes, you just cannot avoid it and this is a situation I found myself in last week, which coincidentally, inspired this blog. I somehow, found myself watching a little French/Belgium production that told the story of a human being with a blood cancer (thankfully not myeloma), dying whilst having an allograft stem cell transplant, and then the last half of the film showed how the death ripped the grieving love ones apart resulting in the suicide of the dead person’s mother. It did not say that would happen on the synopsis. Films like that are my Cannibal Holocaust. Films like that keep me awake at night. Needless to say, I did not find it entertaining. I had to watch a Miss Marple to take the edge off.
And so, I wish you all Happy Viewing, remember, these classifications are there to help you. Be vigilant.
P.S. I might make an exception for 50/50, which is realistic, despite my own personal jealousy at the happy ending. It is also a reasonably good film.