This week has seen the Prime Minister playing Mary Whitehouse again. On Monday he announced that, as of October, music videos on sites like YouTube and Vevo are to carry age classifications similar to those already in place for feature films. You can read the subtext on his ‘deeply concerned’ brow: 'if this is what it takes to get a majority…'
In principle, it’s hard to object too much. CDs (if anyone still buys them) carry parental guidance stickers, and a lot of comic books have a ratings system. Video games and DVDs follow the same British film classification board traffic-light system as cinema releases. Unless you take particular issue with any of this, you can’t really do much but shrug.
But then you clock how ineffectual the whole thing is.
For a start, there’s no plan to extend the age restriction beyond music videos. Your child won’t be allowed to watch Miley Cyrus do suggestive things to machinery, so he’ll have to make do with Syrian government clips of rebels being incinerated in air strikes. Robin Thicke may well be a creepy berk, but as corrosive spectacle goes, that ‘Blurred Lines’ video was hardly up there with the ISIS channel. (The former, incidentally, does not legitimise the latter.)
Perhaps that’s spurious (though I don’t think it is, entirely), but the real problem is that the restrictions will be like trying to stop a tank with a toy. The traffic-light classifications work because there’s an adult there to judge your age when you buy a ticket. When I was 13, a friend and I were turned down for a 12-rated film, and then got charged the adult fare on the bus home. The humiliation was alleviated when we bought a VHS of Oliver Stone’s Platoon (a 15) in a charity shop. There is always a way for kids to get around these restrictions.
For the new system, though, they won’t even need one. The most YouTube can do to filter saucy music vids is pop up a little box asking you to confirm you’re over 16. The very question is an insult to the intelligence of 12 year olds everywhere. Come on: what kind of pre-teen loser is actually going to tick ‘no’? There’s (very) vague talk of a 'customised parental filter function’, but this works on the assumption that parents can be arsed and children don’t lie. It will be infallible, obviously.
To round this off, I thought I’d share my favourite violent pop video with you. The song is terrible, but as a video nasty, it’s peerless. While you’re watching, bare in mind that I was first alerted to it by my then 12-year-old sister. Enjoy.