How many of you have seen the excellent movie “Equilibrium”?
Christian Bale, Sean Bean, Sean Pertwee … With talent like that, it’s easy to just get lost in the movie and ignore the plot.
Well, it is for me. But I digress.
Back to the plot of this entry – Do you remember how things were “Rated EC10 for emotional content”, banned, and burned, in the movie?
Now consider the idea of “age banding” in the UK.
The premise is simple – publishers want to start tagging the covers of children’s books with “age recommendations”.
You’d think this is a good idea, right?
This will end up, one way or the other, reducing the amount kids read.
You think a 14 year old kid is going to want to be seen with a book tagged as being for 8 year olds?
Given the totalitarian democracy nature of the UK, it’s only a short step before the recommendations become requirements, just as they do with movies and keep trying to force on computer games.
So that same 14 year old might end up not being allowed to buy a book tagged for 16 year olds. Or older.
It’s a completely arbitrary set of “standards” that will do nothing more than add an extra control onto the activities and learning of children in the UK, and given the UK’s predilection to micromanage as much of its citizen’s lives as possible, it will get feature creep into censorship.
We already see it with movies, how they are edited in order to gain specific ratings – you really think publishers aren’t going to start pressuring authors in the editorial process in order for a ‘script to gain a targeted rating?
Let’s think of a couple of hypotheticals a moment. Harry Potter, JK Rowling’s wildly successful series, and Terry Pratchett’s equally successful Discworld series1. What sort of rating do you think they would have gotten in the past? 10 year olds and younger? 12-18 year olds only? What?
Then think of when you read them, or you introduced your kids to them.
Books like those have become so popular because they are “suitable” for pretty much everyone, young or old – yet age banding would stifle the potential audience, based on nothing except age.
The whole idea seems to be nothing more than a half-assed attempt by publishers to appease an outcry that hasn’t yet materialized in the UK.
I think they’re running scared, that the whole video games ratings controversy has them thinking they need to appear to do something before they become the next favourite target of people who make Mary Whitehouse look like an unopinionated libertarian on steroids.
Age banding will have a huge chilling effect on authors and publishers, and threatens the natural inquisitiveness and learning ability of our kids.
Whilst publishers have stated they’ll engage in “full consultation” with authors, we know just what that’s worth – less than the cost of the cover in paper itself. Publishers should have, and likely did, expected a backlash from authors, but they’re being sneaky in their approach in trying to promote the idea.
In many ways, it seems to be a fait accomplit already.
If you think having someone behind a desk decide what’s age appropriate for your children to read, and don’t mind the idea of someone else controlling your child’s development for you, then you probably won’t be interested in seeing just how many people object to the idea of age banding, or signing up yourself to express your own objection to the idea.
- Both authors have signed on to the No To Age Banding campaign [↩]