Taboo : why are real-life British serial killers rarely represented on film?

EARNSHAW, Antony Robert (2017). Taboo : why are real-life British serial killers rarely represented on film? Masters, Sheffield Hallam University.

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This thesis assesses changing British attitudes to the dramatisation of crimes committed by domestic serial killers and highlights the dearth of films made in this country on this subject. It discusses the notion of taboos and, using empirical and historical research, illustrates how filmmakers’ attempts to initiate productions have been vetoed by social, cultural and political sensitivities. Comparisons are drawn between the prevalence of such product in the United States and its uncommonness in Britain, emphasising the issues around the importing of similar foreign material for exhibition on British cinema screens and the importance of geographic distance to notions of appropriateness. The influence of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) is evaluated. This includes a focus on how a central BBFC policy – the socalled 30-year rule of refusing to classify dramatisations of ‘recent’ cases of factual crime – was scrapped and replaced with a case-by-case consideration that allowed for the accommodation of a specific film championing a message of tolerance. It answers the key question of whether Establishment pressure has been brought to bear to prevent the production of potentially offensive films, and draws attention to the lack of major studio interest in this subject matter. The broad historiography around the phenomenon of the serial killer film assesses stereotypes and the mixture of fear and thrill they engender in appreciative audiences. Nevertheless it does not examine specifically the narrow genre that exists around the representation of British murderers. Via extant interviews with filmmakers, actors, police officers, victims’ relatives, and archive correspondence from notorious criminals, this thesis addresses the lack of existing academic study in this specific area. It demonstrates that taboos have exerted and continue to exert an influence on commercial cinema films and how television productions have benefited from changing attitudes. It also outlines the method by which television producers and writers have circumvented issues of taste to make a number of strongly marketed programmes that have simultaneously attracted approbation and opprobrium.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Thesis advisor - O'Brien, Shelley
Thesis advisor - Sanchez-Arce, Ana M [0000-0002-9311-2743]
Additional Information: Supervisors: Shelley O'Brien, Ana Maria Sanchez-Arce.
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Hilary Ridgway
Date Deposited: 27 Apr 2018 11:43
Last Modified: 03 May 2023 02:03

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