Jason Gardner asks what role does censorship play in today's world?

Licence To Censor?

James Bond has just won a major battle in a career strewn with more than its fair share of fire fights and punch ups. This time though it's not Scaramanga, Blofeld or Jaws who've been bested by an assault from Britain's favourite secret agent but the Chinese censorship board. For the first time in history James Bond will be allowed behind the Bamboo curtain.

Of course, perhaps fittingly for a spy, Bond has often snuck into China in the form of pirate videos and DVD's but this time Bond will be receiving the red carpet treatment. After a flashy premiere in Beijing that will be attended by Daniel Craig and co stars it's predicted that Casino Royale will become the biggest foreign film in China this year.

So why has the ban been lifted now? Why has a figure that for years has embodied brash western materialism been embraced by the censors?

Well, for starters, in Casino Royale Bond isn't embroiled in a cold war but united against a common enemy - terrorists - he no longer clashes with communists.

But that wasn't all that used to keep Bond out. The overt violence, material indulgence and highly sexualised antics that went hand in hand with any 007 adventure used to be an affront to Chinese sensibilities - in contrast Chinese films often display strong themes of family loyalty and honour.

But times change. China's apparent embrace of western capitalism has inevitably meant accepting one of the west's ultimate icons. As Li Chow, general manager of Sony Pictures in China puts it:

"Chinese people like Bond because they like everything he represents - fast cars, beautiful women. He's cool."

China's conversion to Bond draws interesting parallels with our own attitudes to censorship. Once upon a time British audiences too would have balked at the anti - family values of Bond but now the sentiments he expresses seem very much in vogue - particularly when it comes to a laissez - faire approach to relationships.

Licence To Censor?

For example in previous outings Bonds female conquests always appear to be single or part of the private harem of some megalomaniac. In Casino Royale Bond outright boasts 'I prefer married women, it keeps things simple.'

Well at least he's too much of a gentleman to be foul mouthed, at least no derrieres are actually bared, at least when he's brutally dispatching villains little blood is seen.

But therein lies the problem with censorship. Censorship often only seems to work with the quantifiable: How much blood is there? How much swearing? How much nudity?

Of course there are offsets that attempt to provide some balance. So brutal violence will be allowed if the film is deemed to have artistic merit...(for example in the seventies 'A Clockwork Orange' was given a certificate because director Stanley Kubrick was widely respected and the film conveyed a strong political message).

What can't be assessed, though, is the impact on an individual of any film or any one scene. The 12A certificate ('A' stands for advisory and accompanied - anyone under 12 can see a 12A as long as they're accompanied by an adult) means that an 8 year old who's never seen anything but U certificates before could witness extreme, although not bloody, violence and even hear the odd 'F' word.

And as Bond premiering in China proves, tastes 'evolve' - as the values of a nation change so does our attitude to censorship and what is and isn't acceptable.