‘The Film That’s Banned in Harrogate’: Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979), Local Censorship, Comedy and Local Resistance

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Abstract

This article investigates the banning of Monty Python’s Life of Brian by 39 local councils in the United Kingdom in late 1979 and early 1980. Focusing on three of these local areas–Harrogate, Dudley and Swansea–it draws on discursive analysis of local newspaper debate generated by both editors and readers, and the various arguments and strategies they employed to question the right of the local council to remove Life of Brian from their communities, including arguments relating to consumer choice and freedom and local trade and cultural reputation. Through doing this, the article foregrounds an approach that has yet to be explored extensively within the emergent body of work on local film censorship in the UK, advocating for the fruitfulness of a community-based historical analysis of resistance to local film regulation as well as the more commonly employed council-based analysis of local government files and archives. The article also considers the Life of Brian case study as an example of local film controversy where the themes and features of the film itself were drawn on by local resisters of the ban in a range of creative and productive ways.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152-171
Number of pages20
JournalHistorical Journal of Film, Radio and Television
Volume41
Issue number1
Early online date4 Sep 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2021

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