‘Tea and Consent’ written by Rock-Star-Dinosaur-Pirate-Princess, produced by Blue Seat Studios

Tea and Consent is a public information animation which is used with permission by Thames Valley Police to address and clarify issues of sexual consent as part of the Consent is everything campaign. This simply rendered Flash animation draws a parallel between sexual consent and the intuitive etiquette associated with offering someone a cup of tea.

In essence you can offer someone tea but it’s not acceptable to pressure or force him or her to drink it. The elegant metaphor behind the short film originates from a blog post written by the feminist blogger Emmeline May, a.k.a. Rock-Star-Dinosaur-Pirate-Princess.

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When exploring this work in the context of animated documentary it is important to recognise that this film does not comfortably fit with Annabelle Honess Roe’s 2013 definition of the genre, which follows a few rules:

Firstly, is it animated? Yes.

Secondly, does the animation reflect an imagined world of an auteur or ‘the world’? This is not as clear. The film primarily addresses a hypothetical scenario, which raises an ethical sexual dilemma. This dilemma is explored explicitly through a metaphor. It is also a distillation of the controversial social and political ideologies of the feminist writer, Emmeline May.

However, I don’t believe these points suggest the film is about an imagined world. The issues addressed clearly reflect a very real problem, while the ideology that is represented considers a majority perspective of our Western society and is supported by the legal system. It is also fair to suggest that theoretical or allegorical devices are a key part of the animated documentary language and help shed light on reality rather than an imagined world.

Finally, was it the intention of the filmmakers to create a documentary? I believe not. I would argue that it was the intention of Blue Seat Studios and Emmeline May in making it, and of Thames Valley Police in their use of the film, to change behaviour rather than observe and capture it.

Tea and Consent sits more comfortably amongst the state sponsored animated propaganda of the mid 20th century than contemporary animated documentary discourse: ‘Animation has historically been used as a tool for illustration and clarification in factual films… [It’s advantage over live action] led to an ever greater uptake of the medium by the US government in the Second World War.’ (Honess Roe, 2013)

Nonetheless, animated educational and propaganda films were an essential evolutional stage in the development of contemporary animated documentary and clearly still have a useful role to play.

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While the issue of consent is often received as a grey area topic, Tea and Consent proposes that it is a simple one. The analogy is powerfully robust. This very strong foundation facilitated the exploration of ambiguous and horrifying sexual conduct with incredible clarity and humour. It has not however been disseminated across the Internet with universal praise.

Comments on the film’s Youtube page have now been suspended, but I can testify that I was startled by the sexual aggression and anti-‘political correctness’ sentiments expressed in some of the comments posted previously. Sadly Youtube has a reputation for providing a platform for the vitriol of anonymous misogynists.

The simplistic Flash animation lends itself to easily rendered parodies. The two I’ve seen awkwardly contort the tea/consent analogy either for ‘comedic value’ or as a counter argument. The first version pushes the concept to an absurd extreme, suggesting that it is never safe to drink tea without lawyers present. The second explores an ill-conceived comedic inversion in which a “slut” wants tea in all scenarios. Neither of these spoofs deserves viewer hits so forgive me for not sharing their links.

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My bias is clearly highlighted by the fact that I feel naturally suspicious of the people who are offended by this film. I wonder if those who are most threatened are also individuals who would benefit most from its message. I suspect this argument is a little reductive and extreme.

The Internet is a breeding ground for such conflict after all and I resign myself to this. I neither have the energy or the skill to engage and attempt to change the minds of those I mistrust, unlike the makers of Tea and Consent.

Notes:

Honess Roe, A. (2013) Animated Documentary, London: Palgrave Macmillan. p.5&9

Animation courtesy of Emmeline May at rockstardinosaurpirateprincess.com and Blue Seat Studios. Copyright © 2015 RockStarDinosaurPiratePrincess and Blue Seat Studios. Images are Copyright ©2015 Blue Seat Studios.

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‘Acts of Terror’ by Fred Grace

Acts of Terror’ portrays the U.K Police force as an intimidating manifestation of growing state control. The 2005 Terrorism Act comes under scrutiny in this real life account of one woman’s careful navigation of the murky waters of police regulation and the U.K. legal system.

The film is commendable for the incredibly clear construction of its narrative. We are led through what must have been a complex set of legal procedures with a crisp sense of simplistic clarity. The animation follows, possibly less successfully, a similarly minimal motif. On occasion one is left with the feeling that a few extra frames were needed or wondering if the thuggery of police officers may have been better expressed than by giving them homogenised slanting closed eyes. However the court battle, where the style of an early 90’s close combat game is adopted, is where the writing, animation and sound design most successfully harmonise. This simple witty metaphor illustrates the ultimately futile struggle the protagonist felt in seeking justice.

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‘Acts of Terror’ is an engaging campaign-based animated documentary that is charming and informative. It left me with the great hope that if, one day I found myself in the specific circumstances of the protagonist armed with the knowledge this film imparts, thus allowing me to personally triumph over a police officer when exercising my civil right to film them.  I will just need to make sure there is no way they can suspect me of terrorism.

I first watched this film at the London Animation Club where the organiser, Martin Pickles, proudly stated the club’s role in connecting the film’s makers. Gemma Atkinson, Adam Ay and Fred Grace of Fat Rat Films gave a presentation at LAC proposing that an animator come on board. Following this they met Una Marzorati, who animated the entire film, and Tom Lowe who designed the soundtrack. Collaboration forums are exciting environments to observe and participate in. We wish the film-makers the best of success in spreading their message and hope for many more years of networking at the London Animation Club.