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Wicked Campers

Updated on 9/06/2016

A further three Wicked Cult Limited campervan decisions have been released today by The Classification Office.

One more campervan ( Wicked Camper JKC403) has been classified as Objectionable (banned) and two others have been classified as Unrestricted - Wicked Camper HZN625 and Wicked Camper JMY492.

These latest classifications follow the earlier decisions released by the Classification Office on 16 May 2016 and 28 April 2016.

In total, five Wicked Campervans have been classified as Objectionable (banned) and four have been classified as Unrestricted.

The information on this page relates to all nine vehicles that we have classified.

Why the vans were classified

In March 2016 Police submitted a number of campervans to the Classification Office following public concern.

Under the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 the definition of publication includes any "thing that has printed or impressed upon it, or otherwise shown upon it, 1 or more (or a combination of 1 or more) images, representations, signs, statements, or words", The Classification Office has previously classified such 'things' as billboards, t-shirts, and even a drink can. This is the first time the Classification Office has classified a vehicle.

What can be classified

Each year Police submit a number of publications for classification. The Classification Office is required to classify any submissions made by Police. In March 2016 Police submitted some of the Wicked Camper vans for classification following public concern.

Classification criteria

All publications are classified using the legal criteria set out in the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993.

New Zealand's classification criteria

Decision summary: Wicked Camper JKC403

Objectionable

8/06/2016

After examining the campervan and applying the legal classification criteria, the Classification Office classified this campervan as Objectionable (banned).

About the van

Like the previous banned Wicked campervans JLT886, GCT799, and JKC408, this campervan uses a well-known character from children's storybooks and television programmes to present drug use in a subversive manner that is oriented towards young adult consumers. However, the size and colourful nature of the imagery on the van will inevitably draw the attention of children and young teenagers who are likely to focus on familiar characters and accept the humorous presentation of drugs uncritically.

The images on this van depict the Disney character, Goofy holding a bong to his mouth, with purple smoke appearing from it. His expression suggests intoxication, and large green letters read "Stoned!" Another image shows Goofy holding and licking cigarette papers in the process of rolling a cigarette or joint. The word "Stoned!" also appears in large red capitals.

Freedom of expression

Freedom of expression entails a certain tolerance for the depiction of drug use in various media. Film or DVDs, for instance, allow a high level of control over the manner and circumstances of viewing, including access. This same agency and control is not available when the medium is a campervan designed specifically for public display as a business promotion.

The imagery and text on the campervan are expressions of a view but not political opinion or meaningful satire: they are not making a greater point about social or cultural matters other than celebrating drug use. They exist solely to promote a business.

The right to freedom of expression has been considered. The likelihood of injury to the public good arising from the availability of the campervan, specifically the harm caused to children and young teenagers who view the images and text dealing with criminal drug use, has been identified. The protection of children and young teenagers from harmful material is paramount in this instance. This is not an unusual or excessive limitation of commercial free speech. The promotion of other potentially harmful activities to anyone, such as the consumption of tobacco, is also prohibited.

Rights of the owner vs likelihood of injury to the public good

In this instance the Classification Office must balance the rights of the owner against the likelihood of injury to the public good. The images and text on the campervan are used to attract the attention of potential customers and have a commercial purpose which is served by public display. As campervans are predominantly hired by tourists, this campervan is more likely to be in public view than a private motor vehicle. Young viewers attracted by large and colourful images of a Disney cartoon character using drugs do not have the maturity of judgment to recognise the transgressive nature of the material and are vulnerable to its normalising influence. The ongoing effect of impressionable young people's exposure to the material is likely to be the encouragement of attitudes that lead to experimentation with criminal behaviour. Significant injury to the public good, in particular the promotion of criminal behaviour to children and young teenagers arising from the public display of the campervan, is likely.

Conclusion

Because of the problematic nature of the images and text on the campervan and the likelihood of harmful and potentially ongoing effects on young viewers, a classification of R16, which would prevent access by children and young teenagers, has been considered. However, such a restriction would have consequences beyond the intended effect: the medium makes it impossible to protect children and younger teenagers without preventing the campervan from being publicly available to anyone. The application of any of the available conditions in respect of public display is manifestly impracticable.

In classifying the campervan as objectionable, the Classification Office has also taken into account that those who rent the campervan may be unwittingly criminalised if the owner considered that restricting their rental to persons 18 years and over meets the conditions of an R16 classification. While the Classification Office does not necessarily agree that the owner could contract out of their liability in this way, the classification of this campervan as objectionable removes all doubt as to its unsuitability for its intended purpose.

Read the full written reasons for the decision:

Classification Office's Notice of Decision for Wicked Camper JKC403 (PDF, 187KB)

An image of a vehicle depicting goofy holding a bong and the word stoned'
Wicked Camper JKC403

Decision summary: Wicked Camper JMY492

Unrestricted

8/06/2016

After examining the campervan and applying the legal classification criteria, the Classification Office classified this campervan as Unrestricted.

About the van

The images in question on Wicked Camper JMY492 are superimposed on a background of colourful paintwork patterned in orange, yellow and purple. The front has a large "Peace" symbol on the bonnet.

The left side has a large image of "Captain Goodvibes", a cartoon pig that was, according to Wikipedia, an icon of 1970s Australian surfing culture.

The right side has a large, central image of an eyeball with arms and legs, on a surfboard against a background of sea and sky. The image is framed by freeform orange shapes.

Text in white capitals beneath the back window reads, "Surf's short, death's long, so's me dick, pass the bong".

The harmful nature of the material to children and young people

Wicked Camper JMY492 promotes and encourages the use of an illegal device commonly associated with the drug cannabis, but it does so to a very low extent and degree. On campervans previously classified as objectionable, text and images tend to reinforce each other to produce an overall drug use theme. The same cannot be said of Wicked Camper JMY492, where the problematic material consists of a single reference to a bong in text on the back of the van. There is no supporting material in any images or text on the other surfaces. It is likely, however, that young teenagers who read the text will be attracted to humour that is broadly countercultural: it expresses the attitudes of a surfing culture that differ considerably from the norms of mainstream society. Some vulnerable young viewers may well be impressed by the images and text on the van and it is possible that this would contribute to the formation or reinforcement of attitudes leading to later experimentation with illegal drugs, for instance. However, possibility does not amount to likelihood – the majority of young viewers will be amused (or perhaps confused) by the material but not greatly affected by it.

Conclusion

While the Classification Office must be concerned about any public use of humour that makes light of drug use, in this case the link is tenuous. Only the phrase "pass the bong", appearing as part of a humorous rhyme on the back of the van, raises the question of promotion or encouragement for drug use, with or without a bong. It does not do so in a manner likely to make enough of an impression on young viewers to justify restricting the campervan from them, an outcome that would in effect be banning its use as a campervan.

If the phrase was likely to cause harm it would be at a low level. At most it may warrant a correspondingly low level of restriction. However, the Classification Office does not believe that the language used would be considered "highly offensive by the public in general", as required for consideration of a restriction. To impose a ban or restriction on this campervan would be neither reasonable nor justified.

Classification of publications under the FVPC Act requires balancing injury to the public good with the right to freedom of expression. Lawmakers of the day did not place significant weight on offence as an injury to the public good. This was not an oversight. The threshold for restricting the right to freedom of expression was set at a high level and the powers of the State are focussed on reduction and prevention of harm to avoid unnecessary interference by the State in the lives of New Zealanders.

Reference to the decision of the Classification Office on Wicked Camper GCT7983 enables a better understanding of the difference between harm and offence. The joking sexual reference in that case (to bukkake) serves to normalise a highly degrading, dehumanising and misogynistic sexual practice - causing a real risk of harm to members of the public, including children and young people, who view that reference and are influenced by it. On the other hand, the rear of Wicked Camper JMY492 contains only puerile, schoolboy humour that involves a slang term for a sexual body part and a single reference to a device commonly used for smoking cannabis. Nevertheless, the Office acknowledges the high level of public concern in relation to offensive content of the type displayed on this particular campervan.

Read the full written reasons for the decision:

Classification Office's Notice of Decision for Wicked Camper JMY492 (PDF, 173KB)

An image of the rear of a vehicle with the words 'Surf's short, death's long, so's me dick, pass the bong'
Wicked Camper JMY492

Decision summary: Wicked Camper HZN625

Unrestricted

8/06/2016

After examining the campervan and applying the legal classification criteria, the Classification Office classified this campervan as Unrestricted.

The front of Wicked Camper HZN625 has a large "Peace" symbol on the bonnet. The left side has a head and shoulders image that appears to be a version of Mad magazine's mascot, Alfred E. Neuman.

About the van

The right side has an image of a rotund, bearded figure in a red top and purple spectacles. A cigarette in a holder is clenched between his prominent teeth. Text in large yellow letters under the van's windows reads "Beatnik Bandit".

Text in white capitals beneath the back window reads, "All I want is peace in the Middle East and a blow job..."

Conclusion

In this instance, the availability of Wicked Camper HZN625 is considered unlikely to be injurious to the public good. Light-hearted text on the back of the campervan includes the colloquial slang term "blow job". The term is neither particularly descriptive nor degrading. It presumes a male audience but is not in any way a sexist joke.

If the sexual term were likely to cause harm it would be at a low level. At most the text on the back of the van would warrant a correspondingly low level of restriction. However, the Office finds that because serious harm arising from children or young people accessing the text on the back of the campervan has not been identified, a restriction is not required. To impose a ban or restriction on this campervan would be neither reasonable nor justified.

Read the full written reasons for the decision:

Classification Office's Notice of Decision for Wicked Camper HZN625 (PDF, 173KB)

An image of the rear of a vehicle with the words 'All I want is peace in the Middle East and a blowjob'
Wicked Camper HZN625

Decision summary: Wicked Camper GCT798

Objectionable

16/05/2016

After examining the campervan and applying the legal classification criteria, the Classification Office classified this campervan as Objectionable (banned).

About the van

Imagery on the campervan includes a peace symbol; the face of American beat poet, Allen Ginsberg and the text, "Don't hide the madness"; the word "Howl", the title of a famous Ginsberg poem; and a representation of Charles Manson and the text, "Make new friends. Join a cult".

First impressions of the campervan are likely to be of bright colours and large, eye-catching text and images.

However, large text on the back of the campervan reads "Bukkake ruined my carpet!" which inescapably confronts following vehicles.

The harmful nature of the material to children and young people

The text on the back of the campervan is an expression of misogyny that degrades and dehumanises women. It is unlikely that many viewers will immediately recognise the term. However, satisfying curiosity as to its meaning requires no more than a quick internet search. Bukkake is an established term describing a highly degrading, dehumanising and demeaning sexual practice that is depicted in pornography.

Young viewers do not have the maturity of judgment to recognise the transgressive nature of the material and are likely to conclude that misogynistic humour at the expense of women is acceptable, potentially increasing the likelihood that young men will view this kind of degrading sexual behaviour as normal and that young women will view it as unavoidable. A degree of harm is also likely for some adults: men who are influenced by the casual reference to the degradation of women, and women themselves, who may be conditioned to accept such degradation.

The nature of the medium being classified

The medium used to display the material removes agency and control over access from the viewer. As with the previous three campervans banned by the Classification Office, the imagery on this campervan is a form of commercial promotion for Wicked Campers and, as such, is designed to be large and to have impact. The campervans are specifically intended to be displayed to a wide public audience.

Unlike other portable media (such as DVDs or t-shirts) the problematic parts of the campervans cannot easily be covered, or displayed only in restricted areas or to select persons.

Conclusion

A classification of R18, which is consistent with other publications and would prevent access by children and young people, has been considered. However, the medium makes it impossible to protect children and young people without preventing the campervan from being publicly available to anyone. The application of any of the available conditions in respect of public display is manifestly impracticable.

In classifying the campervan as objectionable, the Classification Office has also taken into account that those who rent the vans may be unwittingly criminalised if the owner considered that restricting their rental to persons 18 years and over meets the conditions of an R18 classification. While the Office does not necessarily agree that the owner could contract out of their liability in this way, the classification of the campervan as objectionable removes all doubt as to its unsuitability for its intended purpose.

The right to freedom of expression under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act has been considered. The likelihood of significant injury to the public good arising from the availability of the campervan has been identified. In this instance the potential for injury extends from the likelihood of harm to young people’s development of sexual attitudes and behaviours to the potential for a harmful influence on the attitudes of the adult viewers.

Read the full written reasons for the decision:

Classification Office's Notice of Decision for Wicked Camper GCT798 (PDF, 209KB)

An image of a vehicle depicting stereotypical hippies with the words 'make new friends join a cult'
Wicked Camper GCT798

Decision summary: Wicked Camper EHJ635

Unrestricted

16/05/2016

About the campervan

The images and text on this campervan depict popular cartoon characters, The Smurfs - one holding a large joint, or cannabis cigarette, and the other standing in front of a large amount of smoke. The rear of the vehicle reads, "To smurf or not to smurf that is the question". The left side reads, "I don't give a smurf."

Having applied the classification criteria, the Classification Office has determined that this particular campervan does not promote or encourage criminal acts - unlike previous Wicked campervans depicting drug use that were ruled objectionable (banned).

The representation of the Smurf holding a cigarette is not particularly humorous or celebratory. The so-called cigarette is a very large and quite odd looking depiction, and the Smurf is holding it in a manner that does not immediately suggest he is smoking it. The words on the side of the van are hard to read and children and young teenagers are likely to struggle to give meaning to any of the text on the van.

It is not all that obvious that the cloud that forms a speech bubble on the right side of the van is smoke, nor is there a strong connection between the text on the campervan and any perception of drug use.

Young children are likely to be attracted to the Smurf figures but they are unlikely to find the overall visual effect of this campervan appealing. The artwork appears crude and messy, so is unlikely to attract close scrutiny. It doesn't look funny or 'cool'.

Conclusion

Unlike the text and images on the previously classified Wicked Camper JLT886, Wicked Camper GCT799, and Wicked Camper JKC408, where there was a clearly promotional aspect, there are no strongly credible references to cannabis, or to any other illegal drug, on Wicked Camper EHJ635. To impose a ban or restriction on this campervan would be neither reasonable nor justified.

Read the full written reasons for the decision:

Classification Office's Notice of Decision for Wicked Camper EHJ635 (PDF, 177KB)

An image of a vehicle depicting a smurf with cannabis cigarette
Wicked Camper EHJ635

Decision summary: Wicked Camper DZQ882

Unrestricted

16/05/2016

About the campervan

The images in question on Wicked Camper DZQ882 are superimposed on a background of pink paintwork, adorned with large spots in different colours on both sides of the vehicle. The front has the word "Wicked" on the bonnet in large red text that resembles handwriting. The text is superimposed on a white background. Text on the back window and above the side windows of the van gives contact details.

The left side has a partially-obscured image of the character, Mr Burns from the television cartoon, The Simpsons, holding a bong. A speech bubble beneath the van's windows contains the quote, "And this whole time I've been smoking harmless tobacco".

The right side has a large, central image of Homer Simpson, holding up a television remote in one hand and an open drink can splashing its contents in the other. Text in large black capitals to the left of the Homer character reads, "To alcohol, the cause of", and continues in smaller print under the driver's window with the words, "- and solution to all lifes prob" (presumably the angle of the photograph has cut off the end of the word "problems.")

Text in white capitals beneath the back window reads, "Confucius say man with dick in peanut butter jar is just fucking nuts."

Conclusion

The right to freedom of expression under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act has been considered. While the Classification Office must be concerned about any potential use of favourite television characters to promote or encourage criminal acts, in this case the link to drug use is tenuous. Only one image raises the question of promotion or encouragement for the use of an illegal drug. It does not do so in a manner likely to make enough of an impression on young viewers to justify restricting the campervan from them, an outcome that would in effect be banning its use as a campervan. Unlike the text and images on the previously classified Wicked Camper JLT886, Wicked Camper GCT799 and Wicked Camper JKC408, where there was a clearly promotional aspect, there are no strongly credible references to cannabis or to any other illegal drug on Wicked Camper DZQ882.

The sexual joke on the back of the campervan has been considered under s3A, which allows an age-related restriction for offensive language that is likely to cause serious harm to those under a specified age.

The language on the back of the van is undeniably offensive and highly inappropriate for a campervan. However, the Office can only restrict or ban a publication if there is likely to be serious injury to the public good. Mere offence or embarrassment is not sufficient to override the right to freedom of expression. If the joke, or the sexual terms it uses, were likely to cause harm it would be at a low level. At most the text on the back of the van would warrant a correspondingly low level of restriction. However, the Office finds that because serious harm arising from the text on the back of the campervan has not been identified, a ban or restriction on this campervan would be neither reasonable nor justified.

Read the full written reasons for the decision:

Classification Office's Notice of Decision for Wicked Camper DZQ882 (PDF, 271KB)

An image of a vehicle depicting Homer Simpson with words 'to alcohol the cause of and solution to all life's problems'
Wicked Camper DZQ882

Decision summary: Wicked Camper JLT886, Wicked Camper GCT799, and Wicked Camper JKC408

Objectionable

28/04/2016

After examining the vans and applying the legal classification criteria, the Classification Office classified three of the vans as Objectionable (banned).

About the vans

The images and text on these campervans use well-known characters from children's storybooks and television programmes to present drug use in a subversive manner that is oriented towards young adult consumers. However, the size and colourful nature of the imagery on the vans will inevitably draw the attention of children and young teenagers who are likely to focus on familiar characters and accept the humorous presentation of drug use uncritically.

The harmful nature of the material to children and young people

Drug use of the sort promoted by the vans would have serious short and long term harmful impacts on the psychological and physical health of children. The harm from these vans would be attitudinal more than in direct imitation of the behaviour, but the use of children's characters does increase the likelihood of uptake of the depicted attitudes and behaviours by children and young people.

Freedom of expression

The right to freedom of expression has been considered. Freedom of expression entails a certain tolerance for the depiction of drug use in various media. Films or DVDs, for instance, allow a high level of control over the manner and circumstances of viewing, including access. This same agency and control is not available when the medium is a campervan designed specifically for public display as a business promotion.

This decision is a reasonable limitation of commercial free speech - as are prohibitions on promoting other potentially harmful activities to children, such as the consumption of alcohol or tobacco.

The nature of the medium being classified

The medium used to display the material removes agency and control over access from the viewer. The imagery on the campervans is a form of commercial promotion for Wicked Campers and, as such, is designed to be large and to have impact. The campervans are specifically intended to be displayed to a wide public audience.

Unlike other portable media (such as DVDs or t-shirts) the problematic parts of the campervans cannot easily be covered, or displayed only in restricted areas or to select persons.

The humour is aimed at young adults but is presented to all ages indiscriminately. It is noted that the campervans are not hired to people under the age of 18 years. However, the age of the user(s) has no relevance to the vehicles' accessibility to others.

Conclusion

A classification of R16, which would prevent access by children and young teenagers, has been considered, however the practical challenges of applying an age-restriction to a vehicle means this is not an option. The classification of these campervans as objectionable removes all doubt as to their unsuitability for their intended purpose.

Significant injury to the public good, in particular the promotion of criminal drug use to children and young teenagers, arising from the display of these vans is likely. The nature of the medium in this case means that this injury to the public good is not able to be adequately addressed by a restriction to those over a specified age.

Read the full written reasons for the decision:

Classification Office's Notice of Decision for Wicked Campers 28.04.2016 (PDF, 280KB)

An image of the vehicle depicting Snow White using cocaine
Wicked Camper GCT799

Enforcement and penalties

This classification means that it is illegal for anyone to supply, own, or possess the vans. The maximum penalty for possessing a banned publication is imprisonment up to 10 years or fine up to $50,000 for an individual, or a fine up to $100,000 for an organisation. The maximum penatlty for supplying or distributing a banned publication is imprisonment up to 14 years for an individual and a fine of up to $200,000 for an organisation.

Read more about the offence provisions:

Plain English Guide to the Offence Provisions (PDF, 679KB)

Questions about enforcement of these classification decisions should be directed to New Zealand Police.

Contact the Information Unit if you require further information on a classification decision.