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Digital ad portrayed Catholic Queen as 'flesh-eating zombie'

ASA worries about children - 'heretics' not so much

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The UK's ads watchdog has slapped down the London Dungeon for running an animated ad on the tube which showed Mary Tudor, England's last Roman Catholic Queen, morphing into a flesh-eating zombie.

The ad ran on digital billboards on the London Underground, with the text "New for 2010 Bloody Mary: Killer Queen At the London Dungeon".

It featured a "portrait" of Mary "sitting still and passively".

Then, the ASA reports: "Suddenly and quickly she turned to face the viewer and opened her mouth wide in a threatening manner, as if she was screaming. At the same time, her face morphed into that of a zombie-like character, with bloody gashes, white flesh, rotting teeth and red eyes."

She then returned to normal, ready to transmogrify again.

Four people complained "the ad was likely to frighten and distress children, and was therefore inappropriate for display in an untargeted medium". Complainants said their children had been frightened by the ad, while another said he had seen children "visbily upset and shocked by the ad".

Strangely, there were no complaints from Roman Catholics or historians that the UK's biggest attractions vendor, Merlin Entertainment, was portraying the woman who sought to return England to communion with Rome as one of the undead with a taste for raw human flesh. Mary, of course, had recalcitrant Protestants burned at the stake. So even if she did have a taste for human flesh, it would have been cooked. Or at least smoked.

In its defence, Merlin Entertainment, the owner of the London Dungeon, said "'Bloody Mary' killed over 300 heretics during her reign but was one of Britain's lesser known villainous figures, overshadowed by her notorious father Henry VIII."

It said that "the object of the advertising was to show the dark side of her personality and portray her as a villain". Getting more people through the doors at the Dungeon would presumably just be a happy coincidence.

It added that it had "adhered to London Underground's guidelines in avoiding flames and excessive, dripping or running blood".

The ASA disagreed, saying it considered "that when the face morphed into the scary character, the bloody gashes, white flesh, rotting teeth, red eyes and the threatening expression meant it was not suitable for young children to see". It ordered the ad not to be run again.

Interestingly, the ASA did not take issue with the Dungeon's characterisation of the protestants Mary had torched as "heretics", something the Church of England might want to take issue with. Presumably it has no issue with turning the UK's bloody religious conflicts into tourist fodder.

Mary's younger sister Elizabeth 1 had a similar number of Catholics executed during her much longer reign. Her preferred method of bringing recusants to heel was to simply fine them for not turning up to Church of England services. But where's the gory waxen tableau in that? ®

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