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Responding To The Censor

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Mark Kermode Mark Kermode | 16:27 UK time, Friday, 16 November 2012

I posted recently about the role of the BBFC these days and you came back with some great responses. Here is my pick of your comments.

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Related Posts on Kermode Uncut
Celebrating The Censor

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  • Comment number 1.

    Thanks for the broad based feedback (and honourable mention).
    I have to agree with those comments towards the end where folk are concerned with the choices parents make over which films to take their children to see. If I child is bored or upset by a film you've made a bad judgement over taking them to see, take them out of the screening. I think cinema staff are justified in asking someone to remove a distressed or disruptive child - and if they have to stop the screening to do it, that would be fine by me! I wonder if any cinema in the UK recently has had the guts to do it.

  • Comment number 2.

    The problem with the NC17 rating is the prudish attitude towards films that deal with sexual themes when violent films like the Saw series are routinely rated R. Shouldn't they all be rated NC17.

    As for the 12A rating, it seems that any film not aimed directly at a young audience is rated 12A. Seeing as 12A has a very broad scope would not a minimum age for each film be more practical, for example Spiderman minimum age 7 years The Dark Knight minimum age 10.

  • Comment number 3.

    Have you looked at daytime TV recently?

    You can watch various crime documentaries featuring graphic reconstructions of actual murders; you can see Criminal Minds, CSI, NCIS, (featuring garrotings, rape, disembowelment, evisceration, flaying, gouging, slashing, stabbing as well as autopsies featuring corpses in various states of disrepair) in the comfort of your own living room well before the watershed. But if you wish to watch all of the above in a darkened room with a bunch of like-minded adults - you need a certificate from the state, photographic ID and a urine sample.

    What a world, what a world...

  • Comment number 4.

    With the last part of this "Kermode Un-Cut", I couldn't help being reminded of The Dark Knight Rises Tradegy Shootings. I recall the news repoting that young children were present at that midnight screening?! That film was far too mature for their age group.

  • Comment number 5.

    I think the parental responsibility is a sticking point that needs to be more expressed when it comes to classifications. Moreso in the home environment, as in the comfort of your own home there is a certain degree of trust in the adults to monitor and verify the content their children and teenagers are exposed to is in fact appropriate or sufficient to hold their attention. And this does go across the board in all areas - movies, post-watershed TV shows, music, games etc etc.

    I'll add this anecdote; I have a friend I will call Jenna. She is much older than me and has two teenage sons, and a few years ago she bought them the Dead Or Alive movie. This was because her boys actually like the video game, although she wasn't really sure why. On sitting down to watch it, she said she was mortified there was fighting, blood and excessive shots of female breasts, moreso an entire segment of girls having a proper scrap in tight clothing on inflatable rafts on a swimming pool. She complained to me about it and said she didn't realise why the movie was so "sexualised." To which I had to ask her - you've bought your boys the games in the past. How can you NOT know the biggest selling point of these games is that the girls have ridiculously large breasts? You really expected the movie to be ANY different? The games are softcore porn with kung-fu. Why would you expect the movie to deviate from what is obviously a winning formula for them?

    Her response? She never checked the games. She didn't play them so she never really took the time to look at the back of the box, or watch her boys play the games, because they knew what they wanted and she thought they were sensible boys. They asked. She bought.

    She is not alone. Parents give into their kids demands nowadays and parents are shocked when they find out what it is they are buying. I have no sympathies. I am grateful my grandparents took such an avid interest in what I liked. My grandfather refused to buy me Mortal Kombat 2 for the Super Nintendo in 1994. He bought a games magazine, he read about it, he looked at the screenshots and he ended up instead buying me a game called Zombies Ate My Neighbours. He thought it was... well... better. Better quality, and a better use of 'horror'.

    Zombies Ate My Neighbours! remains one of my most treasured possessions. I did play Mortal Kombat 2 a few years later though, when I was able to legally buy it. Let's just say, my grandfather was absolutely 110% right not to buy it. Not because it was rated 15. But because it was... well... really rubbish, actually.

    Parents should take an interest in what their kids like and want. They should know their kids better than anyone, if they are surprised about the content that they have bought for their darlings... I think that should be raising alarm bells, and I wouldn't be pointing the blame at the movie, music or game in question...

  • Comment number 6.

    "recordings that have been refused a certificate, or supplying to someone younger than the certified age) is a criminal offence"

    I maybe wrong but that makes the bbfc worse. In the uk stuff is censored to the degree that distribution is illegal, in the us, the mpaa is a bit of a joke but at least if you decide to go unrated, you are free to do as you wish.

  • Comment number 7.

    On further considerations of censorship, its also interesting all comments for bbc stuff are either highly restricted, and kermodes own videos on youtube have comments entirely disabled for some reason. This seems far more common in the uk than the us.

  • Comment number 8.

    Hearing about the bored child running about has crystalised that an ever expanding age bracket doesn't do the trick. We need 'suitable for' or 'not suitable for' certain age ranges. Not some clumsy '8-12A' E.g. that film mentioned 'The Vow: suitable for teenagers and adults, not suitable for kids'.

    You could extend it to cover other groupings, e.g. "Pan's Labyrinth: suitable for the intelligent, not suitable for idiots' or 'Prometheus: suitable for idiots, not suitable for the intelligent'.

  • Comment number 9.

    Well said, Wetnap, I share your concerns about the comments on YouTube. You have to wonder what they're worried about. I mean, could a few acerbic rants from disgruntled geeks re: new Twilight movie contribute the BBC's current crisis?

    It's PC gone mad.

  • Comment number 10.

    Thanks for bravely including my particularly obscure Hayes Production Code joke. For those whose heads it blithely sailed over, an entertaining reminder of the rules that afflicted the golden age of the Hollywood Studios from the Broadway Cast of A Day In Hollywood, A Night in the Ukraine:

    While parents can't be expected to have eyes and ears everywhere, those that completely dump their own responsibilities and expect the gatekeepers and artists to vet content for them are ignorant. Parents are (or is it "should be" sadly) the responsible adults who should know their children well enough. Sensibilities vary, and a budding Kim Newman, or Kermode may not need the same shielding as the next Mary Whitehouse (alright, I couldn't think of a better analog). My parents in the allegedly permissive 70's took me to see the R rated likes of The Taking of Pelham 123, The Day of the Jackal, and Blazing Saddles (also, back then Walkabout squeaked a PG although there are a few pretty disturbing moments amidst the stark beauty of the rest of it). Parents should exercise judgement, without exercise, judgement gets flabby and stupid. What does that teach your children? (I really have to get my analogy meter seen to).

    On the other hand, where would we be without the whiff of the taboo that accompanies that candy we can't have until we're older. I'm sure there's a few horror fans whose fascination as a child began with the question, why can't I see that?.....

  • Comment number 11.

    I found it very very interesting towards the end of Kermode Uncut regarding very young children being taken to see 12A rated films.

    Years ago I reviewed films for BBC Radio Leicester's website and I can remember going to see Jurassic Park 3 and there were parents there who had taken a young child in with them to see this film (the child could not have been more than 3 years old). It still astonishes me how brainless some parents are when they think that they can take a child to see a PG or 12A rated film and yet wonder why their child has nightmares for days afterwards.

  • Comment number 12.

    I do wonder if we'd be better off losing the age ratings completely and just relying on the BBFC's excellent 'extended classification information'; some people (like the MPAA) are fine with violence but can't stand a hint of sex, some people (like my partner) don't have a problem with films having sex or swearing, but doesn't like violence above about a 12A, and some films (like Made In Dagenham) get an enforced 15 rating for less swearing than many twelve year olds will hear (or use) in a normal day anyway.

    Plus, if the easy spoon-feeding option of age ratings went away, parents might have to actually make a proper decision based on what was left.

  • Comment number 13.

    The 12a is the perfect example of people wanting to have thier cake and eat it too. Despite valiant attempts by the BBFC to ensure the films suitability is ensured, its regurually flounted by man who dont understand it or simply dont care. Whats extra annoying how some of them become up in arms about it after the fact, as evidenced by complaints about The Dark Knight in 2008.

    Honestly i'd make it clearer or abolish the certificate outright. For example, The Dark Knight Rises and Skyfall are not suitable for a 7 year old but some still insist on taking thier kids. You may know your child better than anyone but this still stands true. Apologies, not meaning to offend.

  • Comment number 14.

  • Comment number 15.

    The point about distributors acting as censors is oh so true. As a film festival goer, I often see films that have no UK distribution deals. This prevents me from watching them again, unless I can find another festival screening, and since it includes some of my all-time favourite movies, I am left eternally frustrated.

    I have seen beauty but can never again experience it.

  • Comment number 16.

    The issue with the 12A rating is a tricky one but ultimately it is down to the parents. If I remember correctly it was pressure from parents whose children would have been unable to see Spiderman that led to the introduction of the 12A back in 2001. I think the rating serves a purpose in that there are plenty of children under 12 who are mature enough to cope with films like this and it is nice to see the BBFC being so responsive.

    Although instances of children running around the screen should certainly be blamed on the parents, the cinema/multiplex is also culpable. Far too many cinemas seem more concerned with selling overpriced food and tickets than creating a pleasant environment to watch a film in. Refusing entry to parents with young children when the film is clearly unsuitable would go along way towards improving the situation.

  • Comment number 17.

    I went to see Skyfall recently and there was a baby in the cinema and a few really little kids. I'm not in the UK at the moment (which mean the kids were trying to read the subtitles) but it reminded me of seeing Casino Royale and sitting through the torture scene with a child of about 6 and his brother of about 10 in front of me. They were not happy.

    If parents were responsible enough we wouldn't need to have age classifications, just a suggested age, but they're not so we don't. The 12A rating is just trouble for cinema staff and responsible cinema goers.

  • Comment number 18.

    I saw this The Master in the 70mm. I haven't seen it in the digital print to compare, but I was blown away by it.

    Always think its worth making the extra effort to see the film in the way the director intended it to be seen, to be able to truly judge the film.

  • Comment number 19.

    Its interesting about how the BBFC charges £2,000, because ive been told by an independent film disturbutor that they have given up on cinema screenings because its too much hassle to get a rating from the BBFC. Not only that but the DVD etc also has to be given a seperate rating, and so does all the extra features of the DVD, so another few thousand pounds here and there has to be paid even though its the same film, and at the end its cost them £8,000 of which they then have to question is it worth it.

  • Comment number 20.

    The BBFC has improved remarkably over the last decade, that's for sure. But the shadow that looms over them is still this rather sleazy act of collusion where the studio and the censor (and there's no way around that - that is still what they are despite the difference in emphasis) will cosy up together for advice screenings about how to butcher the film before the actual submission so as to target the most financially lucrative demographic. That has nothing to do with art or morality - that's just destroying films for money.

    With the release of the latest Bond film Skyfall remaining unscathed by the censors due to a shift away from the palpable nastiness of Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, and towards something approaching subtler melancholy, it's probably a good time to reflect on one of the least well known hatchet jobs in the Bond series history. Back in 1997, Tomorrow Never Dies was extensively revised through this pre-cut process to the point where the BBFC almost become a second directorial hand brought in by the producers to completely alter the tone set by Roger Spottiswoode. Now whether one agrees with Spottiswoode's decision to make a much bloodier Bond film in a series that has huge appeal to tweens, that is what the man ultimately intended as his final vision. To reiterate, these are not changes made at the conceptual script level, rather the BBFC invalidating the director's decisions more or less DURING his editing process, posing the question, then what is the point of a director?

    A very through analysis of the troubled history of Tomorrow Never Dies is featured on a fantastic video by Gavin Salkeld called Cutting Edge.

  • Comment number 21.

    The BBFC is by far one of the most conservative rating systems in Europe (more closer to restricting certain content like Germany and Ireland). It isn't so hard to see that France, Denmark, and the Netherlands are much more liberal. Needless to say, the BBFC, like and should, have to understand people's concerns with showing certain kinds of ideas and imagery to younger audiences.

    The problem is, young people are likely to see something explicit online through pirate copies or inappropriate websites that cause spam and cookies. BBFC could be a bit more aware of a trend that is happening as of now as film attendance is seemingly lower than back in the 70s and past (by exception, with films like Skyfall, Avatar, and Harry Potter making big money).

    Also, the BBFC have TO BE MORE AWARE of films and TV shows on DVD with quite brutal violence like Kick-Ass (15, which you agree but I disagree but this film is just extreme), Elfen Lied (15, graphic, extremely gory, and disturbing to watch), Watership Down (U, like many, it was too violent), The Incredibles (U, pretty violent. Best for PG), Princess Mononoke (PG, gory and shocking at times), Casino Royale (12A/12 and 15, the 12A was too strong and borderline). No need to cut, censor, and ban films but let people if it's going to make themselves and their children feel uneasy.

    As well, films that have some controversial/debatable humour and ideas like The Dictator (15, very crude, bold, and threatening) and films that have rough/coarse language can be given some leeway if social/political/historical context that will help young people understand things is permitting in films like Sweet Sixteen (18), The King's Speech (12A/12 originally 15), and All the President's Men (15), Frost/Nixon (15, ridiculous. Just one use of "mf"). I'm sure many 13 year olds heard the f-word and probably the c-word during their 10-minute breaks, out at the football field, or eating lunch.

    Also, the 18 certificate is getting more like the NC-17 in the USA. In other words, it's getting rarer by the second and most of the 18 films today have the c-word used or show rape, a few ones here-and-there for graphic violence or sex. I'm not suggesting we need to go back to the 1980s or 1990s on these issues but being wise in the name of what will affect young people, especially when technology is out there (see videos that have f and c-word without age restrictions on YouTube) and dignity and moderation is getting thinner. I'm sorry Dr. Kermode, but like you, the BBFC has faired itself well by explaining what a film has and I like the way they function a lot but some of their decisions are a little offbeat and skewed. They don't have to be France (liberal) or Singapore (conservative) on this one!

  • Comment number 22.


    The BBFC is a little unusual in that gruesome acts of death and murder can be shown at lower categories but rape cannot and some depictions can get cut/censored. Murder, torture, rape, and suicide are all felonious criminal activities, why can't they be treated in the same way. Most audiences, in terms of violence, prefer to see it in an action form. When it is horror or thriller, people can get unsettled, frightened, or disturbed. Their policy on horror, in terms of non-gory horror, makes some sense but what will likely impact children (and teens) more if they see a creepy ghost making noises in the house or watching a maniac intrude in one's house using a chainsaw.

    On video games, their decisions are by-and-large consistent with the exception of Canis Canem Edit (15, which is one of the most offensive works ever. Should be 18) and Manhunt 2 (18 as censored/cut, don't ban it just don't let children play it. Also, the game Dead Island have the same kind of gore and weapons used). As well, let the whole PEGI v. BBFC battle end. PEGI, slightly more strict than the BBFC, ought to have no involvement in Britain. BBFC needs to reflect British sentiment, not European to give consistency just like Germany's system with FSK.

    On economic grounds, it does make sense that they do charge a fee to classify your work but don't let it deter off the smaller distributors. After all, it will only make money and a lagging artistic culture more powerful.

    My last word here, "A society should be free to choose as long as the parents and children know together that some things that might give them an impression to where they can waste tax money, their lives, get in trouble with the police, and cause bother is what needs to be taken into account. One gory image or sight of breasts shouldn't automatically result in a 15 or 18."

  • Comment number 23.

    If you want to have a bit more leeway in a ratings system that doesn't involve age restrictions and you can use these ratings for your videos and other works, please visit YouTube and see TheVisualBureau channel to find the video "Film Ratings." You can use the following ratings (G, PG, PG+, and MA) if you want under the Creative Commons license.

  • Comment number 24.

    I always check the cBBFC before taking my child to see a 12A film,if it says its no good for him,he wont go even if he wants to see it,i wouldn't like to be bothered in a screening so there is no way i would allow my son to do it to others due to boredom

  • Comment number 25.

    The BBFC had just changed the look of the website. It may look modern and awesome almost like the format that the IFCO or CNC Film Classification system of France does. But does it look too new, flashy, and confusing that it kind of lost its way to trying to be looking too new. It only ruined the whole bland experience of knowing about film classification even more.

  • Comment number 26.

    Some posters have mentioned here the need for the BBFC to be more specific in whether a film is "suitable" or not for kids when it comes to 12a rated movies. I have to say that I disagree. The guidelines are available for all to see when it comes to why the movie has received a 12a certificate, and the movies themselves can be viewed by parents before they take their kids to see them. The BBFC is not a better judge of what is suitable for my children than I am. The buck stops with me when it comes to what I let them watch.
    For example, I recently watched Thor with my 8yr old son. I watched it first due to it's 12a rating, was satisfied it was suitable for him, then we watched it together and we both loved it. He subsequently saw a tv spot for Woman in Black and asked me if he could watch that. I had my doubts based on the subject matter and rating, watched it myself, and came to the conclusion that it was in no way suitable for him (and would in fact scare the bejesus out of him). As a result he has not seen it. My decision was made on the basis of knowing my child and having viewed the film for myself. Surely the current system the BBFC has in place is better than the BBFC simply lazily "upping" the ratings of these movies to 15 certificates, or cutting them to ribbons to hit the PG rating?


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