An illustrated guide to the BBFC certification system

Tuesday June 19th 2012


The BBFC are running a small exhibition at the University of Westminster at the moment to celebrate their centenary, and yesterday I went down to have a look around. If you’re in London and interested in ‘this sort of thing’, it’s a must see — full of interesting bits and bobs from across the board’s history. What’s more, it’s on the site of the Old Cinema, home to Britain’s very first public film screening in 1896, and it’s first X-rated film screening in 1952.

While there, I picked up the latest edition of the BBFC’s guidelines pamphlet, and was thrilled to discover that — along with all the usual bumpf about ‘moral harm’ — they’ve added photographs to each certificate page, illustrating the intended viewer of films in that category. I’ve reproduced them below for purely educational purposes.

Despite the presence of a photographer directly in their line of sight, these children appear to be enjoying their U-rated, anaglyphic 3D movie immensely. I am, however, surprised to see three of the four kids looking so alarmed. The guidelines state that ‘scary sequences should be brief and unlikely to cause undue anxiety to young children’ at U. Maybe these crybabies are just too sissy for a bit of ‘mild peril’.

We’re only at PG and already things are starting to get shady. What is this little girl hiding behind that laptop screen? What despicable PG-rated filth is she covertly viewing in the comfort of her local library? I bet she loves the ‘innocuous’ drug references, ‘non-detailed’ violence and ‘natural’ nudity, doesn’t she? THE BRAZEN HUSSY.

“Bro! Wanna come round and play some Wii? I’ve got loads of cool 12-rated games like The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Maybe afterwards we can ‘infrequently’ use strong language, have ‘brief and discreet’ sex and ‘not dwell’ on the infliction of pain. Just because one of us is clearly in his mid-twenties doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy an ‘occasional’ crude sex reference!”

Uh-oh. Shit just got hardcore. The lights are off, the pizza’s out, and the studded belts are in full effect. Can you imagine the kind of raunchy stuff these two are going to be enjoying this evening? Whatever it is, you can be sure there’ll be ‘verbal references to sexual behaviour’ and some ‘strong menace’. Maybe even a ‘contextually justified’ use of the word ‘cunt’. Remember though: this isn’t the top category, so let’s no go too wild. And keep a kitchen roll nearby in case of greasy fingers.

Holy fuck. What has the guy on the left just seen? And how can his lady friend remain so poised in the face of such smut? I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is almost definitely a screening of I Spit On Your Grave. In which case, jeez man, who brings popcorn to a screening of I Spit On Your Grave? Totally inappropriate.

What a cop out! The previous five pages have all established a very clear formula, showing us ‘who’ is watching the films of each certificate, not ‘where’ they’re being watched. I hereby swear I will not rest until this brochure is re-printed with a full-page glossy photograph of a middle-aged man masturbating furiously over the latest R18 release. WHO’S WITH ME?

Oh.