Ten interesting nuggets from the BBFC’s Annual Report

Sunday August 7th 2011


This is somewhat belated given that the BBFC released their Annual Report for 2010 back in June, but I finally had a chance to read the lengthy document (.pdf alert!) on Friday while looking for information on 3D Sex and Zen, and some of the details hidden away within its 87 pages are absolute gold. Here are ten choice nuggets:


PARENTS ARE STILL COMPLAINING ABOUT WATERSHIP DOWN
Watership Down first hit VHS in 1987 and according to the report, ‘has featured in [the BBFC’s] complaints bag almost every year since’. This year there were three such letters, all of which suggested the film was too violent for a ‘U’ rating.


1980S KIDS TV SHOWS WERE WAY RACIST
Tickle on the Tum aired on ITV between 1983-88 but had its first home entertainment release last year when the entire first series made it to DVD. Apparently there was some debate at the BBFC as to whether the mostly benign show would receive the predicted ‘U’ rating, thanks to questionable scenes including ‘a black London milkman character, responding to a letter from a viewer (a Brownie Guide from London), saying “I used to be a Brixton Brownie”’ They eventually voted in favour of the certificate, albeit with the consumer advice: ‘Contains outdated racial attitudes’.


JACKASS 3D ALMOST CAME UP AGAINST JOHNNY LAW
Apparently ‘some consideration was given to whether [Jackass 3D] might be judged obscene under the Obscene Publications Act 1959′, mainly due to the excessive quantity of fecal matter involved in the shoot. In the end, they cited the film’s humourous tone as a defence — so don’t even think of depicting poo in a serious manner — and decided to pass it uncut.


PEOPLE ARE HOMOPHOBIC
Both The Kids Are All Right and I Love You Philip Morris received complaints specifically related to gay sex this year, and while the BBFC can’t openly accuse its detractors of homophobia, their wording says it all: ‘Seven people thought I Love You Phillip Morris… should also have been ‘18’ for its sex scenes between men and references to gay sex.’ The report goes on to compare the scenes to their straight equivalents in Sex and the City 2 (also ’15’) and concludes that they’re ‘similar in detail and treatment’. It’s hard to know which is the bigger insult: homophobia or a comparison to Sex and the City 2.


NEDS WAS REALLY CUNTING SWEARY
Neds was the only film to be classified ’18’ for swearing alone last year, thanks to its ‘frequent use of very strong language [they mean ‘cunt’], often in conjunction with violence or aggression’. Stand-up DVDs by George Carlin and Jimmy Carr suffered similar fates in 2010. As in all other years, the idea that under-18s aren’t already familiar with the word is wilfully naive.


ONE MOTHER IS CONCERNED ABOUT RIVERS
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One received its fair share of complaints last year, mostly related to the darker tone and that bit where Harry and Hermione are kinda-sorta-naked. But one parent was instead ‘concerned about young Harry walking on an iced-over river unaccompanied. She felt this would encourage young Potter fans to copy his dangerous behaviour without the benefit of magic to save them.’ The brilliance of this complaint is rivalled only by the BBFC’s snide retort: ‘The dangers of walking on ice were actually clearly illustrated in the film.’ So there.


ONLY ONE FILM WAS REJECTED OUTRIGHT IN 2010
Although the BBFC’s rejection of The Human Centipede 2 earlier this year has been the subject of much debate, outright bans remain relatively rare. Before Centipede, the last theatrical release to be denied a certificate was the 2009 Japanese slasher movie Grotesque, but one video release was rejected in 2010: a rape-themed gay porn film titled Lost in the Hood, deemed unsuitable even at ‘R18’.


THE ORIGINAL I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE IS MORE OFFENSIVE THAN THE REMAKE
Along with A Serbian Film, last year’s I Spit On Your Grave remake was one of a small number of theatrically released films to be cut for an ’18’ rating. I wrote about the cuts earlier this year in my review of the film. What I didn’t know was that the original 1978 version of the film remains cut in the UK, even after a resubmission last year. Nearly three minutes were removed compared to the remake’s 43 seconds, in both cases to lessen the scenes of sexual violence.


TAMARA DREWE ORIGINALLY HAD TWO MORE CUNTS
You’d think Dominic Cooper was more than enough! *chortle chortle chortle*. ‘But seriously’, the film originally had three uses of the word until the BBFC warned that they would likely push it into ’18’ territory, after which two were cut and Tamara Drewe secured a ’15’. It goes without saying that nobody under 30 saw it anyway.


THEY’RE STILL BETTER THAN THE MPAA
For all their insane decisions concerning bad words, the BBFC are still head and shoulders above their American counterparts in the common sense department. In the case of Blue Valentine, the draconian ‘NC-17’ rating handed out by the MPAA for ‘a scene of explicit sexual content’ looked even more shortsighted compared to the BBFC’s sensible ’15’ decision. The same was true of The King’s Speech (’12’ here, ‘R’ there). Only two films received harsher sentences here than in the States: True Grit and Season of the Witch, which passed at ‘PG-13′ in the US and ’15’ here, with the decision in both cases hinging on violence. A job well done, all things considered.