This week in BBFC guidelines

Thursday September 29th 2011

That’s right, the feature that inspired apathy the world over is back. This week: shark attacks, naughty teenagers and underage nudity. Provocative!

Rated 12A for moderate violence, sex and drug references

Drugs are a bit of a hot topic for the BBFC. You can sneak them into a 12A but only if they’re portrayed as INHERENTLY BAD AND WRONG. The makers of the upcoming Footloose remake have got the right idea, including only a ‘brief sight of joint smoking by a bad teenager’. Oh those bad teenagers, what are they like? Apparently he later asks the protagonist “You get high? Cause I do, every damn day. We could go burn one after school”. This is definitely how young people speak.

Rated 15 for one scene of sexual threat and moderate bloody violence

Shark Night 3D slipped in at PG-13 in the States, so most of its content can be very easily contained at 15. There are no ‘fucks’, minimal amounts of gore and the sexual references don’t extend far beyond the phrase “tickle your privates sober” (can’t wait to find out the context for that one). Even the ‘scene of sexual threat’, in which ‘a young woman who has been kidnapped by two men is appalled when they force her to strip to her bra and panties on the deck of a boat’ turns out to be something else entirely when the men reveal that ‘their actual intention is to feed her to the fish’. Which in the BBFC’s eyes is the equivalent of baking someone a lovely cake compared to anything approaching sexual violence.

Rated 12A for frequent moderate violence and threat, and one use of strong language

Thought Abduction was going to be as bland and anaemic as its star’s acting style? Think again! The BBFC guidelines promise ‘loud sound effects’, ‘heavy blows’ and even ‘red patches on clothing’. They also detail a scene in which an evildoer puts a cigar cutter around a teenage girl’s finger, but don’t worry because ‘her hand is not injured’. Explosive filmmaking at its finest.

Rated U for mild violence and occasional natural nudity

This is an interesting one. I saw Tomboy a few months ago (it’s brillo) and wondered at the time what the BBFC would make of it. It’s about a young girl who pretends to be a boy in order to fit in with a group of kids in a new town, and features — in the BBFC’s words — ‘a brief shot of the girl standing up naked in a bath, which reveals her true female nature to the audience’. Under the Protection of Children Act 1978, the board must censor ‘indecent’ images of children, i.e. those that are in any way sexual. Obviously the images in question aren’t, but given that the film’s largely about sexual awakening and gender identity, neither can they be entirely separated from a sexual context. And as the film features no other objectionable material, the BBFC’s decision meant the difference between a U certificate and an outright banning.

They went with common sense and opted for the U.

Rated 15 for very strong language and strong violence

From the look of the plot synopsis for Gillian Wearing’s arthouse pseudo-documentary Self Made (spoiler alert), it’s quite remarkable that the film didn’t tip into the 18 category on violence alone. But even more incredible — in the BBFC’s insane world of moral hypocrisies — is that it features THREE uses of the word ‘cunt’. Yep, more than two. Could this be the dawning of a new era in British classification? An era where characters can say ‘cunt cunt cunt’ and not immediately restrict their audience to over-18s? The mind boggles.