Talk to us here at Rochford Life : 0786 342 7294 or E-mail us. For other numbers see individual pages.
Make a point of visiting us weekly!        Tell a friend about us.
12. Film Certificates & the Generation Game

This week Penny moves in more philosophical mode. Now perhaps we need a little bit of a health warning. Look back over some of her previous writings and you’ll find she is an strong advocate of ‘mind what you let your children watch’ and her warnings are very strong. Bear that in mind as she takes you along some dark paths with some serious questions.   
To return to Penny’s ‘front’ page, please  CLICK HERE
BBFC Certifications: Then and Now

Recently I’ve been wondering about films and how they are classified with their certifications. Do you remember when films could be banned? Back in the 80’s it didn’t take a lot to become a video nasty and these days with the right editing anything can pass at an 18 onto the shelves.

Are the guys at the BBFC getting soft? Or are we as people becoming desensitised to gore, violence and sexual content? I vote for the latter as a girl who has grown up without any video nasties – because they are all being reinstated and remade for the enjoyment of the public. Now, if you’ve read my earlier epic rants about film – you would know that I love horror films in all shapes and sizes. This little investigation isn’t because I don’t agree with the contemporary laws – I’m just curious about how much things have changed.

The event that started this all off really was one particular film that came my way but which will remain nameless. This film is hands down the worst thing to be released into the British populace that I have ever seen. I wish I didn’t watch it and I hope that none of you experiences it either. It got removed from my work twice because the BBFC and the head honchos demanded it, but the film also returned both times. As far as I know now, the film is widely available in stores.

I can’t go into telling you why this film was so horrific, but rest assured that if something disgusts me – it is really, really bad. Of course everyone knows about the film that got banned by the BBFC once and after numerous cutting of scenes, finally got released late last year, one of the most controversial films of our time yes, but this got more attention as an almost banned film than my nameless film ever did. The worst film out of the two got put through, whilst the ‘controversial one’ went back to the editing suite.

Why have things changed so much? Oh, and
why do parents forget that if a game is rated 18, that it is EXACTLY the same as a film being rated an 18? I do not know, but I aim to find out a little bit.

Originally established in the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) is funded directly by the film industry (independent from the government) and is responsible for upholding the British certification laws, classification and censorship of all films (and again when they go to Blu-ray/DVD) and games that contain short plot storyboards a.k.a. cut scenes. Legally, local authorities have the final say about a classification but they nearly always agree with the BBFC recommendation. Any film that has not been supplied with a certificate or awarded an equivalent certificate from another country – is illegal to be distributed in Britain.

The Americans are really different to us in the way that they classify their films, namely with their swearwords. Think of the worst swearword in our country, and chances are you’ll be thinking of the same one I am. In Bridget Jones’ Diary there is a part nearer to the end where the character Julian gets frustrated with a seamstress and calls her that word. It has now been changed to ‘ham fisted cow’ to avoid a different certification.

In the 60’s and 70’s the BBFC were very liberal. The reason for this is simply who was in charge. Back then we had a man who banned everything he could in order to gain clean viewing, or as much as he could muster (Straw Dogs, Clockwork Orange etc) and he was very much the same in the 80’s. Those who control the BBFC control what we watch – or don’t watch as was the case. Yet, what he ended up doing was something inevitable. Banned films became the most sought after and most popular films around and if you were planning a trip to the States, these films were ripe for the picking! Later lobbying by certain influential film gurus ensured that gory horror classics like Last House on the Left and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre were re-certified by today’s standards and re-released to an eager public. How clever!

Contemporary times hold no surprises for us. We’ve seen chest-bursters, maniacal chainsaw wielders, fetishist murders and rubber sharks. Could nothing else phase us? Well the film-makers still think they can. Especially Japanese films, some of which continue to not pass the certification process to this day....

These days, certain marketing strategies have placed strain on unbiased certification, one example being the upcoming Hunger Games (which I want to see!). When a film is marketed toward a certain audience and doesn’t receive they certification to allow younger audiences to see it, they plead poverty and the BBFC often concede if certain things are taken out of the film by rough editing or given a dubbing over. Anyway, perhaps part of the reasons for the change in procedure is the new laws put in place recently – namely the Video Recordings Act 2010. It sure is different to the PC nature of doing things don’t you think?

So what is better?
 Hardly anything gets banned without good cause, allowing us to watch anything we want. However, what are we exposing the younger generation to? Films that are supposed to be scary and classified a 12  are no longer on the radar for kids wanting a thrill. A horror movie rated 12 is like a romantic comedy rated 18 – it doesn’t happen without good cause and this time it’s because the other is designed to make you jump. No swearing, violence or gore – just jumping out of your skins is what a film like that is engineered for. Current horror makers are following in stale footsteps and think that to be scary, a film must be at least a 15. But what do kids want these days? The most disgusting thing on the shelf, that’s what.

So here is where my generation game comes into play. Do you agree with me about all or nothing? Do you find that filmmakers are doing everything they possibly can to disgust you and the younger generation? Will 7 year olds in the future watch an 18 and not care at all what they’ve just seen? And what will it do for them?

As parents you still need to be vigilant. There are horrible things out there – both in games and films alike and you need to be aware of the facts. Watch footage first of what your kids want to see/play and make the decision yourself. Don’t let them make it for you.
18 films are for when kids are ready, not when they think they are.

Penny’s Contents Page

Top of Page

Penny Glen Investigates