In my last article I went over some of the negatives in the MPAA, and by some, I mean millions. So now I’m going to go over the negatives, and maybe some of the positives, of the UK’s rating system.
First of all, there are six different ratings: U, PG, 12, 12A, 15, 18, and R18. These ratings are issued by the British Board of Film Classification, or the BBFC. The BBFC also can issue different ratings for DVD’s than cinema presentations, based on added content and special features. This is where the system gets a little confusing. A 12A rating means that a person under 12 may not be able to view the film without an adult with them. Since this cannot be enforced with DVD’s, a 12 rating will be given instead of a 12A. This seems strange and unnecessary, but it is the way it works. A U rating means universal and is appropriate for all audiences. A 12A rating means that it is not appropriate for children under 12 and they will not be admitted without an adult. As I said before, a 12 rating is meant for DVD’s. A 15 rating is not appropriate for any under 15 and no one under 15 will be admitted. An 18 rating means that the content is not appropriate for all under 18 and and no one under 18 shall be admitted. Lastly, R18. R18 means that the content is entirely sexual in manner and is legally restricted for adults only. Now that all that is cleared up, let’s get into what gets what rating.
How “violence” affects UK ratings:
First up, violence. Movies with little, mild violence, will get a U rating, while any movie that has any extended scenes of mild violence or any semi-graphic visuals will be issued a PG rating. Movies with more extended scenes of mild violence including the use of weapons and light blood and gore will receive a 12A rating. Any movie that has frequent and/or strong violence, has a general focus on violence, or has multiple scenes of blood and gore will get a 15 rating. Movies with a 18 rating is not restricted on what violence can be showed.
How about “strong language” and film ratings?
Secondly, strong language. Movies rated U may not have any language that is beyond what is considered “rude”. Mild curse words may be allowed but only in very infrequent amounts depending on the nature in which it was used. PG ratings can have mild language and may use words as strong as the “S” word depending on how it is used. If it is used in a harsh or offensive manner, then it will get a higher rating. Movies using the “S” word often or crudely, will draw a 12A rating. These movies may also use the “F” word if it’s not used offensively or in a sexual manner. As far as a 15 rated movie, there is no limit on how many times the “F” word may be used, and, the “C” word may be used.
“depending on the manner in which they are used, who is using the language, it’s frequency and any special contextual justification.”
As for 18 rated movies there is no limit on how, what, or how often strong language is used.
Drug use and film ratings
Next, drug use. In a U rated movie, the only references to drugs must be in an anti-drug educational message that would be understood by younger audiences. PG movies may have a, “innocuous or passing references to illegal drugs or drugs misuse,” though there should be no focus on drugs. In 12A movies there may be infrequent use or references to drugs, but it must not be focused on, glamorized, or give instructional detail. In a 15 rated movie, there may be scenes of drug use but it must not be encouraged or give instructional detail. 18 rated movies may show drug use explicitly but may not encourage drug misuse.
Finally, sex and nudity
What about sex and nudity. U rated movies may have characters kissing, hugging, or cuddling but there must be no sexual innuendo or references of any kind. PG movies can have sexual references as long as they are un-detailed, infrequent, and cannot be understood by young viewers. In a 12A rated movie there may be brief and discrete sexual content and sexual nudity must be very brief and non-explicit.
“should not go beyond what is suitable for young teenagers. Comedy may lessen the impact of some moderate sex references or innuendo but frequent crude sex references are unlikely to be accepted at this category.”
Movies with a 15 rating may display sex scenes, though not in great detail. These scenes can display some nudity, though not excessive, and the sex scenes can be long in duration. Also, there may be sexual references, though if too crude, must be justified by the context. In a 18 rated movie there can be strong, detailed sex scenes including full nudity and “depictions of real sex” as long as it is not a “sex work.” There are no restrictions on the amount or explicitness of sexual references at this level. R18 are legally restricted and can contain any amount of sexual material because they are considered a “sex work”.
Tone? The tone of the movie is also important in how the movie is rated. This is less defined than all the other categories, reminding us of the amazingly loose guidelines of the MPAA. If the tone of the movie is considered too strong for the targeted age group then it can be bumped up a rating. The tone usually is not solely responsible for an increase in rating, but it can play a factor.
Imitable behavior is a large factor in the movie rating. A movie (mostly in the lower levels: U, PG, 12A) can have it’s rating raised because it shows and/or promotes dangerous and imitable behavior. At the 15 level, very realistic and dangerous behavior that is glamorized may not be allowed either.
So, is this better or worse than the MPAA. In my opinion, it is better. There are much stricter guidelines and rules for movie rating, so parents have more confidence that the rating actually reflects the content of the movie. There are some things I don’t like, one being the age restriction for the 15 rating. I personally believe that a parent should be able to decide whether or not their child should be allowed to watch a more mature movie. Having the absolute age limit, like they have for very mature movies here (NC17) limits that choice. The upside of this is that the movie can have harsher content because they know, without a doubt, that no one under 15 will be seeing it. With the MPAA though, there could be a concern that someone under the recommended age will watch it and, therefore, the MPAA may be compelled to give the film a more restrictive rating. But, at the end of the day, this really doesn’t seem to matter.
The important thing to take away from this is that the BBFC has a more stringent, reliable, and consistent way to give ratings to film. The rules set in place by the BBFC take away a great deal of personal opinion and bias on the part of the ones rating the film, giving parents a more consistent way to decide whether the movie is appropriate for their child. If the MPAA would adopt some of the stringency of the BBFC, I think that people would be able to rely on the ratings given by them. This would make many movie goers lives, especially those with children, much less aggravating.