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Sunday, 13 February 2011

The BBFC, Movie Censorship and the BAFTAS - A Post-King's Speech Discussion (Text)

Well, tonight is the BAFTAs, the British Oscars, and many people are excited to see who will win which award. Whatever the results for each individual category, however, one thing we can be fairly sure of is that the makers of The King’s Speech, with its 14 Nominations, will not be walking home empty handed. Having recently seen the movie, I am not surprised at the critical acclaim it has seen in this country, even if the Americans posting on IMDB are still flaming about it (We’ll admit that maybe not all Americans are as awful as portrayed in this film if you admit that the British were the ones who cracked the Enigma code, not Matthew McConauhey. Though, to be honest, since Churchill was half-American, they’re not THAT badly represented in The King’s Speech).

In reality, however...

But, despite the fact that the movie is brilliantly written, beautifully shot (even though most of it takes place either indoors or in fog and rain), incredibly well acted, and stars Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle working together for the first time since the BBC Adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (I mean… that’s what my mother told me, I haven’t watched it… ಠ_ಠ ), none of these aspects are what really made the film stick in my mind. No, what really made this film stand out was... the swearing.

You see, The King’s Speech, although a 12-rated film, contains the F word no fewer than 17 times. “So what?” you’re probably thinking. If you’re my age, you probably watched the South Park movie when you were 10 years old, and spent the whole of the summer singing “shut your fucking face, Uncle-fucker”, completely missing the irony of it all.

Nonetheless, I feel that the BBFC allowing a film containing so many uses of the F-word to pass through with the 12A certificate could indicate an acceptance that much of the censorship previously rampant in the film industry is finally at an end. After all, M*A*S*H was originally given an 18 certificate upon its release in the 60s for a single use of the F-word, and films are frequently rated 15 for no reason other than the ‘language’ (and the BBFC isn’t just pissed off at people speaking German, either). So could we really be seeing a new dawn in the rights of the British public to see whatever the hell we damn well please, no matter what it contains? For further evidence of this, you of course need look no further than the recent “A Serbian Film”, a movie so fucked up that Eli Roth almost certainly masturbated to it. Whilst many would have banned this film if given the choice (especially those who have watched Ted Bundy’s final interview), or at least expected the BBFC to ban it outright as they did with so many films back in the day (I mean, c’mon, Evil Dead was banned for nearly 20 years, and there’s nothing bad in that!), it actually passed the movie through with a standard 18 certificate (not the 18R it likes to give to particularly graphic films, nor the old favourite of the X rating we used to hear so much about) with only one scene cut from the entire film. In a film which is entirely about horrific sexual murders, that’s quite impressive.

So, are we seeing a new BBFC, one which is more incline to pass through all but the most horrific material it comes across, and at lower certificates than we are used to? Well, as though to answer this question, I also watched the film Mr Nice during the week, and as a result, can confidently say with all certainty, the answer to this question is a resounding “no”.

Mr Nice is, of course, the movie adaptation of the book by Dennis Howard Marks, which I attempted to see in the cinema last year, before being thwarted by its restricted screenings and poor sign posting in the roadworks infested city I did attempt to see it in (the book on the other hand, I read about a year and a half ago when Marks was supposed to be coming to give one of his imfamous lectures in Portsmouth. Then he never showed up ಠ_ಠ). The movie was enjoyable, not as good as the book, but certainly worth a watch, but it was rated 18. For those of you not familiar with Mr Nice, there is almost no violence. No sexual violence. Nothing bad at all really. On the drugs side, there is a lot of cannabis smoking depicted, and although this is glamourised throughout, there is no glamourisation of harder drugs, such as heroin or crack. Besides, how many films glamourise pot smoking and get away with a 15 certificate? Just about every teen comedy ever made is my guess.

For most of us, it played a major part in our lives growing up...

So what makes this film an 18 if not for violence, or the drug use? Certainly not the swearing, as there was probably less of this in Mr Nice than in The King’s Speech (although the C-word was possibly used – though that typically only gains films the 15 certificate unless it is used frequently). My only guess as to what it could be is this; a 3-second shot of Professor Lupin’s penis.

Meaning he's not so unlike real life bording-school teachers after all...

Now, I can understand why that would have made Harry Potter an 18, due to the effect on the overall tone of the film if Lupin was a paedophile. However, why does it give Mr. Nice an 18 rating? After all, everyone who’s read my Review of Get Rich or Die Tryin’ knows that there is a full frontal of Terrence Howard in that which drags on for at least half a minute, and isn’t all that pleasant to look at (click the link if you don’t know what I’m on about). So, how could a 3-second shot of a penis in this movie get it an 18 rating when so many 15s include male nudity (off the top of my head: The Life of Brian, 28 Days Later, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, Schindler’s List, and many, many others). So, how can this have earnt the film an 18 rating? The answer; It can’t have.

My only remaining guess, therefore, is that since Cannabis was reclassified as a Class B drug, the BBFC has suddenly started cracking down more and more on films which glamourise the taking of the drug, which Mr. Nice certainly does. If this is the case, then imagine; we are now living in a world where a movie featuring a man importing hash is given the exact same rating as a film where a woman gets her teeth smashed out with a hammer before being choked to death on some guy’s penis. Crazy.

So, basically the end result of this debate is this; the BBFC doesn’t know what the fuck is going on, and just guesses what rating to give films based on the titles. If you’re planning on releasing a hardcore murder-porn film, just call it Mr Fluffy’s big adventure, and you’ll be sure to get that U-certificate.

A Google image search for "Mr Fluffy" turns up exactly what you'd expect.

Sorry for wasting your time. I would like to leave you with Jim McCann’s arrest scene from Mr. Nice, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to have reached YouTube yet. So, with my apologies, I leave you instead with this:


EDIT: Aaaaaand just in case anyone's interested about the BAFTA side of things, The King's Speech does appear to have cleaned up, winning "Best Film", "Best British Movie", and 3 of the four acting categories, as well as some of the technical awards too. In fact, the only big one it missed was the award for "Best Director", which went to Fincher for "The Social Network". So, all in all, entirely predictable.


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