Tuesday, 5 August 2008

12, eh?

I've now seen The Dark Knight twice (one-word review: awesome. More-than-one-word review to follow). Now I'm not someone who gets squeamish or scared or uncomfortable in films very often - in fact I'm struggling to think of the last film that actually affected me like that - but both times when I watched The Dark Knight I remember thinking that, considering its 12A certificate, some of the scenes seemed pretty close to the edge of what I'd expect to see. It took my interest therefore to read that many people had complained about the film's rating, saying that it should be a 15. I therefore considered more closely why I had also leaned towards that feeling.

I don't want to spoil The Dark Knight for anyone who hasn't seen it yet, so giving specific examples of the times I thought the content was more suitable for a 15 is tricky. There are a few scenes where the violence or threat that characters put across feels quite unnerving and quite substantial however, particularly ones involving The Joker. I remember coming to the conclusion after seeing the film that the main reason for the film being 12A rather than 15 is that very little blood is shown, and the few times it is shown it is far from gratuitous or gory. In my head, violence and blood equalled 15, just violence equalled 12A. After hearing about the complaints however, I decided to look at the BBFC's definition of what is allowed in a 12A film. For The Dark Knight, most of those (sex, drug taking and swearing) don't really apply. The main three are violence, imitable techniques and horror. And The Dark Knight definitely falls safely into the parameters laid out for a 12A.

This then begs the question of where the problem lies considering the complaints that have been received. Is the problem with the rating system? Is it not defined clearly enough to allow films to be classified into the right categories? Looking at the definition of what is allowed in a 15 film this may be the case to an extent. There are definite changes to what is allowed in each category, but the main changes occur in the aspects not really seen in The Dark Knight. Just because a film doesn't deal with every area that is considered shouldn't make the certification judgement more difficult to make.

Or is the problem with the parents? A cinematic release that is a 12A or a PG certificate requires the adult to make a judgement on whether or not the film is suitable for a child in their care. 12A does not mean "unsuitable for under 12's". It means "if your child is under 12, you should do some proper research into the content of this film before you allow your child to see it or not". And to me it sounds like a lot of the people complaining didn't do this.

So, not clear cut. But if a childless 23-year-old man who knows his limits with films can think a 12A film is pushing the boundaries for its rating, I reckon it's worth thinking about in some way.

Two brief after-thoughts, both Dark Knight related but not really long enough for their own entries:

When I went to see The Dark Knight for the second time, I remember noticing the adverts which were played beforehand. When I saw Kung Fu Panda (my review here) all of the adverts were for food, mainly sweets and breakfast cereals. Understandable enough. When I see 15 and 18 rated films, I generally know what to expect from the adverts - alcohol, cars, etc. But before The Dark Knight, four of the adverts were promoting the following: adult education, WKD alcopops, Kellogg's Rice Krispies, and a car (where the main idea of the advert was sexual excitement). This got me thinking about two things: firstly, who the adverts aimed at in a 12A, because the selection seemed incredibly broad to me; and secondly, whether the adverts are randomly selected from ones that are suitable for the film's certificate, or whether they select adverts specifically after considering what the film is about. If anyone can enlighten me further on this I'd be appreciative.

And lastly, get well soon Morgan Freeman. I'd be very sad if the worst happened to him, so I'll be thinking of Mr. Freeman and hoping for a speedy recovery.


Andy J. Wotherspoon said...

Being a man of elaborate tastes, whatever the hell that means, I just wanted a vaguely interesting opening sentence, I am generally not that affected by the content of films, when you watch korean films you tend to get desensitised quite easily, so I can't say i was made to feel at all uncomfortable at any particular point in this film, but I can get where you're coming from in some ways.

If I was a parent and had to go see a film before letting my kids watch it, I think I'd be happy, get to go see a good film then decide if my kids should go and see it too, and then get to see it again with good justification, seems good to me.

I think there will always be problems with ratings, whether with films, games or otherwise. Parents just don't seem to get that when something is rated at a certain level it should be adhered to and not to ignore it and get it for you 13 year old (thinking more along the lines of games here), and they like to complain. Ratings are there as a guideline and then personal tastes etc. need to be taken into consideration, I don't have much problem with violence and stuff like that, but when it comes to overly sexual stuff I'd prefer if it wasn't in my face. But still ratings aren't really there to tell you what the content will be like, there could be no references to sex in a 12a but some borderline 15 violence which would make some parents uncomfortable, but it's still a 12a, would they prefer more sex but a little less violence?

Regarding adverts, I think it depends a little on the cinema, but the place I used to work that doubled as a mini (1 screen) cinema, had advert reels delivered with the films so I think it's mostly targeted by an advertising company who decides what should go with what, but there may be some more broad ranging stuff that caters to 12as in general with some film specific depending on how much people have paid for the advertisement. A good test would be to go and see two 12as (or other such rating) in the same cinema and see if they have the same adverts, but not sure if that'll prove anything.

TheTelf said...

Slightly off topic, but the thing that I noticed most about the adverts in front of Kung Fu Panda and Wall-E (and which I mentioned at the time), was that none of the foods were advertised as delicious, they were all advertised as healthy, eco-friendly or natural and organic. Taste never came into it.