Sex & Violence in Films: Part 1

30 May

By Ozzie

Has sex and violence in films changed over the years? How do other countries classify it? We decided to compare the UK to the US to see how the two countries view sex and violence in films.  At what age is it acceptable to see graphic content? Part 1 of our series will review the UK rating system then conclude with the US in Part 2.

In the United Kingdom, the classification regulator is called the British Board of Film Classification or the BBFC.[1] It is a non-profit, independent organisation, which although it has no power, it does provide a valuable and important service. Founded in 1912 and originally called the British Board of Film Censors, it was created to provide clear and universal classification of movies, so that the public could make informed choices about what to see.[2]  It started off with only two classifications, U for universal and A for adults but grew to four classifications by the 1970’s with several changes to some categories. In 1982, the system changed and became something close to what we are familiar with today (U, PG, 15, 18 and R18).[3] A new law, the Video Recording Act 1984, was brought in and the organisation had to do an overhaul.  The Act states that all video material must be classed by the BBFC. The British Board of Film Censors became the British Board of Film Classification in light of the new role. While still continuing with its original mission, they now assist Trading Standard Officers and police in regards to any material breaking the law.[4] They findings are viewed as evidence in criminal proceedings. Another service they provide is to assist the media industries make safe material and not inadvertedly break the law. If a film maker is not happy with the classification of their movie, the BBFC can suggest which scenes need to be cut to qualify for a lower classification. The BBFC has also added two more categories, 12 and 12A.[5]

Current Ratings

U – U stands for universal. Films with this certificate are suitable for anyone over the age of four.  No illegal drugs (unless it’s for an anti-drug message), dangerous behaviour or discrimination will be featured in it.  Swearing, nudity and sex must be very mild and used infrequently. If horror or violence features in it, it too should be very mild. After that the film must reassure the audience.

PG – This certificate stands for parental guidance. These films should be suitable for anyone aged eight and over. For those younger, parents are asked to use their judgement as to whether or not the context is suitable for them.  This classification is much like the U rating in that the content must be mild. No dangerous behaviour should be displayed. Nudity, sex and swearing must be mild again. Discrimination and illegal drugs reference can only be used for educational purposes. Horror and violence should be short and again mild enough to not upset children.

12/12A – 12 stands for the age a child can buy or rent material with that rating as it will generally upset those under that age. 12A is used for cinemas only and means that parents must accompany those younger than twelve. This category starts to introduce adult behaviour. Sex, violence, swearing, discrimination, horror and nudity maybe used in a moderate non detailed manor. However, they should not be prolonged, glamorised or frequent.

15 – No one under the age of 15 will be allowed to view the film at the cinema or allowed to buy or rent the material. Violence, drug use and dangerous behaviour are permitted but are not allowed to glamourize nor dwelled upon. Nudity and sex maybe shown but not in graphic detail. Strong swearing maybe used frequently.

18 – No one under the age of 18 is allowed to watch, buy or rent the material. The work must be kept in line with the BBFC’s findings and The Human Rights Act 1998.  Adults are free to decide what they watch, however there are still some exceptions. Films showing material that breaks the law, images of highly explicit sex, sexual violence or material that would cause harm to the public’s health and morals are not allow.

R18 – This means restricted 18 and is nearly the same as the 18 rating. This also includes explicit consenting sex and fetishes between adults. These films are only allowed to be shown in specially licensed cinemas and sex shops. Any material which breaks the law, including the Obscene Publication Act 1959, scene of sexual abuse, violence or lack of consent (whether real or simulated) is not allowed.

To give you an idea of what the UK ratings are equivalent to in the US. We compared two films currently out in theatres in both countries. The film 13 Assassins received a 15 in the UK and in the US received an R rating.  Priest also out in theatres received a 12A rating in the UK and in the US it received a PG-13.  To give you an idea of what a film with an 18 rating looks like. Taxi Driver was re-released for it’s 35th anniversary and received an 18 rating due to its violence.  After reviewing the UK film ratings it’s amazing to see the tolerable age differences between the two countries.  In Part 2 we will analyze how the US MPAA rate sex & violence and why.

  Please join us for a discussion: Tuesday  5/31/2011@7pE/12UTC
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69 Responses to “Sex & Violence in Films: Part 1”

  1. Littlebells May 30, 2011 at 9:35 AM #

    That was awesome Ozzie!!!

    Wow, I am so confused! *Insert crazy eyes* 🙂

    I think I am more confused about the U rating. Three year olds can’t go to movies? Also, what movies have “mild sex” for a 4 or 5 year old? What is considered mild sex???

    • ozzie20 May 30, 2011 at 3:49 PM #

      Sorry, I should of explained that a bit more. I think there is a classification called Uc which is suitable for those under 4, however I think it is down to the parents decision if they allow their children to see those classed as U.

      Hugs and quick kisses come under mild sex. People in swimming costumes comes under mild nudity and words like shoot or dang (used as to express anger)come under mild swearing. Using terms like that do make it sound worse than what they actually mean but that is how it is described on the official site!

      • littlebells May 30, 2011 at 4:22 PM #

        OOOOOOOKAAAAAY! That makes more sense. Haha! Thank you for clarifying.. 🙂 I didn’t know holding hands was mild sex. LOL!

        • comic relief May 30, 2011 at 7:18 PM #

          Hi all,

          I guess the English are right, swimming clothes can seem to be a kind of nudity. Unlike the clothes at the beginning of the last century, so often you can end up seeing far more than you expected to.

          Revealing though this may be; this evaluation can still seems a little harsh, IMO.

  2. ozzie20 May 30, 2011 at 3:56 PM #

    I’d like to give a big thank you to Open Book in regards to this article. I had a personal problem come up during the end of writing this and was unable to finish it. Open book very kindly offered to help. The title and last paragraph are hers and she deserves recognition for her good deed!

    Thank you very much Open Book. You are a super star! 🙂

    • littlebells May 30, 2011 at 4:24 PM #

      OB, you really are! *applause*

      • ozzie20 May 30, 2011 at 4:27 PM #

        Oops, forgot to add the opening paragraph that list too!
        Thanks again, OB! 🙂

      • comic relief May 30, 2011 at 7:19 PM #

        “extra applause”

  3. Parisienne May 31, 2011 at 8:10 AM #

    Hi Everyone!

    Ozzie,

    Excellent Article. Its very informative. It seems that the British have stricter ratings than the US does, IMO. Does England have Redboxes? A redbox is a machine that one can rent DVD’s from. If so, how is the renting regulated since it is not manned by adults?

    • ozzie20 May 31, 2011 at 3:35 PM #

      We have no Redboxes, which sucks! You can only rent from rental shops or online.

      • Littlebells May 31, 2011 at 5:22 PM #

        Bummer!!!! They are really handy. Maybe they will catch on.

        I won’t be here for the discussion. my mom is in town (btw, Ozzie, she is great, it’s more our relationship from ToE that is similar) and I can’t just bail on her for a few hours! haha!

        I would like to say I’m interested to see how exactly US rates things. I like that you British folk have more specific ratings. I swear I have seen PG 13 films that were far worse than R and it’s incredibly annoying. The fine line between PG-13

        • Littlebells May 31, 2011 at 5:27 PM #

          Dang’t!

          Continuing on…

          the fine line between the two seems so blurry. And don’t get me started on parents who take their 4, 5, 6, 7, or 10 year olds to see these gruesome, bloody, viiolent movies!!! You wouldn’t believe how many first graders have told me they have seen “Chucky”, “Saw”, and whatever else horrible film is out there. Some people should not be parents. Sorry, I got a little off topic there.

          I look forward to coming back and reading your comments. 🙂

      • Open Book May 31, 2011 at 7:15 PM #

        Wow! No RedBoxes? Do u have Blockbuster video stores there? Here in the US they have closed most video stores and switched to kiosk stations instead.

        • ozzie20 May 31, 2011 at 7:18 PM #

          There used to be a chain of Blockbusters but they filed for bankruptcy. Someone bought them out but closed down all but 500 stores. The one in my town closed.

          • Open Book May 31, 2011 at 7:42 PM #

            Yeah! I knew they were in closing down stores I just did not know how wide spread it was.

            • ozzie20 May 31, 2011 at 7:46 PM #

              Ah, so it was a world wide thing. It sucks because I used to rely on it. I’d rent before I’d buy. I have no clue with the online ordering of dvd’s to rent. It seems odd to me! I can do streaming though. 🙂

              • Open Book May 31, 2011 at 8:14 PM #

                Can u stream videos on Amazon?

                • ozzie20 May 31, 2011 at 8:23 PM #

                  I don’t think so. I’ve not heard of it anyway.

  4. Littlebells May 31, 2011 at 6:56 PM #

    Ok, I’m here for a few…:)

    • ozzie20 May 31, 2011 at 7:01 PM #

      Hello LB!

    • Open Book May 31, 2011 at 7:05 PM #

      Hi LB & Ozzie!

  5. Open Book May 31, 2011 at 7:02 PM #

    Welcome new and returning visitors.

    Ozzie- Great article!

    • ozzie20 May 31, 2011 at 7:05 PM #

      Hi!

  6. Open Book May 31, 2011 at 7:04 PM #

    Ozzie-

    So if u rent online how do they regulate if kids are renting them?

    • ozzie20 May 31, 2011 at 7:12 PM #

      I think you have to give your bank details so they can take payment off it. I assume they check with that. I’ve never done it before myself so that’s a guess!

  7. Parisienne May 31, 2011 at 7:10 PM #

    Hi all

    • Open Book May 31, 2011 at 7:11 PM #

      Hi Paris!

      • ozzie20 May 31, 2011 at 7:12 PM #

        Hi Paris

  8. Open Book May 31, 2011 at 7:11 PM #

    Do theaters in the UK show films that are not rated?

    • ozzie20 May 31, 2011 at 7:14 PM #

      All films have to be rated by law but it’s up to the local council as to what they show.

      • Open Book May 31, 2011 at 7:18 PM #

        So the UK are more strict than in the US. I mean they say films don’t need to be rated to show in theaters but no theater will show unrated films.

        So do UK filmmakers ever complain about censorship?

        • ozzie20 May 31, 2011 at 7:20 PM #

          Yes, there are grumblings every now and then. It’s a funny system from what I can gather.

          • Open Book May 31, 2011 at 7:26 PM #

            So how does the UK view nudity in films in general? Do people find it gratuitous or see it as artistry?

            • ozzie20 May 31, 2011 at 7:32 PM #

              Oow, that’s a good question. A hard one too! I think artistry may just win. It also depends on the context it’s presented, I think. If it’s done in a classy way and not use repeatedly it seems to be ok.

  9. Parisienne May 31, 2011 at 7:17 PM #

    R people that try to sneak into the theater prosecuted?

    • ozzie20 May 31, 2011 at 7:21 PM #

      Probably not. The most I think would happen would be a ban on that person at that cinema.

  10. Parisienne May 31, 2011 at 7:22 PM #

    Ok ladies time 4me to head out. Ttys.

    • Open Book May 31, 2011 at 7:23 PM #

      Thanks for joining us! Paris

      • ozzie20 May 31, 2011 at 7:33 PM #

        Bye Paris!

  11. Open Book May 31, 2011 at 7:28 PM #

    Ozzie-

    Has nudity and violence in films gotten worse or milder in the last decade in the UK?

    • ozzie20 May 31, 2011 at 7:35 PM #

      Probably worse or rather more wide spread. There’s always going to be film makers who wish to push the boundries, but I think people in general, are becoming more open/used to it. Hense the increase.

  12. Open Book May 31, 2011 at 7:41 PM #

    Do the UK filmmakers show more of the consequences of violence rather than only the act of violence in films?

    • ozzie20 May 31, 2011 at 7:42 PM #

      It’s about 50/50 I think.

      • Open Book May 31, 2011 at 7:51 PM #

        I notice Britain gangster films tend to be rooted in morality and greed to define the human condition. How does the UK view the film The Godfather?

        • ozzie20 May 31, 2011 at 7:55 PM #

          It’s considered a classic. I have them on dvd and watch them quite regulary. I even listen to the commentary on them, lol. I’m such a nerd!

          • Open Book May 31, 2011 at 7:58 PM #

            What rating did the film receive?

            • ozzie20 May 31, 2011 at 8:00 PM #

              It’s an 18 rating.

              • Open Book May 31, 2011 at 8:06 PM #

                Really?

                How about Goodfellas?

                • ozzie20 May 31, 2011 at 8:09 PM #

                  That’s an 18 too.

                  • Open Book May 31, 2011 at 8:13 PM #

                    What commercial film has received a R18?

                    • ozzie20 May 31, 2011 at 8:23 PM #

                      Alien, Pulp Fiction, The Silence of the Lambs, Pulp Fiction, Die Hard (not too sure on that one), A Clockwork Orange, The Fly, Seven,The Exorcist, etc. Wasn’t sure what you meant so I gave a list!

                    • Open Book May 31, 2011 at 8:28 PM #

                      Thanks Ozzie!

  13. Littlebells May 31, 2011 at 8:08 PM #

    Oh my gosh!!! My mom has been busy with the kids and I got lost in working on my article!!!! Off to catch up! 🙂

    • ozzie20 May 31, 2011 at 8:09 PM #

      Lol, no problem! 🙂

  14. Littlebells May 31, 2011 at 8:13 PM #

    Open Book, you said:
    Do the UK filmmakers show more of the consequences of violence rather than only the act of violence in films?

    That is a great question. I often find it disgruntling when consequences of violence are never shown. Kids tend to think nothing will come of their actions from violent films or video games.

    • Open Book May 31, 2011 at 8:17 PM #

      Have u watched many British Gangster films? The consequences of Greed is a running theme in the genre.

      • Littlebells May 31, 2011 at 8:18 PM #

        No, I haven’t. What would you recommend?

        • Open Book May 31, 2011 at 8:27 PM #

          Lock Stock and Two Smocking Barrels
          The Lavender Hill Mob
          Face

          • ozzie20 May 31, 2011 at 8:30 PM #

            Thanks OB. My brain had gone completely blank!

            • Open Book May 31, 2011 at 8:33 PM #

              LOL! That’s o.k. it happens to be one of my favorite genres.

          • Littlebells May 31, 2011 at 8:34 PM #

            Ooo!! I will definitely check them out!!! Off to dinner now. Ozzie, I will have more questions next time, I promise. 🙂

            have a great evening ladies!

            • Open Book May 31, 2011 at 8:37 PM #

              Goodbye LB!

              • ozzie20 May 31, 2011 at 8:39 PM #

                Bye Littlebells, have fun!

        • Open Book May 31, 2011 at 8:42 PM #

          Here’s a trailer of Face.

          • Open Book May 31, 2011 at 8:48 PM #

            P.S. The soundtrack for this film is great!

  15. Open Book May 31, 2011 at 8:36 PM #

    Everyone-

    I have to go but I have one more Q. Ozzie what did u learn from writing this article that u did not know before?

    • ozzie20 May 31, 2011 at 8:41 PM #

      I learn what each classifications entail and the various laws surrounding it. I found it very interesting.

      • Open Book May 31, 2011 at 8:46 PM #

        I learned a lot. Thanks again for the great information and article!

        Hope u have a nice evening.

        • ozzie20 May 31, 2011 at 8:48 PM #

          You’re welcome. Hope you have a nice evening too!

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