The Green Hornet has changed my mind about the 12A BBFC rating

I did enjoy watching the Green Hornet but...

I went and saw the new Green Hornet film last night. While not the best film of its genre in the world, it wasn’t too terrible and was thus mildly amusing for the basis of a Wednesday evening outing.

Yet the film has a 12A rating from the BBFC. So, children under the age of 12 can see the film when accompanied by an adult. However, there is so much violence in the film, tonnes of references to alcohol and a strong reference to drugs. How does that make the film suitable for kids under 12 to watch? In my opinion it doesn’t make it suitable for them to watch.

Part of the problem with the 12A rating is that a parent or guardian must know a significant amount about the content of a film in order to make the call as to whether it is suitable for their child to watch. And the content of 12A films varies widely, especially when you look at the main film that started it all.

It's all your fault, Peter Parker...

I remember how the release of the first Spider-Man film prompted the rolling out of the 12A rating back in 2002. Many local authorities allowed cinemas and cinema chains to release the film with a PG rating, which went against the BBFC’s recommendations that it should have a 12 rating. Spider-Man missed the boat for 12A rating on its original release, and so The Bourne Identity was the first film to receive the rating.

While videogames’ and their rating systems, mainly the PEGI system (that the UKIE is in charge of dealing with in the UK), have been going out of their way in recent years to explain to consumers the content in games that denote the specific age ratings that particular titles get, the BBFC have not. While all videogame boxes using PEGI will have symbols that show why the game has the rating, no similar system is in place for things classified by the BBFC.

Sure parents want to be able to decide whether or not their child should see a particular film. However, I think that it is time that the BBFC steers cinemas into properly stating with film descriptions that are on view at cinemas, why a film has the age rating it does. This doesn’t seem to happen at the moment and how can parents make an informed choice about what to allow their kids to watch a 12A film if they don’t have all the necessary information to make the necessary choices.

There have been plenty of films since 2002, but especially in the last few years, that have been far more violent than the first Spider-Man film, (the BBFC would rate Spider-Man as a 12A if it were re-released in cinemas today).

Scenes of a sadistic nature...

Films such as The Dark Knight and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 both had 12A ratings when released in cinemas. Both of these films had moments of extreme violence and themes of a sadistic nature in places. But where was the information in our cinemas to let parents know that these films contained such content? A number and a letter don’t seem to be enough.

I know from when I watched the latest Harry Potter that there were many parents there afterwards who regretted letting their children see the film. Sure, they could have walked out and asked for a refund during the film, but that wouldn’t have undone what they had seen.

At first, when I started this blog post I wanted to say that the 12A rating should be scrapped. Now however, I believe that it can still be used, but that plain English descriptions of the contents of individual films should be put up at cinemas and on their websites to describe why a film has been classified 12A rather than PG or 15.


8 thoughts on “The Green Hornet has changed my mind about the 12A BBFC rating

  1. I’m not happy with the 12A rating for a number of films, mainly due to the level of violence and suffering depicted in them. However, the BBFC do often outline, in detail, what takes place and why the particular rating was given/necessary.

    Green Hornet, for instance, is given the BBFC treatment at:
    A little further information is shown at the BBFC parental guidance site:

    How many parents will do this? How many parents will even *know* about this? Even if they do, will it be enough to make an impact and stop their child going despite loud cries in protest every two seconds?

    I’m not bothered if we keep the 12A rating or revert back to a 12. But I am unsettled by some content that is seemingly considered acceptable for the 12A rating. For parental guidance, you need a reasonable and responsible adult response. That, unfortunately, is not flawless. And it’s subjective.

    I’m sure some will complain that it shouldn’t be the job of someone else to say what should and should not be available to view. But even a parent cannot tell what’s going through a child’s mind. And if we’re going to keep a PG certificate which, after all, stands for ‘Parental Guidance’, what is a 12A certificate other than a ‘Parental Guidance Plus’ rating?

    • I know that the BBFC puts this kind of info up on their site, but you’re right that few parents probably know about it, which is why I think cinemas and their websites should also display summaries of such info (and link to the BBFC). It still should be left up to parents to decide, but I feel that there isn’t enough info visible about the individual ratings of films to help them make that choice properly at the moment.

  2. Hello, I work for the BBFC in a technical capacity (so please I can’t comment on what should or shouldn’t be 12A etc.) but just to highlight a couple of things.

    Generally speaking most film distributors will include the short version of our consumer advice (e.g. for The Green Hornet “Contains moderate violence, language and sex references”) on posters and other promotional materials. Most cinema websites also include the same information.

    We also publish the same thing to Twitter, @bbfcFilms

    As Martin points out, the Extended Consumer Information (ECI) we publish 10 days before any Film is released will go into a lot more detail about the exact content in any given film. This is published on our main website and our parents website for films at 12A and below.

    Very very soon, we’ll be talking about an easier way for parents to get that extended information at a cinema, rather than having to go to our website. Generally speaking though, of course we need as many people to be aware of that stuff as possible which is something people here do work on. Additionally to that end, thanks for writing the post 🙂

    Lastly, we take all feedback seriously and someone (not me!) at the end of will take the time to reply to any concerns you have about a given rating so please feel free to drop them a line with any comments.


  3. I just saw Green Hornet, and I completely agree and I was genuinely shocked by the content. All though, it did mean it was a cheaper ticket and didn’t require me breaking the law (Also Seth Rogen is God)

  4. The Kite Runner was given a 12A and a description…On the back of the dvd box (and on posters/trailers I believe). It is described as “contains implied rape”. This is complete BS. It makes me so angry.

    Memoirs Of A Geisha, likewise….The depiction of sexual content in these movies is completely inappropriate for that rating. What happens in Memoirs is sexual abuse, and whether all of it is “on camera” or not is irrelevant – if SOME of it IS.

    There’s a real danger with showing “some” of something, I feel. Think of the scary movies…you’re always more scared by what you DON’T see….BECAUSE you see “some”. This is a consideration both the MPAA & BBFC simply don’t make.

    Having lived in Britain most my life I think the BBFC needs to be disbanded now. And a new rating system begun, with a new Board. I would keep U, PG and 18 and lose the other ratings. I would instead favour U, PG, 14, 16, 18, & 21 as ratings. I don’t believe “fantasy violence” is always “less harmful”. I don’t believe swearing is less harmful in a “humourous context”. I do think the camera lingers on the results of violence far too long in most “low rating” movies.

    I’m no hard-butt with movies and their ratings, you understand. But I do feel very strongly that in 2012 people are being led to believe that the BBFC is providing as useful a service to the public as it once did. This is not the case. One thing to bear in mind in these “difficult economic times” (which, frankly, I think is a bunch of blown out of all proportion horse-hockey we’re being spoon fed…but that’s a whole ‘nother matter) is that no movie gets a release without a rating….and paying the required fee to the BBFC, so that they will give it a rating…

    …Take from that what you will. And if you trust that they will take the appropriate care, while reviewing said movie for possible dubious content, then good luck to you! Cause I don’t trust them as far as I could throw a humpback whale. This distrust for ratings boards (felt by many), combined with the price of dvd’s, is another part of what’s currently killing movie theatres.

    The current rating systems of the US and UK are riddled with more moralistic holes than the pope’s colander.

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