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.
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).
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.