22 Dec 2021
The British Board of Film Classification has raised the rating on Jaws from PG to 12A meaning no one younger than 12 may see the film in a cinema unless accompanied by an adult. The same fate has befallen The Goonies, Romancing the Stone, the Rocky films and many more. Considering what is available on the internet the BBFC appears increasingly Canute-like in its role of moral arbiter. Nevertheless, the rating changes are inspired the BBFC’s regular surveys and therefore reflect shifts in public opinion.
The potty-mouthed Goonies, Rocky’s relentless battering and that shark have all been deemed unsuitable for unaccompanied children. Is this evidence of molly-coddling or an admission that PG was a cavalier rating that allowed inappropriate material through the gaps?
Ridley Scott’s ‘The Last Duel’ was controversially awarded an 18 certificate. The Telegraph’s critic Robbie Collin wrote that the BBFC had lost the plot. In the film a violent rape is depicted from different points of view and Collin suggested that such shocking scenes would be instructive to fifteen-year-olds boys – preventing them from witnessing it a backward step.
There are some advantages to the changes in that footage previously cut to obtain a PG rating can be restored under the new certificate. Indiana Jones’s second outing saw the ripping of hearts from sacrificial victims removed to gain PG status. The cut is rather awkward and restoration would clearly help the film.
Societal responses to issues like racism, sexism and general discrimination have become more acute sometimes surmounting traditional concerns about sex and violence. The BBFC says its changes are to “keep in step with the direction in which society is moving”. Society certainly has changed since Mary Whitehouse condemned the permissive society of the 80s. What also has changed is the influence and reach of the BBFC which today exists as a largely irrelevant sideshow.