LONDON — As Hollywood content comes under fire again from politicians on the offensive, the British Board of Film Classification has unveiled new guidelines for films aimed at auds 18 and over. The bottom line is that sex and violence are OK, but violent sex or drugs aren’t.
The revamp comes after a series of surveys carried out by the board found that the public wants less interference in what viewers 18 and older are allowed to watch, but greater sanctions on the portrayal of violence, sex, bad language and particularly drug use in films targeting younger viewers.
Unlike the equivalent ratings in the U.S., the categories 12, 15 and 18 prohibit viewing by those under that age and are legally binding.
The new, looser 18 guidelines mean the board “will only intervene (with cuts) on the rare occasion where a film promotes violent or dangerous activities, gives instructive detail of drug use or contains particularly explicit sexual images,” according to the BBFC.
The board’s director Robin Duval explained that on that basis, the most detailed scene of drug use in “Pulp Fiction” would probably not have been given an 18 rating uncut under the guidelines. By contrast, “Fight Club,” which had two sequences trimmed because of their brutality, would likely have passed the 18 rating without the editing because of the loosening up of rules about nonsexual violence.
Greater flexibility in sex scenes will be extended to the 18 and 15 ratings, so that an occasionally explicit film like “The End of the Affair,” certified 18 amid the filmmakers’ protests, now probably would pass as 15.
Indeed, the board is more mellow about the portrayal of sex in films rated 15, saying it would be “more relaxed … but with an emphasis on responsible, loving and developing relationships.”
‘Romance’ already pushes limits
Even before these guidelines, the board granted the sexually graphic “Romance” an 18 certificate without cuts, making it difficult to see how much more liberal the category will be toward sexual content. Nonconsensual or violent sex acts will still be subject to cuts, however.
In the younger categories, even oblique references to drug taking will be severely curbed if not disallowed altogether and profanity will be more strictly rationed. Acceptable levels of violence in the younger categories also has been tightened.
The changes follow extensive public consultation to gauge attitudes toward what should and should not be permissible at the different levels of classification.