Age Rating of Mary Poppins Elevated to PG Over ‘Discriminatory Language’ After Controversy Unfolds Regarding Classic Film’s Suitability for Young Audiences

Age Rating of Mary Poppins Elevated to PG Over ‘Discriminatory Language’ After Controversy Unfolds Regarding Classic Film’s Suitability for Young Audiences

Mary Poppins, known for enchanting generation after generation, has undergone a notable change in its age rating.

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has elevated the rating from a U (Universal) to a PG (Parental Guidance), citing the presence of ‘discriminatory language.’

This unexpected alteration has sparked discussions around the appropriateness of the film for young audiences, and notably, the focus of contention is the use of the term ‘Hottentots.’

The Controversial Language:

The BBFC’s decision stems from the portrayal of Admiral Boom, played by Reginald Owen, who utilizes the term ‘Hottentots’ in the film.

On two occasions, Admiral Boom references this term, once while suspended from a roof in a boat, questioning if the Banks children are ‘going to fight the Hottentots.’

Later, as chimney sweeps with soot-covered faces dance on the roof, he exclaims ‘we’re being attacked by Hottentots,’ accompanying the statement with the launch of fireworks.

Historical Context of the Term:

To comprehend the controversy, it is crucial to delve into the historical context of the term ‘Hottentots.’ Originating from Dutch and first recorded in the late 17th century, the term was initially used by white Europeans to refer to the Khoikhoi people in southern Africa.

Coined by Dutch settlers in the 1650s, the term, possibly imitating the ‘clicks’ in the Khoikhoi language, gradually evolved into a derogatory and offensive expression over time.

BBFC’s Guidelines and Considerations:

According to the BBFC’s guidelines on PG content, the elevation of Mary Poppins’ age rating is attributed to the potential unsuitability of certain scenes for young children.

The guidelines advise parents to assess whether the content might distress ‘younger or more sensitive children,’ even though children of any age can watch.

The BBFC considered the film’s early 20th-century London setting but noted that the lack of explicit condemnation of the language contributed to the decision to exceed the guidelines for a U-rated film.

Racism and Discrimination Research Influence:

The BBFC, in justifying the decision, referred to its research on racism and discrimination, highlighting parents’ concerns about exposing children to potentially distressing language or behavior.

The emphasis was placed on content with immediate and clear condemnation, suggesting that such material is more likely to receive a lower rating.

This insight into the BBFC’s decision-making process underscores a contemporary sensitivity toward the potential impact of certain language and themes on young audiences.

Broader Implications and Recent BBFC Actions:

The elevation of Mary Poppins’ age rating raises questions about the broader implications for classic films that may contain elements now deemed inappropriate.

This decision comes in the wake of the BBFC’s recent reclassification of Brad Pitt’s movie Fight Club from an 18 to a 15, despite featuring ‘sequences of graphic and brutal violence.’

The evolving standards and considerations in film classification hint at a broader societal shift in attitudes towards content that may be deemed offensive or potentially harmful.

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