Sunday, April 29, 2018

A rude gesture at the MCU

This blog is rated 12A for implied strong language and references to violence and torture.

Those with a passing interest in British film certification will have noticed that they’ve recently adopted a new turn of phrase as part of their catalogue of film ratings reasons: ‘rude gesture’.

It’s been flagged for several films, including Pacific Rim Uprising, Rampage and Walk with Me. The former two are 12A and the latter is a PG, which suggests to me the BBFC can’t quite decide if using the middle finger is a 12A or PG-rated offence.

Just as with ‘underage drinking’, the BBFC have opened an unwelcome can of worms by introducing this classification issue, who’s lines are so blurred. After all, plenty of films, 12A-rated or below, contain the middle finger gesture, and to flag it for every BBFC short insight would make the Board look nit-picky, bordering on a nanny state.

But then, if they don’t highlight the rude gestures in some films and do for others, that seems like they’re being unnecessary harsh on some films by calling it out, whilst giving others a pass by not, and thus, being that thing that I am constantly accusing the BBFC of being on my blog: inconsistent.

A recent example of their inconsistency with mentioning the rude gesture came in the 18th and 19th films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, respectively, Black Panther, and Avengers: Infinity War.

Black Panther was rated 12A, for ‘moderate violence, injury detail, rude gesture’. The rude gesture occurred when a cheeky tech whizz (Letitia Wright) responds to her brother’s (Chadwick Boseman) jocular teasing by giving him the finger (pictured above)

Avengers: Infinity War was rated 12A, for ‘moderate violence, threat’. However, it, too, contained a middle finger gesture, given by Chris Pratt.

Both films had characters give the finger in a comedic setting, and I wouldn’t have deemed either usages 12A-worthy. So I would have rated Black Panther 12A purely for the violence and injury detail. But if they’ve flagged the middle finger in Black Panther, it seems slack to not flag it in Avengers: Infinity War. I mean, they’re the same franchise guys, apply some common rules?

As a point of interest, in Guardians of the Galaxy vol 1, Chris Pratt also gives the middle finger (Peter Quill is a creature of habit), and there’s more of a focus on him doing it than there was on Letitia Wright, due to this visual gag:

The BBFC flagged this, but not as a rude gesture. The middle finger fell under the umbrella of ‘moderate bad language’, with Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 1 rated 12A for ‘moderate fantasy action violence, threat, moderate bad language’. 

So from this, what one can infer that the middle finger sits awkwardly between 'mild language' (terms such as crap, shit, bugger, son of a bitch) and 'moderate' (terms such as dick, prick, bitch, whore, wanker), and hence the uncertainty when it comes to mentioning it for some 12A-rated films films, and not for others.

In the legion of trying-to-be-too-cautious-but-then-setting-ridiculously-confusing-bars-of-meticulousness-for-themselves, it’s Rude Gesture 1, BBFC 0.


I like to balance criticism with positivity, so two recent calls the BBFC (and the IFCO) got right were to rate two high-profile American horror movies, A Quiet Place and Truth or Dare, 15, despite them getting PG-13 in the States.

Horror is a genre which divides the BBFC/IFCO and the MPAA, as the American PG-13 rating has a higher tolerance for threat, violence and grisly images. In 2016 I analysed my thoughts on a few PG-13-rated films that got rated 15 here, and discussed this said dichotomy in said blog.

What struck me watching A Quiet Place and Truth or Dare, was just how high the bar for threat and violence in the PG-13-rated movie is. The BBFC weren’t kidding about the ‘sustained threat’ in A Quiet Place, it was literally unrelenting from start to finish.

The plot revolves around future where monsters patrol the planet, monsters who are totally blind but have hyper-advanced hearing. The only way to survive is to not make any sound.

John Krasinski (who also directed the film) and his real-life wife Emily Blunt play husband and wife in the film, and early on, it’s established that she’s carrying their fourth child. So in addition to worrying about their fates in case they accidentally make any sound, there’s the impending threat of her having to give birth completely in silence, and then somehow find a way to stop a newborn baby from crying.

As if that wasn’t nerve-wracking enough, Blunt also steps on a nail in the film. AAAAGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH.

In Truth or Dare, I was shooketh at some of the violence.

Most of it was impressionistic rather than explicitly shown, such as a character impaling himself with a snooker cue, another character hitting her friend’s hand with a hammer, or someone shooting someone else in the head.

But as any good filmmaker knows, sometimes it’s what you don’t show that is most impactful (one of film’s most famous torture scenes, the ear-cutting scene in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, carries an 18 certificate, even though you don’t see the knife slice the ear).

So I was pretty surprised at the stuff they got away with at PG-13 in Truth or Dare, but, again, grateful that the BBFC operate on more stringent rules when it comes to violence at 12A, and wisely rated the film a 15. 


Back to Avengers: Infinity War, make sure you stay for the closing credits scene. It contains an implied use of motherf_cker, a word which isn’t allowed at PG-13 nor 12A. How they’ve managed to sneak it in is very smart and ties in neatly with the plot.

And the actor who utters the almost M-F bomb? Well, which actor likes to throw that term around in other films (namely Quentin Tarantino ones), I wonder?


For more BBFC nerdiness (it's pretty much my thing), click here!


Anonymous said...

Ꮩery nice article, exaⅽtlү what I needed.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.