Movies using the n-word are to get at least a 12A rating

‘Warning: Actor in make-up portraying a different ethnicity’: BBFC will alert viewers to film roles involving ‘assumed racial identities’ – and uses of the n-word will mean at least a 12A rating in rules shake-up

  • British Board of Film Classification has conducted research on discrimination
  • It found the n-word was ‘the most contentious’ and sparked ‘strongest response’
  • It will take ‘stricter’ position on classification of films and shows using the word

Films which use the n-word should receive at least a 12A rating, the British Board of Film Classification has ruled, and viewers should be warned if actors are shown in ‘blackface’ make-up.

The BBFC noted that in its research about discrimination, of all the language considered, this word was the ‘most contentious’ and sparked the ‘strongest response’.

The board will also use the phrase ‘an actor in make-up portraying a different ethnicity’ when describing ‘assumed racial identities’.

Its report also said that this type of behaviour – sometimes called blackface portrayals – would likely require a higher age rating in a modern film than it would in older movies ‘where the intent may be different’ and the content can be seen ‘as a product of its time’.

It will reveal today that it is adopting an ‘even stricter position’ on the classification of the n-word in the ‘junior’ categories.

Films and videos which use the n-word should receive at least a 12A rating, the British Board of Film Classification has ruled where previously they may have been classed as a PG

But it said that while the word will usually ensure a piece was not classified lower than 12A for film or 12 for video, this could happen if there was a ‘clear and strong educational value’, such as in a documentary which appealed to younger audiences.

The 2016 Jesse Owens biopic movie, Race, was classified as a PG. In the film, a white man uses the n-word in a derogatory manner about the legendary 1930s sportsman and other black athletes.

It would probably be a 12A or 12 if it was resubmitted today, despite its positive message about overcoming adversity.

The film body’s research also revealed the public do not think older films and TV shows should ‘necessarily’ need higher age ratings if they have ‘outdated behaviour or language’.

But they would like to be warned about offensive words or portrayals.

Jesse Owens biopic Race (pictured) featured a white man using the n-word and was classed as a PG but the BBFC feel that it would be classified as 12A or 12 on video if resubmitted now

Lord Kamlesh Patel, Vice President of the BBFC, said: ‘Movements dedicated to raising awareness and combatting discrimination and racism have gained important traction in the last two years.

‘In response, we wanted to see how this has impacted the views of people in the UK and, particularly, to hear from and listen to those who have been directly impacted by discrimination and racism as their voices are important.

‘We recognise that our role isn’t just about protecting children from harmful content, it’s about helping parents who might want to use depictions of discrimination and racism as a potential teaching moment.’

David Austin, Chief Executive of the BBFC, added: ‘Violent and threatening behaviour, or use of particularly offensive language, will always aggravate an instance of discriminatory or racist behaviour.

‘However, clear condemnation, sympathy with the victims, or a documentary or historical setting can all work to help frame the sequence and potentially give the content educational value for younger viewers.’

Minister for Creative Industries, Julia Lopez, said: ‘I’m delighted to see the BBFC taking a strong stance on classifying racism and discrimination in eligible film and TV shows. This important work will help the public, and parents in particular, make more informed choices about what their children watch.’

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