Friday May 27th started off with a scheduled presentation from the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) at 11:00 a.m., giving us some time to catch up on our sleep. This is the equivalent to the United States’ Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rating system. Of course, after hearing about the BBFC’s rating system and watching film clips to help us better understand their purpose, it was evident just how different the two rating systems are.
We arrived after walking from the hotel – the weather was overcast, but no rain like the day before. The building is located right by Soho Square, a mini-park in the center of the road.
A PowerPoint presentation had been created for our group. The BBFC, established in 1912, is not government affiliated, and their main purpose is to provide consistency of rating the films. ‘Examiners,’ in other words, the film reviewers, need no requirement to maintain their position, however having children of their own is a benefit.
The U.K.’s rating system is structured with letters and numbers, much like our own, however each letter and number differs. Where we have the G, PG, PG-13, R, NC-17, and unrated films, the BBFC has U, PG, 12, 12A, 15, and 18, and R18 ratings. Here is the definition of each rating:
U: Potentially standing for ‘universal,’ U means the film is suitable for all ages.
PG: Parental guidance. There may be some very slight suggestive material, but can be viewed by almost all ages.
12 and 12A: The same criteria is used for both. Typically the films that are assigned these ratings contain very brief or discreet sexual innuendos, moderate violence, and moderate language. No one under 12 can view a 12A film in the theater, unless accompanied by an adult.
15: No one under 15 can either attend the film in the theater, or even rent the film in a store. The films that receive the 15 rating have higher tolerances for drugs, nudity (in both sexual and educational contexts), violence and language.
18: More explicit sexual images are allowed in an ’18’ rated film. This is more of an equivalent to our ‘R’ rated films – no one under age 18 is permitted to attend ’18’ rated films, or rent them from the store.
R18: No R18 films can be sent via mail, and these films are only allowed to be sold in licensed sex shops. In other words, an R18 rated film is a pornographic film.
After learning of these ratings, our presenter showed us clips of certain films to give us a better understanding of why they were given a certain rating. We were in this presentation for about two hours, and then, around 1:00 p.m., we were given five hours of free time before 6:00 p.m., where we had pre-bought tickets to watch a film at London’s Imax theater.
In our time off, the majority of our group split up. I, with two of my roommates traveled down to the Thames River to see the Tower Bridge and Tower of London. Wow – truly are both remarkable staples in London’s historic landscape. The Tower of London is where the ‘crown jewels’ are kept (one of London’s most high-security areas). It is like a castle with walkway and room after room (or, chamber after chamber) of stain-glass windows, fortresses, and writings on the walls from where prisoners were tortured and kept.
We then took the tube underneath the Thames to the London Imax theater to see Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides in 3D. This is the U.K.’s largest movie screen – it truly occupied one entire side of the wall. It was neat to view a movie here, for not only was the screen huge, but one of the Imax workers used a microphone to welcome us all to to the show, and also to remind us to ‘dispose of all rubbish in the rubbish bins.’ Why can’t they be this polite in the U.S.?
After the film some of us opted to go on the ‘London by Night’ bus tour – a tour on a double decker bus which took us all around London’s famous landmarks, all lit up. We of course wanted the top deck seats, and although it was extremely chilly out, and difficult to snap pictures on a moving bus – it was nearly magical to see the city lit up as well as learn more trivia about the landmarks from our garrulous tour guide.
By the time the tour was over it was past midnight – too late to take the tube! We walked all the way back to our hotel…almost a 90 minute walk. It is absolutely incredible just how much energy London gives off after midnight. Restaurants, shops and bars were thriving with people. People were also roaming the streets laughing and talking as if it was 7:00 in the evening.
We returned to the hotel exhausted, but not tired enough to sleep yet. We were still excited about the next day – which we had off from media tours.