Saturday, June 24, 2006

Mild peril: The inadvertent humour of film advisory warnings

I saw a trailer for new Dreamworks animation Over The Hedge the other day which caught my attention partly because it features songs by the mighty Ben Folds, but also because of the quite brilliant advisory warning that the film contains "some rude humour and mild comic action" which was frankly more of an inducement to go and see the film than the rest of the trail.

Once upon a time, the life of the censor was a bit dull, dishing out U, PG, 15 and 18 certificates and demanding the odd cut with only the occasional tabloid controversy to spice things up. The advent of the 12A certificate and the associated advisory notes changed all that. Describing the potentially disturbing content of a film in a few measured words has now become something of an art form.

Much of the challenge (and consequently the humour) derives from the seemingly limited range of adjectives at the censors disposal which, in the main, appears to be restricted to 'mild', 'moderate', 'strong' and 'disturbing'. It is the combination of these adjectives with the equally limited choice of nouns which results in vaguely oxymoronic terms like 'moderate sex', 'mild peril' and 'comedy violence'.

However, it is when they are forced to abandon generic terms to address a specific indecent that the most surreal guidance notes are produced (for example, The Cave of the Yellow Dog 'contains one scene of sheep skinning').

Below is a selection of some of my favourite advisory notes:

contains potentially dangerous behaviour
contains mild slapstick
contains frequent moderate sports violence
contains dangerous motorcycle riding
contains very mild comedy violence


Lisa said...

Hello Dan -
I stumbled upon your post... you have touched on a subject close to my heart. A silly description seen on a poster always brightens my day. Gotta love the BBFC!
(see my blog

Anonymous said...

I am sure we laughed about this one time prior to your post! My curiosity is where words like 'peril' are salvaged from to appear in BBFC comment boxes. It seems such institutions have an unerring ability to make themselves look silly.

BBFC: Rated PG for moderate Mr. Beanishness.