Todd Phillips’ ‘gritty’ take on the Clown Prince of Crime inspired the most complaints to the British Board of Film Classification in 2019, it’s been revealed. More people were moved to grumble about Warner Bros and DC’s solo Joker effort than any other cinema release last year, after it received arguably unwarranted media attention from folks who were concerned that it might inspire the world’s incels to do a quick domestic terrorism or two for the lols, among other things.
Altogether, the BBFC sustained 149 complaints from the public in 2019 about 70 different films, which might not seem like very many, and it isn’t – the organisation admits that it’s fewer than half the complaints they received in 2018.
Ultimately, twenty people wrote to them about Joker, complaining about its 15 rating. “Several stated that we should have classified the film 18 because of violence and the film’s tone. A small number felt that the film should be banned. There are scenes of strong violence in the film that include stabbings and shootings, with accompanying bloody injury detail. They do not, however, dwell on the infliction of pain or injury in a manner that requires an 18.”
Meanwhile, twelve people were narked off about The Favourite. “The complaints related to language, sex references and sex. The very strong language in The Favourite is often used in a comic context and never aggressively. The sexual activity and sex references are unremarkable at 15, although their appearance in the costume drama may have surprised a minority of viewers.”
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum notched up nine moans, “all focusing on violence.” The BBFC says that their research shows “that violence that is perceived to be ‘real’ registers more strongly with viewers than violence that is clearly stylised or fantastical. While the violence in the film is strong and bloody, it is also highly choreographed and stylised action violence, of a type familiar from the previous two instalments. It does not dwell on the infliction of pain and injury and we classified the film 15, in line with the first and second films in the series.”
Five people also had a problem with the violence and language in Robert Rodriguez’s Alita: Battle Angel.
“The science fiction context of the film means that the violence, involving combat between robotic characters, is fantastical and distanced from real-world violence, so we rated it 12A,” explained the BBFC. “Similarly, infrequent strong language has been permitted at the 12A/12 level since the 12 rating was introduced in 1989.”
Bumblebee pops up in the lower half of the list for its language and violence, despite UK cinemas only screening the PG version of the film and not the 12A edit. Fighting with My Family and Holmes and Watson’s sex references prompted a few complaints too, while some thought Shazam!’s elements of horror were a bit much. Amazingly, The Queen’s Corgi rounds off the list, with five people unhappy about its sexual references and animal cruelty.
“While there is mild comic innuendo in [The Queen’s Corgi], it occurs in a comic context and is acceptable at PG,” writes the BBFC, who have to take all complaints quite seriously. “While we operate strict policies around the inclusion of real animal cruelty in films, no animals were harmed in the making of the film.”
Did you feel like any of 2019’s cinematic offerings pushed ratings boundaries? Feel free to add your variation of “here’s the real reason to complain about Joker” in the comments.