Before I say anything else in this article, I just want to say this. Nyah nyah, told you so. The other week I wrote an article about how The Dark Knight should possibly have come with a slightly stronger age rating than it did. Now everyone’s jumping on the bandwagon.
Iain Duncan Smith wrote to The Times to express his disapproval with The Dark Knight’s 12A rating. He said “I was astonished that the board could have seen fit to allow anyone under the age of 15 to watch the film. Unlike past Batman films, where the villains were somewhat surreal and comical figures, Heath Ledger’s Joker is a brilliantly acted but very credible psychopathic killer, who extols the use of knives to kill and disfigure his victims during a reign of urban terrorism laced with torture.”
And he’s not the only MP to weigh in. Keith Vaz, a Labour MP and Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said “The BBFC should realise there are scenes of gratuitous violence in The Dark Knight to which I would certainly not take my 11-year-old daughter. It should be a 15 classification,” while John Whittingdale, a Conservative MP, and Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee said that “This Joker is truly evil,” and “most parents and children would not know this beforehand. Nobody goes to the BBFC’s website for parental advice.” Right, but there’s a BBFC rating on the poster, and at the cinema, so it’s not like you’re going in completely unaware of the rating.
Sue Clark, spokesperson for the BBFC, told the BBC that the classification board considered giving The Dark Knight a 15, but thought that on the whole they’d receive many more complaints that way from children who couldn’t see the film (and presumably their bedevilled parents). Bizarrely, the scene everyone seems to be fixating on is the one when Batman beats up the Joker in his prison cell to get him to give up the address Rachel is being held at – which, okay, was violent, but there were other scenes which were far more disturbing and, arguably, explicitly nasty.
Still, the BBFC reckons that most of the violence was off-screen, masked from the camera, and there was no visible injury. Clark explained that it’s all comic book violence, and that “Batman can jump off buildings and fly and the Joker is not a realistic character and bounces back with a smile on his face.” That doesn’t tally with the BBFC’s stated guidelines for a 12A, though, which says that imitable techniques “should not … appear pain or harm free.” Somehow, I don’t think we’ve heard the last of this – anyone know if Gordon Brown’s seen The Dark Knight yet? Or maybe some Lib Dem MPs would like to comment, since we’ve heard from both Conservative and Labour MPs?
The thing I love the most about all this fuss is that The Telegraph posited that the BBFC might receive more complaints about The Dark Knight than any other film, ever. Quite a feat, you might think. Except that the record for the most complaints ever is currently held by Casino Royale, which got 110 complaints. Considering how many tickets The Dark Knight has sold, that’s barely a drop in the ocean of cinemagoers who felt strongly enough to write and complain.