Classification Codes: “Choose the Right Movie for Your Family”

Back in the day, I can remember putting on a movie on VCR and having to wait a significant amount of time to get through all the advertisements. There was one which has always stuck with me despite it disappearing in this new-age tech society; the Australian Film Classifications ad. How could you ever forget the family in baggy white t-shirts imprinted with the five classifications central to cinema? For those of you who have not been privy to the advertisement, I have sourced it for you here:

Despite not seeing the advertisement for a while, the Classification Board of Australia is very much alive and well. “The Classification Board is a statutory body independent from government that makes classification decisions for films, computer games and certain publications.” It aims to protect individuals from “exposure to unsolicited material that they find offensive” (Bowles & Turnbull, 2015). Drawing upon provisions set out in the Classification Act of 1995, the board essentially “accounts for community concerns” (Bowles & Turnbull, 2015).

Violence, sex, themes, drug use, language and nudity are the “classifiable elements” informing the principle decisions the board makes. Not classifying a film, game or publication means they cannot be released for sale, hire or public viewing. Violating the Classification Code also carries heavy penalties. But is it enforceable in public and in the home?

Whilst the Classification Code aims to safeguard the public screens in our lives, is it really effective in preventing individuals from seeing content they aren’t supposed to? I am almost certain a large percentage of society has snuck into an MA15+ film without an accompanying adult when they were fourteen in the local cinema. I am also quite confident that the cinema staff don’t have the chance to ask every single ticket purchaser for ID when buying a movie ticket for said MA15+ films. It might be unethical to allow a young adult to watch a movie filled with blood and gore, but enforcing the Classification Code to a tee in public is a lot less realistic than previously thought.

In the home, how can parents ensure their children are only exposed to G and PG rated content when just about anything seems to appear on television after 7PM? Well, they can’t. Programs which were once distinctly family orientated — Home and Away and Neighbours I am looking at you — are now filled with the “classifiable elements” the Classification Board searches for when determining the rating of content. Sure the program might carry a warning stating “parental guidance is recommended for young viewers,” but is that enough to shield communities from unsolicited material? What if your child goes to a friend’s house where exposure to violence, sex scenes and nudity in television or cinema are common place? Are the Classification Codes enforceable in a situation like this?

The Classification Code and the rules and regulations it establishes may be necessary to envisage a responsible and well-informed society but its imposition is entirely dependent on space. Where you are is key to how you receive an experience and thus “space becomes different when different people are in it” (Bowles & Turnbull, 2015).



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