According to the annual report released on Friday by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), disgruntled viewers sent the organisation quite a few complaints about age ratings in 2018: specifically, the BBFC received 364 complaints about 101 different films and 67 complaints about 24 trailers. The report also revealed the UK's most complained about film in 2018. The winner of that illustrious title? Red Sparrow, the American spy thriller starring Jennifer Lawrence as a Russian ballerina turned intelligence agent.
The film, given a 15 rating in the UK, received 64 complaints, all from viewers who thought its "elements of violence and sexual violence" warranted an 18 classification. The BBFC explained its decision: "During post-production we advised the film company that an 18 was likely but that they could achieve their preferred 15 by making reductions in one scene of strong sadistic and sexual violence The film company made reductions and we classified the film 15."
"There are also some scenes of sexual violence," the BBFC added. "In each case characters interrupt or prevent the attack, beating or killing the assailant. Given the lack of aggravating factors such as strong nudity and eroticisation in these scenes, they are permissible at 15."
The second most controversial film of the year, according to the BBFC? Nothing other than American children's film Peter Rabbit, if you can believe it, which was rated PG in the UK and received 50 complaints. The rabbits' most egregious offense, according to most of those who complained? "A scene in which the rabbits pelt their adversary, an adult man, with fruit in order to defend themselves from his attack and provoke an allergic reaction," the BBFC said (apparently, viewers worried children would copy the move).
Here's the BBFC's (very sweet) justification: "The scene in question does not feature any bullying but is instead part of an ongoing battle between the rabbits and the owner of a vegetable garden. The pelting with fruit is simply one of the ploys the rabbits use in order to overcome their nemesis in response to his attempts to trap them, electrocute them, drown them and blow them up."
Two films were the targets of organised campaigns: British documentary A Northern Soul, which received a total of 48 complaints, and Indian Tamil-language action drama Kaala, which received 43. The filmmakers of the former handed out postcards for viewers to submit, arguing that a 12A would be a more suitable rating than a 15; the latter saw 43 identically worded email complaints, which "seemed to object to the actions of the filmmakers."
Here's a depressing one: the PG trailer for American teen rom-com Love, Simon received 18 complaints, 11 of which objected to the lead character being gay in a PG-rated trailer (the film itself was given a 12A rating.) Thankfully, the BBFC had a no-nonsense response for the homophobes: "We apply BBFC guidelines to the same standard regardless of sexual orientation and so classified the trailer PG."
Other films which sparked a crossly worded letter or two? Show Dogs, Ready Player One, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, and Venom. Apparently, some parents were frustrated their under-15 children would be unable to see the film, despite its strong moments of body horror including "alien organisms entering people’s bodies, causing their limbs to distort and their bones to crack." Listen: what's a family trip to the cinema without a few cracked bones and distorted limbs here and there?