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Spider-Man "too violent for kids"
June 14, 2002 3:05 AM   Subscribe

Spider-Man "too violent for kids" The British Board of Film Classification has given the Spider-Man film (which opens here in the UK today) a '12' certificate because of its violence, meaning no one under that age can see it. Some local authorities have exercised their power to reclassify it as a 'PG' to open it up to younger viewers.
The BBFC's argument runs that "The violence is set in a modern urban setting with a clear message that the use of violence is the normal and appropriate response when challenged." In fact, I'd say, the film suggests that an appropriate response when challenged is to put on an armoured exo-skeleton and fly around on a jey-powered glider. How can the BBFC not get the concept that this is a fantasy?
posted by jonpollard (45 comments total)

 
That should be 'jet-powered' of course....
posted by jonpollard at 3:08 AM on June 14, 2002


i saw it last week on preview. it was awesome and considering I was reading Spiderman comics back when I was 9 or 10, this is a travesty of justice for kids.
posted by Frasermoo at 3:10 AM on June 14, 2002


However, the less kids in cinema's the better.
posted by Frasermoo at 3:11 AM on June 14, 2002


They've also cut out shots of Kirsten Dunst's (clothed) nipples, according to journo friends who saw it in the US, then went to previews here. Apparently, this spoils things a lot.

(And don't the telly trailers say 'contains scenes of fantasy violence', jonpollard?)
posted by riviera at 3:13 AM on June 14, 2002


Why would violent fantasy fiction be less 'damaging' than mere violent fiction?
posted by vbfg at 3:14 AM on June 14, 2002


How can the BBFC not get the concept that this is a fantasy?

I guess the BBFC does get the concept. The question is if the kids get it.
posted by igor.boog at 3:31 AM on June 14, 2002


I went to the national press preview on monday and I can confirm that there is brief nipple visibility.
posted by Mocata at 3:39 AM on June 14, 2002


the question is not wheter the BBFC gets the concept that it's fantasy but whether kids under the age of 12 do.
posted by ubique at 3:54 AM on June 14, 2002


The question is if the kids get it.

I guess I have more faith in kids than the BBFC. Fantasy violence like this was pretty easy for me to separate from reality when I was 7 or 8. I can understand a rating that requires adults along with young kids, but not allowing kids at all?

Besides, I think Spider-Man is a pretty clearly reluctant hero in this film, and the overall message would seem to be pretty positive for kids (although the violent scenes might be too scary). I think the BBFC misread this one.
posted by daveadams at 3:54 AM on June 14, 2002


Wew, I'm just a widdle kid, but I've seen about 20,000 murders on TV alweady. So I say, what the fuck, dude! Give me Spiderman! And the nipples!
posted by pracowity at 4:12 AM on June 14, 2002


I too have more faith in the kids than I do in the BBFC's judgement on this one. Most children understand very clearly what is fiction/fantasy. The sight of gaudily-costumed characters throwing pumpkin bombs would, I suggest, be easy for them to distinguish as fantasy; especially compared to far more graphic and 'real-life' violence they can see well before the watershed on TV programmes like Eastenders.

Also, vbfg, I don't think that whether it's less damaging in fantasy than in reality is the point here. The implication I get from the BBFC's comments is that the film somehow 'sets a bad example' - as if children will go out and copy what they see in the film, which I think is ridiculous. Even the scenes of school bullying are far tamer than most kids will have seen (or experienced) by the age of about seven, if my school was anything to go by.
posted by jonpollard at 4:35 AM on June 14, 2002


Not directly connected with violence, but...

I haven't seen the film yet, but if the movie captures the essence of the comic book, Spidey is one of the superheroes more "grounded" (no pun intended). I mean, he has to study, to take care of poor old aunt Mary (it was Mary?), he has economic troubles, his boss is a bitch, and then he has to fight supervillains. I remember thinking "maybe it's not such a good idea to be a superheroe, after all...
posted by samelborp at 4:51 AM on June 14, 2002


How can the BBFC not get the concept that this is a fantasy?
What, a bit like 'Animal Farm' (the film)?
posted by leafy at 4:52 AM on June 14, 2002


"The violence is set in a modern urban setting with a clear message that the use of violence is the normal and appropriate response when challenged."
He surprises criminals who then attack him so he beats them unconscious. He didn't wrap his opponents in web much, there was much more beating. Parker, feeling regretful after punching The Jock, stopped beating a criminal and instead just dropped him (with an audible thud). There were moments like that where humanity's light shines through.

I'd say that description is fairly accurate. Not that I think there's anything wrong with that. Someone has to interupt criminals, and if it's not Spiderman it's the police. Either way there will probably be a scuffle.
posted by holloway at 5:18 AM on June 14, 2002


However, the less kids in cinema's the better

amen. would hurt the kids to have to wait for the DVD?
posted by tolkhan at 5:39 AM on June 14, 2002


DVD? pah!

get them up chimneys.
posted by Frasermoo at 6:08 AM on June 14, 2002


Does anyone else things it's way cool that pracowity's google search for "Kirsten Dunst's nipples" comes up with owillis' site as the top hit?

*it's a small world after all*
posted by Cyrano at 6:15 AM on June 14, 2002


My almost-5 year old saw it, and after 2 weeks seems to have suffered no damaging effects.

I was initially a bit concerned about him seeing it, based on early reports of the violence level. But some neighbors with slightly older kids were going, and my wife took the kid along (I was sick and had to stay home, dammit!). My wife thought the violence was not that big a deal, and he was not scared during or after the film.

The only effect in his behavior has been that he now draws pictures of Spiderman. However, the violence level in these pictures is minuscule compared to what he puts into his epic battles between Peter Pan & Captain Hook. So, based on my observations (and several injuries from pretend swordfights), I'd say the BBFC had better look closer to home.
posted by groundhog at 6:19 AM on June 14, 2002


I would agree with y'all about this except for the final scene where Peter and the Goblin fight. That part was much more violent and realistic than the rest of the movie or most Spidey comics. I didn't enjoy it as much as the other fight scenes - it was mostly just two blokes punching each other bloody - not fun super-powered fighting like the rest of the movie.

Yeah, I know that distinction doesn't make a lot of logical sense, but it feels right. When Spidey is jumping around and dodging pumpkin bombs, it's just fantasy. When the Goblin is just hitting him with his fists, it seems more real and less fun.
posted by straight at 6:26 AM on June 14, 2002


Hrm, I'd like to see the orgional ending in front of the WTC. Maybe in a dvd or something.
posted by delmoi at 7:02 AM on June 14, 2002


I saw it and I felt that it was gratuitously violent, more than necessary. My 12 yo daughter thought so also even though she mildly enjoyed the film as a whole.

I don't feel that censorship is the answer, as much as word of mouth among like-minded parents.
posted by Danf at 7:29 AM on June 14, 2002


Wouldn't take my little cousin to see it - not cos it's too violent, but more like the reasons for the violence smack of something nasty: Spidey avenges his uncle's death by ensuring the death of the killer? Hmm, nice bit of eye-for-an-eye morality for you there kids, watch and learn...
posted by creeky at 7:33 AM on June 14, 2002


When all movies are digital, theaters will run a different version for each showing. (Assuming people continue to go to the movies when they could stay at home and watch movies in their Jetsons home cinema.) There will be versions for those who like decapitation but not nipples, those who like nipples but not decapitation, those who like neither, those who like both, those who insist on both, and so on. Labels like "RSVP - Reduced Sex Version (Prudes)" will let consumers choose the right showing.
posted by pracowity at 7:37 AM on June 14, 2002 [1 favorite]


So what you're saying then pracowity, is that what we see on the Jetsons Home Cinema ® will be heavily ma-nipple-ated?
posted by Dick Paris at 7:55 AM on June 14, 2002


I did my research and then took my almost-7-year-old-at-the-time son to see Spider-Man. The most uncomfortable moments were during the trailer for "XXX", not the movie itself.

People poke fun at ScreenIt, but I like it. It's not judgemental in any way, it just presents a pretty comprehensive list of things that may be objectionable to particular parents.

And as with groundhog, the only lasting affect on my son is that he's now into Spider-Man. Which means I get to play with a cool web blaster (I've been waiting 20 years for that toy..)
posted by SiW at 7:57 AM on June 14, 2002


Also, a jey-powered glider would apparently run on puppies and dollz. (Hey, it's Friday, I'm on a deadline, I'm getting goofy)
posted by SiW at 8:03 AM on June 14, 2002


If I had young kids, I probably wouldn't take them to see it. Not because of any violence per se, but, as others have said, because of the way that anger and vengefulness are presented as the reason he's fighting. Think of the climactic scene in which Spidey's getting the snot knocked out of him until Defoe says something about MJ that really ticks him off. Anger is the thing that gives him the power to hit back.

Now, I find it interesting to see how these human frailties work on the hero, but for younger kids, I'd much rather take them to see something like Star Wars, where, though there's plenty of violence, things like anger and revenge are portrayed as the keys to the hero's downfall.
posted by transient at 8:06 AM on June 14, 2002


Jesus, someone used the word 'censorship' to describe this. There's stuff on TV kids under 12 probably should not watch. What's wrong with erring on the side of caution to keep kids from seeing violence as an answer? Europe in general has always found violence more offensive than sex, though we tend to be the opposite.

Are there really people here who feel the rights of under-12-year-olds are being violated by keeping them from seeing this movie in a theater?

I can't recall the last time I heard about a kid in the UK shooting up a school, so who are we to say they're going overboard?
posted by troybob at 8:10 AM on June 14, 2002


transient - One could say that anger spurring victory is repeated in Star Wars. Obi-Wan is visibly angry when Qui-Gon is killed and he then fights like a mofo. Luke would have been destroyed had anger not overcome Vader at seeing his son attacked. And so on.
posted by SiW at 8:22 AM on June 14, 2002


Good point, transient--though I have to admit when I saw the Star Wars movies as a kid I didn't grasp the concepts you mention about how anger and revenge are destructive. I was just watching guys trying to kill each other, good versus evil. Of course, there was no one there to explain it to me.
posted by troybob at 8:40 AM on June 14, 2002


It's a little off-topic, but could someone PLEASE explain what distinguishes a "jet-powered glider" from a "jet"?
posted by coelecanth at 8:52 AM on June 14, 2002


I don't know about PG-13 (or 12) ratings. I do know that when my (emotionally much younger than their physical age) 12 and 13-year-old nieces saw it, they got hysterically giggly over the love scenes, and ran out of the theater during the climactic fight. Still, I think parents should use their judgement on this (the one in this case didn't).

Some excellent thoughts on the movie from a blogger who loves comics; and a later riff on the same theme which is particularly relevant to this discussion:

[David Broder writes:] But there are long minutes where the demented villain -- a corporate mogul, not a Middle Eastern terrorist -- is flying his jet-powered aerial sled through the canyons of New York office towers, blowing out windows, cracking walls, crashing cornices onto terrorized pedestrians and causing the kind of chaos we saw all too recently. The heroine perches on a shattered balcony afraid to jump. When she finally lets go, in a moment painfully evocative of the World Trade Center jumpers, Spider-Man is there to grab her. Would that it were so.

Yes, you dolt! Would that it were fucking so! It's so simple that even a respected major media columnist with decades of tenure ought to be able to understand it: We don't crave heroes to defend us from the things that don't threaten us. Does David Broder think that Bob Kane had an instant hit with Batman because those innocent Americans of the thirties and forties didn't fear urban gangland crime? Would Broder please, then, explain film noir? Does he think Superman caught on because those same Americans weren't anxious about technology, space and scientific progress -sources, not just of Superman, but of so many of the menaces Superman combatted?

Superheroes honor our fears. What's uncanny is the extent to which a movie completed before 9/11 so eerily honors our fears after that awful day. [emphasis mine]

posted by dhartung at 8:59 AM on June 14, 2002


Wow, dhartung, I really can't imagine 12- and 13-year olds responding like that in this day and age. My 5-year old nephew loved Spiderman and wasn't upset by it in the least, knowing it was just a movie and not real. I strongly agree that parents should know their own kids well enough to know what they can handle and will enjoy, as kids do vary...but 13? Wow.
posted by rushmc at 9:23 AM on June 14, 2002


The end of the movie is pretty violent. I have no idea what the movie makers were thinking.

It doesn't bother me personally. But it doesn't go with the rest of the movie. Its almost like they added that last scene just to get a higher rating.

While its hardly bloodsport, the blows at the end are pretty hard hitting. Mortal Kombat wasn't as bad as this violence wise.

My 25 year old girlfriend who is the girly girl-can't look at violence type-clinged to my arm pretty hard and looked away.

I think I support the 12 and older verdict.
posted by andryeevna at 9:39 AM on June 14, 2002


It's a little off-topic, but could someone PLEASE explain what distinguishes a "jet-powered glider" from a "jet"?

Only one of these terms was coined by Stan "the Man" Lee! A jet-powered glider is a jet-powered broomstick with wings!
posted by straight at 10:01 AM on June 14, 2002


rushmc: I strongly agree that parents should know their own kids well enough to know what they can handle and will enjoy

So do I.

However, it's not only a question of the individual kid, but the quantity. Movie & videos should be an occasional treat. Powerful, larger than life images and soundtracks can really overstimulate the young child. A lot of parents overdo it, imo.
posted by groundhog at 10:06 AM on June 14, 2002


I hear you, groundhog, but I also think a case could be made that such stimulation, which may seem like "overstimulation" to us, may be quite the norm for the new generations and help prepare them for the world in which they will live at least as well as our experiences and exposures growing up prepared us to live in ours. There have always been debates about how much fantasy or story is good for people (kids, in particular) and how much is too much; these debates will continue. I think new technology expands upon these debates in some interesting ways, but I'm not ready to condemn its influence out of hand. I'm concerned about shielding children from emotional harm, but I'm also concerned with not keeping them from developing the mental and physical tools that they will need to thrive (or even function) in their reality. It's a complex matter.
posted by rushmc at 10:40 AM on June 14, 2002


I took my 8 year old son and he loved it. I can't believe you parents who think it has a bad message for kids. Spiderman is a hero! He fights bad guys and helps the weak and downtrodden! What starts out as a thirst for revenge becomes a dedication to justice.

Take a look at the "heroes" in the movies his 17 year old brother goes to see. I think Spiderman is a great role model, beats the hell out of a pimp or assassin.

Those of you who don't have kids of your own may find out someday that everyone you meet thinks they can raise your kids better than you can (especially people without kids.) Looks like the BBFC thinks they can, too.
posted by norm29 at 10:43 AM on June 14, 2002


rushmc, regarding overstimulation, I'm thinking of very young children, under 5. The result is a burst of manic energy (i.e. "bouncing off the walls"), followed by an extended period of grouchiness and whining, and often ending in a nap.

Actually, that sounds a lot like my typical workday.

I'm not anti-technology, but I'd much rather see my kid engaged in active, creative play and learning, be it with crayons or computers, than sitting on his butt for two hours being passively entertained.
posted by groundhog at 11:03 AM on June 14, 2002


if the worst thing in a child's life is that he/she can't see spiderman, i'd say it's a pretty good life.
question: how do you prove that you're 12, anyway?
posted by witchstone at 12:36 PM on June 14, 2002


I'd much rather see my kid engaged in active, creative play and learning, be it with crayons or computers, than sitting on his butt for two hours being passively entertained.

I mostly agree, but also think it is important to recognize that humans have always socialized their children partially through storytelling, so there is important (good and bad) stuff going on during these times of passive butt-sitting.
posted by rushmc at 12:54 PM on June 14, 2002


sitting on his butt for two hours being passively entertained

I wish that were true for my son, who spent half of the time jumping up in the air saying "go web!". Luckily the theater was virtually empty.
posted by SiW at 2:57 PM on June 14, 2002


Does anyone else things it's way cool that pracowity's google search for "Kirsten Dunst's nipples" comes up with owillis' site as the top hit?

I was wondering what the hell was going on.
posted by owillis at 3:43 PM on June 14, 2002


Lord, I go away for a few hours, and all this stuff happens!

It's late (here) and I've been out for the evening, so I'm probably not in the best state to try and address the various points that have arisen from my original post, but one thing I did want to say is to do with the motivation for (specifically) the violence in the final battle scene:

Transient: Anger is the thing that gives him the power to hit back.
SiW: One could say that anger spurring victory is repeated in Star Wars. Obi-Wan is visibly angry when Qui-Gon is killed and he then fights like a mofo.

I'd like to come out like the aging hippy that in my heart-of hearts I am and suggest that actually, what drives both of these reactions is not anger, but love. It's the threatened destruction of an object of love that inspires the characters to find the strength to overcome what (in both situations) is actually a pretty straight-up embodiment of evil.

Or possibly the motivator for all of these things is passion, and whether we use our passion to spur us on to the positive or the negative is the mark of who we really are. I like to think that would be Stan The Man's take on things....

Sorry - how much have I had to drink tonight?
posted by jonpollard at 4:59 PM on June 14, 2002


Correction - two things:

troybob: I can't recall the last time I heard about a kid in the UK shooting up a school, so who are we to say they're going overboard?

It's possible that might be more to do with kids in the UK not so easily being able to get their hands on guns than in some other countries.

Just a thought.
posted by jonpollard at 5:04 PM on June 14, 2002


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