Christmas Vacation (1989)

It’s almost December, it’s snowing, and I’m in the mood for a holiday film or two. The reviews for Bad Santa 2 are not encouraging (“Bad Santa 2” is vulgar, nasty and offensive, but it has flawed aspects also) so it’s time to look at the classics. My list of holiday classics includes the delightful Miracle on 34th Street, and A Christmas Carol (1951, must be watched in black and white).

My list does not include It’s a Wonderful Life – it’s no more a Christmas movie than Die Hard, and there are many reasons to dislike it. It was panned when it opened, by both the New Yorker and the New York Times, though arguably neither publication appreciates small town life. Here’s a slightly more recent critical review, which focuses on the problematic Pottersville sequence.

Another personal holiday classic is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. It’s sweeter and more sentimental (relatively) than the original Vacation film, as benefits a family holiday film. While Vacation is a mock heroic quest, Christmas Vacation is structured like a classical Greek old comedy, complete with all the rivals on stage for the big final number. Since the big final number is singing the American anthem, that probably would have been cut by Canadian censors in the 1920s and 1930, as they were sensitive to gratuitous displays of American patriotism. And what did the censors, now classifiers, think of this film in 1989? Can it be called a family holiday film?

Classification agencies usually have web sites that provide details about films’ ratings, but of course these sites did not exist in 1989, and while most agencies have put their old records online, they either did not capture additional details, or have not put those online. With the ability to post information about film ratings online, most agencies now provide a lot more information about the film, and how the rating was determined. However, the actual ratings for older films are available, and for most of Canada, Christmas Vacation is PG. Quebec, as usual, is  more liberal, giving a G rating, although there is no PG in Quebec. The Maritimes have the stricter 14A. The Americans are somewhere in the middle, at PG-13. That’s stricter than PG, but without the legal restriction of the 14A.  The few international ratings I found are similar, and the one noted concern is language. It’s worth noting that the ratings for Christmas Vacation are generally lower than the ratings for Vacation.

Most agencies do not state if ratings change, so it’s possible these are not the original ratings. Also, some agencies re-rate films when they come out on video, and some do not.

The British ratings are interesting case. In 1990, they gave the home video a PG rating. In 1998, a 2 second cut was required to keep that rating. This is the opposite of traditional ratings creep, a well documented tendency for the same classification to gradually allow more challenging material. A 2013 version, with additional material and commentary, is rated 12, meaning no one under 12 may rent or purchase. (BBFC does not use adult accompaniment ratings for home video, but if this was a theatrical release, the rating would be 12A, meaning adult accompaniment required for children under 12). Other agencies also request or suggest cuts to obtain a specific rating, but the information is rarely publicized. The distributor may also cut a film before rating, in which case the agency may not be aware of the cut.

Due to the lack of information available from official agencies, I checked a few other ratings sources. The experts who contribute to Common Sense Media and the surfers who contribute to OK.COM both agree this film is suitable for 13 and up. Finally, I checked the Catholic News Service. The influence of the Catholic church on the original MPAA production code is well known. Less well known is that since the early 1930s, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and later the Catholic News Service, have been providing their own classifications, rating films for  “artistic merit and moral suitability.” On the artist merit side, “Director Jeremiah S. Chechik keeps the gags moving quickly past the double entendres and gets some laughs from Clark’s bumbling attempts to enjoy Christmas.” On the moral suitability side, this film is suitable for Adults, on the following scale:

A-I:  general patronage;
A-II: adults and adolescents;
A-III: adults;
L: limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling.
O: morally offensive.

Gather round, for some more or less inoffensive family fun.

Area Classification Advisory Additional Information
Maritimes 14a Suitable for viewing by persons 14 years of age and older. Persons under 14 must be accompanied by an adult.
Quebec generalq The film is appropriate for viewing, rental or purchase by persons of all ages.
Ontario pg Parental Guidance is advised. Theme or content may not be suitable for all children.
Manitoba pg
Theme and content may not be suitable for all children.
Language Warning
Alberta pg Language Warning
British Columbia pg Parental guidance advised. Theme or content may not be suitable for all children although there is no age restriction. Coarse language
MPAA (U.S.A.)  PG-13 Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
BBFC BBFC - PG General viewing, but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children A PG film should not unsettle a child aged around eight or older. Unaccompanied children of any age may watch, but parents are advised to consider whether the content may upset younger, or more sensitive, children. Contains mild comic violence, sex references and language  2 second cut. See notes above.
Australia m-au Recommended for Mature Audiences Occasional Coarse Language
New Zealand  PG-L Coarse Language
Common Sense Media 13+  Minimum age for which the film is developmentally appropriate. Silly humor for the holidays; some iffy stuff.
OK.COM  13+  Crowd sourced minimum age.
Catholic News Service A-III  Adults Some rough language laced with vulgarities and sexual innuendoes.

Click the name of the jurisdiction for more details about the classification (if available).

Suicide Squad

I confess that a) I have not seen Suicide Squad, b) the trailer left me with no desire to see it, and c) I still can’t remember which comic characters are Marvel and which are DC, let alone what they did in their last movie.  That said, I did find Deadpool a guilty pleasure, so maybe this would be fun. Meanwhile, let’s look at the ratings.

It’s PG across Canada, except Quebec, but there is no PG there, so this is as consistent as we can get. All agree it’s not for young children, and language and violence are the concerns. Both within and outside Canada, agencies aren’t sure whether there is any sexually suggestive content. South of the border the rating is up a notch, as usual.

Other agencies are split, with some recommending no children (Australia, Hong Kong, South Africa), some requiring adult accompaniment for younger children (Ireland, Brazil), and some prohibiting young children (United Kingdom, New Zealand). Hong Kong offers two versions, both with the same rating, but one apparently removes the coarse language.

Area Classification Advisory Additional Information
Maritimes pg Parental guidance is advised. Theme or content may not be suitable for all children. Violence
Not Recommended for Young Children
Language May Offend
Quebec generalq The film is appropriate for viewing, rental or purchase by persons of all ages. Déconseillé aux jeunes enfants Le sort de l’humanité repose entre les mains d’une armada de crapules de la pire espèce. Inspirée de l’univers sombre des bandes dessinées de DC Comics, cette œuvre réunit les ennemis habituels de Superman et de Batman dans une aventure fantastique qui mettra en valeur leurs dons individuels. Malgré son humour et sa fantaisie, cette production présente des affrontements, parfois intenses, avec des créatures qui pourraient heurter la sensibilité des jeunes enfants.
Ontario pg Parental Guidance is advised. Theme or content may not be suitable for all children. Violence
Language May Offend
Not Recommended for Young Children
– Scenes containing some grotesque images in a fantasy, comedic or historic context
– Use of expletives
– Mild sexual references
– Limited use of slurs
– Scenes that may cause a child brief anxiety, or fear
– Embracing and kissing
– Mild sexual innuendo
– Restrained portrayals of non-graphic violence
Manitoba pg
Theme and content may not be suitable for all children.
Not Recommended For Young Children
Violence
Language May Offend
– slurs/sexual references
– use of expletives/profanity
– frequent non explicit violence
– torture
– scenes may cause children brief anxiety/fear
– alcohol use
Alberta pg Parental guidance is advised. Theme or content may not be suitable for all children. Violence
Frightening Scenes
Not Recommended For Young Children
Synopsis: Action/Fantasy. Based on characters from DC Entertainment. A government agent (Viola Davis) prepares for super-powered threats by assembling a group of criminals (Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and a soldier (Joel Kinnaman) to fight for her.

Content Elements: Frequent use of scatological slang; infrequent use of cursing, profanity, and vulgar expressions. Frequent portrayals of gun, weapons, and hand-to-hand violence in a genre context – little blood or detail. Infrequent portrayals of transformations and frightening imagery in a genre context – little detail. Infrequent portrayals of alcohol use in a recreational context – little detail.

Thematic Elements:
– Unlikely alliances
– Distrust of authority
– Moral relativity

Classification Rationale: Rated PG for genre violence, frightening scenes, and coarse language.

British Columbia pg Parental guidance advised. Theme or content may not be suitable for all children although there is no age restriction. violence; coarse language The following were determinative to the classification decision:
Several scenes of violence depicting weapons, injury and/or physical assault;
– Approximately 30 instances of coarse language.
Suicide Squad does not contain nudity or sexually suggestive scenes.
MPAA (U.S.A.)  PG-13 Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. Sequences of violence and action throughout, disturbing behavior, suggestive content and language.
BBFC bbfc_15_150px-height_0 Under 15 not admitted. sustained threat, moderate violence Some versions of this film are displayed in the 3D or IMAX format and some younger children may find them a more intense experience

SUICIDE SQUAD is a fantasy action thriller about a group of super villains who are recruited by a secret government agency to carry out dangerous missions.

Threat: Scenes of threat occur regularly throughout. These include characters in prison facing harsh discipline and punishment, and other characters being placed in life-endangering situations in the course of conflicts between good and evil factions embedded in the story. In spite of the obvious fantasy and comedic elements, the sustained sense of threat gives a dark and sometimes unsettling tone to the action, with some characters displaying a relish in their potential to cause pain and mayhem. Threat also takes the form of horror in the appearance and actions of characters with supernatural powers.

Violence: There are scenes of violence, which mainly take the form of sustained set-piece battles characterised by noisy, explosive action. More personalised violence is also present – for example, the cold-blooded shooting of a character. The violence is generally undetailed and lacking in bloodshed or aftermath injury detail. The most notable damage to combatants is incurred by an army of fantastical statue warriors which disintegrate into chunks and clouds of dust after receiving impacts during fights and battles. There is also a focus on weapons such as guns, knives and baseball bats throughout.

There is infrequent strong language (‘f**k’), with milder bad language including uses of ‘bitch’, ‘dickhead’, ‘balls’, ‘crap’, ‘shit’ and ‘ass’. There are also infrequent moderate sex references.

Australia m-au Recommended for Mature Audiences Fantasy themes, violence and coarse language australia
Ireland 15afilm-ireland Appropriate for viewers of fifteen and over. However, they can also be seen by younger children – provided they are accompanied by an adult who has deemed the film appropriate viewing for that child. ireland
New Zealand labels-r13-373-nz Under 13 not admitted.  VHC  Violence, Horror, and Cruelty
Hong Kong IIA Not Suitable for Children Contains frequent mild violence and shocking scenes – 115 minutes
Contains frequent mild violence and shocking scenes,and coarse language – 123 minutes
South Africa 10-12PG
L V
 Not suitable for under 10; 10-12 parental guidance recommended Language, Violence Language: Mild to Moderate, Fairly Frequent
Nudity: None
Prejudice: None
Sex: None
Violence: Mild to Moderate, Frequent
Blasphemy: None
Drug Abuse: None
Comments: Complex and mature themes in a fantastical context relating to superpowers, crime, covert missions, terrorism, teamwork, redemption and good vs. evil. Such theme could be upsetting, confusing or disturbing to viewers under 10, while those ages 10-12 would benefit from parental guidance.
Brazil Brazil - 1212
Adult accompaniment required for children under 12 Violence,
Inappropriate Language, Sexual Content
See comments for credit.

Click the name of the jurisdiction for more details about the classification (if available).

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, is of course the sequel to Neighbors, with a sorority instead of a fraternity. As the classification advisories/presence of Seth Rogen make clear, there is the usual crude comedy, however this is a rare case of a sequel improving on the original film, not just echoing the story. The added complexity comes from addressing some of the sexism around greater restrictions on partying at sororities, the rapey nature of frat parties, and broader issues of consent. These ladies want to party on their own terms. There’s a fun montage of parties, including a historical feminist party (featuring several different versions of Hillary Clinton), and a party to celebrate the loss of a character’s virginity (where the presumed male is never seen). It might be a stretch to call this a feminist film, but it has been praised for its approach to gender issues.

The arc of reinforcing conservative attitudes remains even as the film embraces newer values. For example, a same sex relationship for a former frat brother is treated as a source of sentiment, not humour, but the men have a traditional proposal and wedding. The realism of a character’s inability to work, due to his criminal record, is happily overcome by entrepreneurship. The core of the plot is a growing family’s desire to move to the suburbs. However, as crude comedies go,  Neighbors 2 is relatively liberal and enlightened. Just as the original was also released as Bad Neighbours, this has been released as Bad Neighbours 2 in some areas. The trailer gives a poor sense of the film, and several of the gags shown are not in the film.

Across Canada, the classification agencies were consistent in their ratings and advisories. Quebec wasn’t particularly worried about the drug use or sexual content. BC was busy counting the swearing – this only a 92 minute film. Other countries were slightly more restrictive, with the Americans giving an R rating, and several agencies not permitting any viewing by younger teens. That’s unfortunate, because they’d love the crude humour, and need to hear the messages about acceptance, independence, and consent.

Area Classification Advisory Additional Information
Maritimes
Quebec c13 Under 13 requires adult accompaniment.
  • Langage vulgaire
Pour l’arrivée de leur deuxième enfant, Mac et Kelly mettent leur demeure en vente afin d’emménager dans un autre quartier. Malheureusement, celle-ci risque d’être compromise lorsqu’une nouvelle association étudiante succède à celle de Teddy et s’installe dans la maison à côté. Sous la direction de Shelby, de jeunes filles décomplexées, revendicatrices et fêtardes enchaînent les soirées endiablées. Déterminés à vendre leur résidence, Mac et Kelly se tournent vers Teddy, leur ancien ennemi, pour qu’il les aide à se débarrasser de leurs tumultueuses voisines.
Ontario 14a Under 14 requires adult accompaniment.
  • Coarse Language
  • Sexual Content,
  • Substance Abuse
  • Coarse language
  • Slurs
  • Sexual references
  • Nudity in a non-sexual context
  • Illustrated or verbal references to drugs, alcohol or tobacco
  • Crude content
  • Scenes that may cause a child brief anxiety, or fear
  • Substance abuse
  • Embracing and kissing
  • Implied sexual activity
  • Restrained portrayals of non-graphic violence
Manitoba 14a Under 14 requires adult accompaniment.
  • Crude Content
  • Coarse Language
  • Substance Use
  • slurs/sexual references
  • frequent use of expletives/profanity
  • non-sexual nudity
  • brief non explicit violence
  • implied sexual activity
  • occasional crude/disturbing/offensive scenes
  • alcohol use
  • substance use
Alberta 14a Under 14 requires adult accompaniment.
  • Crude Sexual Content
  • Coarse Language
  • Substance Abuse
Content Elements:

  • Frequent use of the sexual expletive, some in a sexual context; frequent use of scatological slang and vulgar expressions; infrequent crude sexual references – some detail
  • Infrequent portrayals of sexual activity in a comic context – no nudity, little detail
  • Brief male genital nudity in a comic context
  • Frequent portrayals of and references to illegal drug use and misuse – some detail
  • Frequent crude references to bodily functions – some detail

Thematic Elements:

  • Independence and maturity
  • Perspectives on parenting
  • Gender and sexism

Classification Rationale:
Rated 14A for frequent coarse language, crude sexual references, and recreational drug use in a comic context.

British Columbia 14a Under 14 requires adult accompaniment. coarse & sexual language; sexual content The following were determinative to the classification decision:

  • Approximately 170 instances of coarse and/or sexual language
  • Five scenes depicting sexual content.

Classifiers also noted the following:

  • Several scenes of violence depicting beating and/or electrocution
  • Two sexually suggestive scenes
  • Two scenes of drug use involving marijuana
  • Scene of nudity, depicting genitalia, in a non-sexual context
  • Two scenes of crude content depicting vomit and/or bodily fluids.
MPAA (U.S.A.)  R Under 17 requires parent or guardian. Rated R for crude sexual content including brief graphic nudity, language throughout, drug use and teen partying.
BBFC 15 Under 15 not admitted. strong language, sex references, drug misuse Language: There is frequent strong language (‘motherf**ker’ and ‘f**k’), much of it used for comic effect but some also spoken in an aggressive manner.

Sex: There are frequent strong sex references, both verbal and visual, with one running joke focusing on a toddler using a large pink dildo as a toy.

Drugs: There is frequent drug misuse and drug references, with a group of girls setting themselves up as the purveyors of marijuana and also shown smoking the drug on regular occasions.

Australia  MA 15+ Under 15 not admitted. Strong sexual references, drug use and coarse language See chart for details.
Ireland 16 Under 16 not admitted. Very strong crude and offensive humour. Frequent drugs references. Strong language and sex references. Violence: Mild

Drugs: Strong

Sex/Nudity: Strong

Language: Strong

New Zealand R16 Under 16 not admitted. Sex scenes, violence, drug use and offensive language
Hong Kong IIB Not Suitable for
Young Persons and Children
Contains drug content, sexuality, sexual references, nudity, strong language and dangerous behaviour.

Click the name of the jurisdiction for more details about the classification (if available).

Paint Drying

Paint drying on a brick wall.
Still (or possibly a screen capture) from Paint Drying, Charlie Lyne.

Paint Drying (2016) is a film created solely to annoy British film classifiers. This 607 minute epic shows paint drying on a wall. For ten hours and seven minutes. Nothing else. Fourteen hours of footage was shot, however the final cut depended on the funds available to cover the per minute cost of classification. The funds were raised through a Kickstarter project. The BBFC duly reviewed and classified the film as a documentary, suitable for all ages. It’s unclear if this film was also intended to be a reboot or sequel to Paint Drying: The Movie (2009), a 90 minute film available from Amazon.

The idea is amusing enough, and got social media support from people opposed to classification systems, but as a protest it’s not very effective. Film classifiers, depending on the country, are either working for the government or working for the film industry. Either way, they have no say in the laws or corporate agreements that require classification systems. In addition, classifiers in countries that require all films to be classified are used to watching enormous amounts of straight-to-video horror and porn (although, at least in Ontario, classifiers fast forward through porn films). They would probably find watching ten hours of paint drying a welcome break.

More significantly, opposition to classification systems tends to ignore the public demand and support for these systems. Democracies that run film classification and censorship systems do so because elected politicians brought in and maintain laws requiring these systems. In countries such as the United States, where classification is run by the film industry, the intention is to make it unnecessary for the government to respond to the public demand. These systems receive complaints for being too restrictive, particularly from artists and academics, but they also receive complaints for not being restrictive enough.

It’s not just overprotective parents who support classification systems. Theatre owners and video retailers support them. In Canada, distributors of exempt material, such as TV shows, obtain classifications to make it easier to sell their products. Possibly the businesses that support classification are still responding to the overprotective parents, and the rationale for classifications is often based on faulty assumptions, but regardless of the source and legitimacy of the demand for classification, it does exist. Film makers need to live with it.

A key concern of this project was the cost of film classification. The BBFC cost is £121.80 ($230) to submit, plus £8.51 ($16) per minute. This is much higher than in Canada, where rates are typically $2-$4 per minute. All agencies claim to be non-profit, though some Canadian agencies have been sources of income for the government. For major studios, classification costs are negligible, but for independent films they can be prohibitive. Classification agencies, and the lawmakers who control them, need to be more aware of the heavy costs classification can impose. This is where Paint Drying, which cost £5,936 ($11,175) to classify, may be able to draw some attention. Instead of trying to annoy the classifiers, or protest classification, film makers and film viewers need to ensure the government is not placing barriers in the way of independent productions or films with limited appeal. Canadian agencies offer some exemptions from classification or classification fees, but these vary from province to province and have limitations. For example, a festival film does not require classification in Ontario, however the viewers must be over eighteen.

This is not the first time artists have attempted to stymie classifiers. In the early 1980s, a group of artists submitted the anti-pornography documentary Not a Love Story (1981) to the Ontario Board of Censors (as it was then called). The Board refused to classify the film, leading to the claim that the Board had banned an anti-porn documentary. When the matter went to court, the judge noted that the artists had no legal right to exhibit the film, and that the Board was under no obligation to perform hypothetical reviews. The myth of the ban persists. Although the artists did score an anti-classification victory with another film, most films in much of Canada are still subject to prior restraint and bans. Rightly or wrongly, there is public support for this.

Deadpool

Deadpool is a parody of Marvel films, from its mock opening credits to its frequent fourth wall breaks to its post credits non-gag. However, it remains faithful to the formula it mocks. It also continues, without irony or comment, the standard and sexist tiresome tropes of men fending for themselves and protecting women. You cannot rely on social authority, and women need rescuing. That’s not just the driver of the revenge plot, culminating in the usual mano a mano battle, but in the set up, where our hero is a member of a group of vigilantes. Although apparently set in contemporary society, police are invisible. Even after a major freeway crash and prolonged shootout, there’s not so much as a siren. The sexism (hooker with a heart of gold, gratuitous strip club scene), is hardly redeemed by two tough female sidekicks. One helps the hero, and one helps the villain. A minor subplot reinforces the message that women are prizes for men to fight over.

Then there is the violence. It’s frequent, and sometimes gory. The hero and villain are both largely immune to pain, allowing extended fight scenes, and the hero’s abilities allow him to sustain almost injury, including dismemberment, without lasting ill effects. Films featuring male action heroes being brutalized have uncomfortable messages about masculinity, and those are reinforced with the plot, character, and other elements here. I’m not sure whether the Wile E. Coyote level of injury, the jokes, and the fourth wall breaks lessen those messages or make us more susceptible to them. We are constantly reminded that this is just a movie, and it’s all in fun. It’s as playful and full of wisecracks as 1994’s The Mask, with more sex, swearing, and blood.

Film classifiers are not concerned about violence per se, let alone messages about masculinity. Their only concern is suitability for children, as per objective guidelines. Ontario and Manitoba settled on the high 18A rating, and this also makes Manitoba the only province where no one under 14 can view the film. Ontario threw in almost every content warning they have. The rest of Canada settled on a mid-teen classification, and consistently warned about violence, nudity, and sex. As usual, the Americans have the highest classification. Other jurisdictions I checked all set a mid-teen restriction, with no allowance for parental accompaniment. This makes Canada one of the few countries where a fourteen year old can see the film, unaccompanied in most provinces.

The additional details offered by many jurisdictions just list the elements affecting the rating, but Quebec and New Zealand integrate the rating into a synopsis, and acknowledge the humour. Alberta provides a separate synopsis and elements list, and also lists thematic elements. For Deadpool, these are:

  • Heroism versus revenge
  • Humour as a coping mechanism
  • Love and connection

As Pauline Kael said of The Road Warrior, “for all its huffing and puffing, this is a sappy, sentimental film,” and that’s perhaps an apt message about masculinity. The list of thematic elements are good points to ponder. I’d like to think that by acknowledging problematic messages in the film, we are less susceptible to them – and can enjoy, guilt free, a fantasy of power and love.

Area Classification Advisory Additional Information
Maritimes 14a Under 14 requires adult accompaniment. Brutal Violence, Coarse Language, Sexual Content, Nudity
Quebec c13 Under 13 requires adult accompaniment. Violence,
Langage vulgaire
Le film plonge le spectateur dans l’univers des bandes dessinées de la maison Marvel et présente un justicier qui est particulièrement grossier et cynique. Avec un certain humour, cette histoire de vengeance montre quelques brèves séquences de nudité et de sensualité. Des réflexions truffées d’expressions vulgaires, des fusillades et des bagarres violentes avec détails sanglants jalonnent le parcours du protagoniste.
Ontario 18a Under 18 requires adult accompaniment. Brutal Violence, Coarse Language, Sexual Content
  • Occasional gory/grotesque images
  • Aggressive/ frequent slurs/sexual references
  • Coarse language
  • Nudity in a non-sexual context
  • Partial or full nudity in a brief sexual situation
  • Illustrated or verbal references to drugs, alcohol or tobacco
  • Crude content
  • Scenes that may cause a child brief anxiety, or fear
  • Embracing and kissing
  • sexual innuendo
  • Implied sexual activity
  • Limited instances of brief simulated sexual activity
  • Tobacco use
  • Violent acts shown in clear, unequivocal and realistic detail with blood and tissue damage
  • Limited instances of brief, visually explicit portrayals of violence
Manitoba 18a Under 18 requires adult accompaniment. No admittance under 14. Brutal Violence, Gory Scenes, Coarse Language
  • slurs/sexual references
  • frequent coarse strong aggressive language
  • nudity in sexual situation
  • frequent explicit violence
  • torture
  • simulated sexual activity
  • occasional crude/disturbing/offensive scenes
  • alcohol use
  • frequent gory/grotesque images
Alberta 14a Under 14 requires adult accompaniment. Nudity, Sexual Content, Violence Rated 14A for coarse language, portrayals of sexual activity, nudity, and frequent genre violence in a comic context.

Frequent use of the sexual expletive and variations, some in a sexual context; frequent use of scatological slang; infrequent use of vulgar expressions and profanity.
Frequent sexual references in a comic context.
Frequent portrayals of gun, weapons, and hand-to-hand violence in a fantasy context – some blood and dismemberment.
Infrequent portrayals of sexual activity – no nudity, some detail.
Infrequent breast, buttock, and brief male frontal nudity in a non-sexual context.

British Columbia 14a Under 14 requires adult accompaniment. Coarse language, violence, sexually suggestive scenes, nudity The following were determinative to the classification decision:

Approximately 140 instances of coarse and/or sexual language;
Several scenes of violence depicting beating, shooting, impalement, decapitation, dismemberment and/or explosion;
Two sexually suggestive scenes with one depicting nude breasts;
Five scenes of nudity, depicting breasts, buttocks and/or genitalia, in sexual and non-sexual contexts.

Classifiers also noted the following:

  • Scene depicting sexual content.
MPAA (U.S.A.)  R Under 17 requires parent or guardian. Strong violence and language throughout, sexual content and graphic nudity.
BBFC 15 Under 15 not admitted. strong bloody violence, strong language, sex references Violence: Strong bloody violence occurs throughout, including sight of blood spurts after shootings and stabbings. There is also sight of gory decapitations and limbs being severed.

Language: There is frequent use of strong language (‘f**k’, ‘motherf**ker’), as well as milder terms including ‘douche’, ‘dick’, ‘cock’, ‘shit’, ‘ass’, ‘god’, ‘damn’ and ‘Jesus’.

Sex: There are frequent strong sex references, both visual and verbal, including the suggestion of a couple using a sex toy and some crude descriptions of sexual acts.

Australia  MA 15+  Under 15 not admitted. Strong bloody violence and sex scene  See chart for details.
Ireland 16  Under 16 not admitted. Very strong violence. Strong sex references and nudity.  See chart for details.
New Zealand R16 Under 16 not admitted. Graphic violence, sex scenes and offensive language. ‘Deadpool’, based on the Marvel superhero, is not one for the kids! It’s an over-the-top superhero parody laden with crude sexual humour and graphic violence. Wade Wilson, an ex- solider now working as a two-bit mercenary, is diagnosed with cancer. He gets involved in an experiment run by the evil and sadistic Ajax who promises a cure through genetic mutation. Wade is cured but only after the ‘treatment’ leaves him hideously disfigured. Assuming the new identity of Deadpool, Wade goes on the hunt for Ajax to make him reverse the disfigurement. Helped by an unlikely band of allies, Wade confronts Ajax in a high energy showdown. ‘Deadpool’ is classified R16 because of some really graphic violence, some strong sexual content and the creatively crude and humorously offensive one liners the antihero is famous for.
South Africa  16 Under 16 not admitted.  L S V bad language,  scenes involving sex, sexual conduct or sexually-related activity, physical and psychological violent scenes
Hong Kong III Under 18 not admitted. Contains very strong violence,strong sexuality, nudity, sexual references and strong language.

Click the name of the jurisdiction for more details about the classification (if available).

How to be an Anti-Porn Activist

I recently read Perversion for Profit: The Politics of Pornography and the Rise of the New Right, (2013) by Whitney Strub. Strub discusses the origins and operations of the anti-pornography group Citizens for Decent Literature in the 1960s, and touches on later individuals and groups such as Robin Morgan and Women Against Pornography in the 1980s. It struck me that much of the rhetoric of these earlier groups is the same as that used by contemporary anti-pornography individuals and groups, such as Gail Dines and the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. There are several common approaches:

  1. Do not define pornography. It can be anything that is vaguely sexual, from lingerie ads to risque TV comedies, from erotic videos to photos of child abuse, from artistic nude paintings to stolen topless selfies. It can also refer to prostitution, kidnapping, or any number of sex crimes.
  2. Declare a crisis. Claim pornography is more common than ever, due to the new technology of cheap paperbacks / storefront 16 mm theatres / 8 mm home movies / videotapes / phone sex lines / DVDs / the internet / mobile phones / high speed internet. Also claim it is more violent / explicit / depraved than ever before.
  3. Stress that this is a public health matter, not a moral or censorship issue. Pornography causes masturbation, homosexuality, communism, rape, aggression, passivity, premature sexual activity, delayed sexual activity, erectile dysfunction, cheating, loss of interest in sex, sex trafficking, prostitution, abortions, divorce, child abuse, suicide, nightmares, drug addition, racism, sexism, brain damage…
  4. Blame greed. Point out the massive profits of pornography producers, to make it clear that this is not about free expression or artistic desire.
  5. Fudge or fake data. Since pornography is never defined, it’s hard to verify if any claimed facts or conclusions are valid, but that does not stop them from getting made up and repeated. The massive profits reported in the 1960s originated in Citizens for Decent Literature‘s completely unsubstantiated claim that porn was a two billion dollar a year industry. More recently, in her book Pornland, Gail Dines lent her academic authority to the claim that porn is a thirteen billion dollar a year industry in the United States. Her source was a web page on an advertising website. There are no sources provided for the financial numbers, or any of the other shocking statistics on the page. The information is not just unsubstantiated, the source is biased: The company that maintains this page sells the internet filtering program Net Nanny. As another example of false data, many sources claim 300,000 children are sexually exploited in the United States, despite this figure being debunked. Claims about porn’s effects, contents, availability, viewing by children, and internet dominance have similarly been debunked.

If pornography is harmless, why are so many people devoted to stopping it? Notwithstanding the statements of some anti-pornography advocates, the primary concern is often old fashioned morality. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation, known on Facebook as Pornography Harms, was founded as a Catholic group, and until recently was known as Morality in Media. Anti-porn groups typically stress that they are not opposed to sexuality, but the sexuality they support tends to be straight, married, and limited to procreative vaginal intercourse (pulling out is not only poor birth control, it’s apparently inspired by porn). Anti-porn feminists have dismissed gay porn as simply substituting men in the women’s oppressed positions, and dismissed lesbian porn as simply a show for men, effectively denying these sexualities.

There’s also money in fighting pornography. The many non-profits that fight porn, including Gail Dines’ own Stop Porn Culture, all raise funds to pay their staff and raise more funds. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation‘s Finances page is a broken link. Citizens for Decent Literature collapsed when its founder, Charles Keating, was jailed for financial fraud. Women Against Pornography, which actively opposed sex shops in New York’s Times Square, received generous financial support from developers eager to see the businesses shut down, so that the properties could be purchased at low prices. When it comes to academics, current concerns about campus sexual assault and providing safe spaces for students make being an anti-porn academic a safe route to publications and tenure.

An old tactic for fighting pornography is to distribute it. Citizens for Decent Literature did this, and Stop Porn Culture continues the tradition, with several downloadable slide shows on their website. This is hypocritical for two reasons. First, it presumes that enlightened anti-porn viewers will be immune to the claimed harms of the images. This is reminiscent of old obscenity laws which were intended to protect the easily corrupted (i.e. women, children, servants, the poor, foreigners, etc.). Second, the examples allow viewers to indulge whatever interests they may have in the material, in a ‘respectable’ manner.

Anti-pornography advocates do raise some valid issues about the consumption of porn. What is often overlooked is that the issues raised are not unique to porn. For example, many films and television shows promote sexual violence. Most obscenity laws and anti-porn advocates are only concerned with this when there is explicit sexuality, but studies have shown that the degree of sexual  explicitness has minimal impact on changes in attitudes. Studies have also shown that there is considerably more sexual violence in mainstream films than in pornography. In other words, if we are concerned about portrayals of sexual violence, we need to be looking at Hollywood, where most of it comes from. For the film review boards in Canada, extreme sexual violence is not a concern in widely seen mainstream films, but limited distribution porn films can be banned for simple coercion, even as mild as the ‘sex to pay for the pizza’ storyline.

There are also valid issues about production. Defenders of pornography often note that performers participate of their own free will. Successful performers sometimes promote their work as a lifestyle choice. However, many other performers, such as the countless young people in the pro-am genre, make the choice due to economic necessity and limited employment options. Some producers encourage consumers to shop for ethical porn, which acknowledges the exploitative nature of parts of the industry. Rather than attack a symptom of dysfunctional economies, efforts to stop young people from being exploited for pornography should ensure they have other options.

Anti-pornography advocates have the advantage of a simple, strong argument: Porn is bad. People who defend pornography rely on more complex arguments. They call for considerations of  cultural and media context, acknowledge social and production concerns, quote research studies, and struggle to balance sexual expression with freedom from offense. Pornography makes many people uncomfortable for various reasons, and makes a great scapegoat for social ills. Anti-porn advocates take full advantage of this to advance their own moral or financial interests. They have been making their claims of a public health crisis for more than fifty years, with false or fudged data, but there are still people happy to donate to the cause, in the vain hope that fighting pornography will make a better world.

Ontario Film Authority

The Ontario Government has spun off the Ontario Film Review Board to a new agency, the Ontario Film Authority. This is an independent non-profit agency which will administer the Film Classification Act. In letters to distributors and retailers, it appears the only change is that fees are now payable to the agency instead of the government, and that there are taxes on some of those fees. According to a news release,

the OFA will:

  • Offer the convenience of a single point of contact for the film and theatre industry

  • Have more effective and efficient service delivery and enforcement

  • Reduce the regulatory burden on the film sector and businesses

It’s not clear how the new agency will deliver these changes, since, at least for now, nothing is changing. In addition, the Film Review Board has operated at a profit for many years, and the government is now losing that income. However, the web site has received a long overdue update. Check it out here: http://www.ontariofilmauthority.ca/

 

Provincial Right to Ban Films confirmed by Nova Scotia Ban of “Last Tango in Paris”

Last Tango Appeal to Cabinet - Dartmouth Free Press headline

All provinces and territories in Canada have the legal right to ban any film, for any reason. This was confirmed by a Supreme Court case in 1978. The case started in 1974, in Nova Scotia, when the Nova Scotia Board of Censors banned Last Tango in Paris.

The late 1960s and early 1970s saw a number of films that challenged audiences and censors with previously unseen levels of violence and sexuality (at least in widely distributed films). The United States brought in a new ratings system in 1968, grudgingly accommodating adults only films, and across Canada, most of the already more liberal boards were reorganizing to place greater emphasis on classifying films, and less on censoring. In 1972, the year Last Tango in Paris was released, Manitoba adopted a policy of not banning any films.

Last Tango in Paris was approved as a film for adults only in every jurisdiction except Nova Scotia. The retiring chair of the Ontario Board of Censors, who spent the later part of his career arguing against censorship, said “we just closed our eyes and ears and let it go.” In Manitoba, the owner of a theatre showing Last Tango was charged with exhibiting an obscene movie. The trial considered the artistic merits of the film, and the court ruled the film was not obscene. An appeal was dismissed, in a split decision (Regina v. Odeon Morton Theatres Ltd. and United Artists Corp.).

The Dartmouth Free Press decided to appeal Nova Scotia’s ban to the provincial cabinet. The paper also attacked the Board, noting that the three members, appointed for life, were patronage appointments. The chair had previously run a variety store. At the time he was appointed, his brother was a member of the provincial legislature. Another Board member had previously been a teacher, and briefly held the patronage appointment of county road superintendent. The third Board member was a bar owner who was active in the premier’s constituency.

Censors appointed through patronage are not necessarily less qualified than anyone else. The job consists largely of watching movies and filling out forms. However, the Free Press  also noted that the Board understated the number of films it had banned, and that sixteen films had been banned in the last two years. In defense of Last Tango, the Free Press noted:

Last Tango in Paris is regarded as anything but a peep-show, Eve type movie. American critic Pauline Kael said it is to movies what Stravinsky’s Rites of Spring was to music. It is on Time Magazine’s list of best movies, and it has already won important awards. When CBC’s Information Morning radio show (6 A.M. – 9 A.M.) polled listeners,  an astounding more than 600 gave their views, the majority saying they felt the movie should not have been banned.

The appeal to cabinet was unsuccessful, so the Free Press attempted to take the province to court over banning the film. The case promptly got bogged down over whether or not an individual can request that the constitutionality of a law be reviewed. The matter went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled in 1975 that the editor of the Free Press did have standing to challenge the law (Nova Scotia Board of Censors v. McNeil, [1976]).

The case returned to provincial court, to consider whether or not a province had the right to ban a film, particularly without giving any reasons, and for a film that was not criminally obscene. Among the considerations was that criminal obscenity can only be determined by a federal court. Again, the case went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. Gerard McNeil, editor of the Free Press, was on one side, with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. On the other side was the Crown, as well as the Attorneys General for Canada, Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, and Alberta.

In a five/four split decision, the Supreme Court ruled that provinces did have the right to ban films. The Court ruled that banning films was simply trade regulation. In addition, banning a film was not an action that punished anyone. As such, film bans were  unrelated to criminal matters such as obscenity, or to  constitutionality.

…the pro­vincial government in regulating a local trade may set its own standards which in no sense exclude the operation of the federal law.

There is, in my view, no constitutional barrier preventing the Board from rejecting a film for exhibition in Nova Scotia on the sole ground that it fails to conform to standards of morality which the Board itself has fixed notwithstanding the fact that the film is not offensive to any provision of the Criminal Code; and, equally, there is no constitu­tional reason why a prosecution cannot be brought under s. 163 of the Criminal Code in respect of the exhibition of a film which the Board of Censors has approved as conforming to its standards of propriety (Nova Scotia Board of Censors v. McNeil, [1978]).

The United States determined that film censorship was merely trade regulation in 1915, but rejected that in 1958, and declared that films were subject to the First Amendment free speech provisions.

The constitutionality of the provincial right to ban films has never been tested, at the Supreme Court of Canada, under the 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The year the Charter was adopted, a group of artists launched a challenge in Ontario, over that Board’s handling of four films. The court sided with the Board for three of the films, but in the case of the fourth, noted that the Board had no legally defined right to ban a film. The province appealed, but the appeal was dismissed. The province could have taken the issue to the Supreme Court, but instead chose to update the laws and regulations to legally define how films could be banned (Re Ontario Film & Video Appreciation Society and Ontario Board of Censors, 1984).

Updating the laws legally defined the Board’s rights, but created a constitutional problem. In 2000, Glad Day Books was charged under the Theatres Act with selling an unapproved film. The store argued that the cost and delay of getting a film approved was unconstitutional. (The film in question was 123 minutes long, so at $4.20 a minute the approval cost was $516.60. For a mainstream theatrical release, this is negligible, but for a single store selling perhaps ten home video copies, it is prohibitive). Glad Day lost, and appealed. Among other arguments, Glad Day suggested that the McNeil case from Nova Scotia no longer applied. The court did not accept that.

Glad Day and Scythes did not persuade me that the adoption of the Charter undermines the McNeil case as controlling authority as to whether the Province of Ontario has the constitutional competence to enact the legislation from a division of powers perspective. In a division of powers analysis, the court must begin with the presumption of constitutionality. It was held in McNeil that the purpose of the film censorship scheme was to regulate the film industry within the province and, therefore, it was validly enacted by the province. The Charter does not change the division of powers analysis or its result. After the adoption of the Charter, just as before, the province has the jurisdiction, pursuant to its property and civil rights power, to enact legislation to regulate the film industry, including the censorship of images that are harmful to society, and such a provincial regulatory scheme can operate concurrently with the federal government’s penal obscenity law. What has changed since the adoption of the Charter is that both federal and provincial laws must comply with the Charter’s guarantees. (R. v. Glad Day Bookshops Inc.)

Considering that last point, the appeal ruled that while classification was fine, mandatory submission for approval was an unconstitutional prior restraint. The court gave the government a year to separate classification from film approval. This was widely reported as the end of censorship and putting the Board out of business. Again the government chose to update the law rather than appeal to the Supreme Court. The new law defied the court, and kept prior restraint and the right to ban films. In effect, nothing changed.

Nova Scotia did eventually approve Last Tango in Paris. The records on when it was approved have been lost. Nova Scotia and other provinces have since restructured their censorship boards. Nova Scotia, like several other provinces, now uses a part time public board, with members who work a few days a month for a modest payment. Alberta became the second board to declare a no ban policy. The other boards all continue to have the right to ban films, often without clear reasons. This is Quebec’s statement on censorship and bans:

Censorship in Québec was officially abolished in 1967 with the creation of the Bureau de surveillance du cinéma. Should the Régie du cinéma feel that a film interferes with public order, it can refuse to classify it, which would mean that the film could not be distributed in Québec.

In practice, bans are exercised against adult sex films, and may be used as a threat to demand cuts. It is also adult sex films that are occasionally approved by a provincial board, and then found to be criminally obscene by the courts, to the dismay of the convicted retailer. These films have few defenders, and at this point no one seems too concerned about the right of provinces and territories to ban films. Maybe there is no reason to be concerned, and the law will eventually join the list of out of date laws that are mocked. However, a change of government and public mood is all that is required for film bans to become headline news again.

Spectre

It’s a Bond movie, and we know what to expect. As the Irish Film Classification Office notes, there is “frequent intense action violence consistent with the franchise.” Across Canada, violence is the advisory. Everyone gave it a PG classification, except Quebec. Quebec does not have a PG equivalent. Quebec noted the film was not suitable for young children, and Manitoba also noted that, even though their PG clearly indicates films with that rating are not suitable for children under 12.

Most agencies give additional information on their web sites. Ontario is the only jurisdiction to warn about a little sexuality, and Alberta and Manitoba warn of alcohol use. British Columbia, which always counts coarse language, noted three uses. The BBFC noted the following uses of “mild bad language:” ‘bloody’, ‘bastard’, ‘shit’, ‘moron’, ‘asshole’, ‘Jesus’, ‘Christ’, ‘hell’. Presumably not all of those words are considered coarse language in BC.

As usual, Canada’s ratings come in below the MPAA rating, however their PG-13, though higher than PG, does not have any age restrictions. Overseas, some countries have age suggestions, some have a requirement for adult accompaniment, and South Africa has an age limit, not allowing any children under 13. New Zealand’s age 16 suggestion seems high, but this classification is automatic when Australia classifies a film as M. Australia’s M means recommended for ages 15 and over. Mature can be a confusing term, since Manitoba uses it to mean viewers over 12.

The BBFC notes that the distributor made changes at the post production stage, in order to achieve the desired classification. These were presumably cuts, and the DVD release might include them as additional footage, though this could only be a few seconds of material, or different angles.

Area Classification Advisory Additional Information
Maritimes pg Parental Guidance is advised. Theme or content may not be suitable for all children. Violence
Quebec generalq Visa Général Déconseillé aux jeunes enfants
Ontario pg Parental Guidance is advised. Theme or content may not be suitable for all children. Violence Use of expletives, embracing and kissing, mild sexual innuendo, restrained portrayals of non-graphic violence
Manitoba pg Parental Guidance is advised. Theme or content may not be suitable for all children. Most suitable for mature viewers over 12. Not Recommended For Young Children, Violence Use of expletives/profanity, frequent non explicit violence, torture, alcohol use, incidents of suicide
Alberta pg Parental guidance is advised. Theme or content may not be suitable for all children. Violence Infrequent use of scatological slang, mild profanity and cursing, and mild vulgar expressions. Frequent portrayals of gun, weapons, and hand-to-hand violence – little blood or detail. Infrequent portrayals of alcohol use.
British Columbia pg Parental guidance advised. Theme or content may not be suitable for all children although there is no age restriction. Violence Several scenes of violence depicting beating, shooting, torture, burning and/or explosion. Three instances of coarse language.
MPAA (U.S.A.) PG-13 Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, sensuality and language.
BBFC 12A Under 12 requires adult accompaniment. Moderate violence, threat  Details include spoilers
Australia M Recommended for Mature audiences. Action violence.  View Chart
Ireland 12A Under 12 requires adult accompaniment. Frequent intense action violence consistent with the franchise. View Chart.
New Zealand M Suitable for Mature audiences 16 years and over. Violence
South Africa 13V Not suitable for persons under 13 (i.e. No admission under 13) Violence
Hong Kong IIA Not Suitable for Children Contains violence and mild shocking scenes.
India
U/A Parental discretion required for children below 12 years According to media reports, two kissing scenes were shortened, and two instances of bad language were removed.

Click the name of the jurisdiction for more details about the classification.

What Price Glory (1926) banned in Nova Scotia

What Price Glory? is an anti-war comedy, along the same lines as M*A*S*H. It’s a silent film, made by Fox in 1926, and re-released in 1927 using new technology to include sound effects and music. It was adapted from a successful but controversial 1924 play. The language and disrespect for military traditions both caused offense. The film version had no issues with language, except for people who could read lips and understand the generous profanities the actors used. There were complaints, but mouthed though unheard and untitled obscenities did not break any censorship rules. However, the disrespect for military traditions caused the film to be banned in Nova Scotia.

The story tells of two rowdy US Marines, who alternately fight together and with each other. Set in France, during World War I, both men are trying to win the affections of a French girl, improbably portrayed by Mexican star Delores Del Rio. Realistic battle scenes and the dynamic relationship between the two men contributed to the film’s success, and the two male leads continued their characters in a series of buddy comedies.

Anti-war films, and any films that showed the military in a negative light, or showed anything close to the realities of warfare, were usually banned in Canada during World War One. Under the War Measures Act, the federal government had the power to censor films, but in practice the understaffed federal military censors relied on, and received, the enthusiastic cooperation of provincial film censors. Following the war, as the grim realities sunk in, there was some opposition to the extensive censorship that had occurred, and support for anti-war sentiments. What Price Glory? could never have been shown during the war, but a decade later it was approved in every province – except Nova Scotia.

Film censor Colonel C. E. Bent, a veteran of the war, later explained why he condemned the film.

One of the reasons I gave for condemnation was ‘holding the discipline of the Army up to ridicule.’ Certain scenes between an Officer and a Sergeant showing them arguing and even fighting over a girl was, to my mind an insult to the Army in Peace or War. It certainly could never happen in our Army, they why should a picture be shown that would create a wrong impression on the minds of those who were not permitted to serve? The memory of the days of war, the wonderful discipline, the unparalleled examples of devotion to duty, the great comradeship, the sacrifice, is too real and far too sacred for me to allow it to be treated lightly.

The distributor appealed, and the appeal upheld the ban. The Casino Theatre in Halifax opposed the ban, and showed slides before other films advertising that What Price Glory? was banned, but only in Nova Scotia. This did not always have the desired effect. One patron wrote the Evening Mail to thank God for the Nova Scotia Censors, and praise them for ensuring that “Nova Scotia is holding herself just a little higher than her sister provinces.”

The Casino Theatre also arranged for a private showing in January of 1928, hoping publicity might overturn the ban. Following the showing, at least two local papers voiced support for the film, and the head of the Motion Picture Distributors Association of Canada wrote to Premier Rhodes to request the ban be overturned. The letter pointed out that while Colonel Bent may not have approved of the military portrayal in the film, the story concerned the US Military. “Applying British ideas and ideals to the story, there is something to be said against it, nevertheless the picture is frankly American and all other British Censor Boards have taken this view.”

Promoting the American nature of the military portrayal was a risky argument. Anti-American feeling was high in Canada, over trade issues and their late entry into the War. Censors in all provinces routinely cut “gratuitous displays of the American flag” and were particularly sensitive to American war films that ignored the contributions of Canadians. However, as one paper noted, the nationality of the soldiers was not unduly stressed in What Price Glory?

The Premier responded that while the Board may have erred in banning the film, he could not overturn their ruling. He noted that if he were to express such a lack of confidence in the Board, he would then have to either review all films personally, or hire a new Board. More seriously, he pointed out that the Board of Appeal had twice rejected the film, and that three of the seven appeal board members were appointed by the owner of the Casino Theatre.

The Association tried again, complaining that because only Nova Scotia banned the film, this was another example of burdensome “local prejudice.”

For example – A picture is put on the screen in which a Salvation Army lassie appears and immediately the Salvation Army raises a protest. Another picture presents a Boy Scout in a way that Boy Scouts do not appreciate, another protest is made to some local Censor Board. … we can only be successful in our business if Censorship in the eight provinces is based on general principles, rather than on local prejudice.

This was a doomed argument, since the provincial censors took pride in reflecting the concerns of their populations. The censors had decided in 1921 to move to a single national set of standards, based on the Ontario guidelines. However, in 1922, the censor for Alberta, mindful of the population mix there, suggested that banning all German films should be left up to the individual provinces. When the dust settled, the censors decided the provinces could not share standards, since “each province has a different class of people.” In recent decades there have been some sharing agreements, but Canada still has seven boards to approve and classify films, for the eleven provinces and territories that require it (the Yukon and Newfoundland do not).

The Secretary and the Chair of the Censor Board both wrote the Premier to insist that that ban stay in place, pointing out that, in addition to the offensive nature of the film, the distributor was probably hoping to capitalize on the publicity, and this should not be allowed. A couple of Legions sent telegrams insisting the ban stay in place. The North Sydney branch declared “We who know the price of glory do not want to see it prostituted before the public.” The Premier promised the Legion that he would uphold the decision of the Board of Censors.

Eventually the film was approved, and it now has a G rating. The Maritime Film Board ratings database shows the approval date as 1928, however this date was estimated in the 1980s, and may not be accurate. Board records are not archived, and the information about this film has been obtained from archival records of the Premier’s correspondence.

The film was remade in 1952, directed by John Ford and starring James Cagney, but an attempt to make it more humorous and less anti-war, in keeping with the tone of the times, resulted in a dull and unsuccessful film. The 1952 version has not been approved for showing in Nova Scotia, but it has probably never been submitted.

Colonel Bent of the Censor Board, members of the Legion, and some members of the public wanted to avoid saying anything bad about war, but there was also local support for an antiwar message. The labour oriented Halifax Citizen newspaper not only praised the film, but felt people should see it, and criticized past support for the war.

Why was the splendid picture, “What Price Glory?” rejected by the Nova Scotia Censors? This was the question asked by the representative gathering of prominent citizens who attended a private screening of the picture by invitation of Mr. R. J. McAdam, proprietor of the Casino. This picture should not only have been passed by the Censors, but a special effort should have been made to have EVERYBODY see it.  With perhaps a slight elimination, it should be shown in churches, where the glory of war was preached for five years; in the Sunday schools, where the pupils were taught the GLORY of being a soldier; in the public schools, where the pupils were filled up to the neck with war glorification during that period; in the colleges, where all the students were exhorted and even shamed into going to their death, and helping the perpetrators of the world’s greatest crime; in all public organizations and institutions where men or women gather together. All the people should see this picture and the Board of Censors should reconsider their decision. “What Price Glory?” IS THE BEST WAR WARNING EVER PRODUCED. It presents war in all its hideousness and shows that the “Glory,” so called, does not amount to shooks compared with the terrible cost, the awful sacrifice, the horror, suffering and , more than all, the disillusionment of those who thought they were going into a high and noble struggle.
Click the clipping for a clearer image or to enlarge it.