Fifty Shades of Grey

The publishing phenomenon arrives in theatres for Valentines Day, though it might not be the best choice for a date movie. Much has been written about the books, and the coming movie, and what it all means. It’s good to have conversations about sex and power in relationships, and to remember that most of us can separate reality and fantasy, but I’ll let others dwell on that. I’m interested in how film classifiers handle an erotic film that is based on a popular book yet portrays what is essentially an abusive relationship.

All the English language agencies agreed on 18A as the classification. This is roughly the same as the Restricted rating in the United States. Restricted in the United States, and 18A in Canada, allow anyone to attend if accompanied by an adult (except in Manitoba and the Martimes, where there is a lower age limit of 14. Quebec used its 16+ rating, allowing older teens to attend but not allowing anyone younger. The Raven’s Cry Theatre in Sechelt, B.C., has decided not the show the film, on the grounds that the 18A rating admits minors. Countries outside of North America are a little stricter than most of Canada and the United States. Malaysia, one of the strictest jurisdictions, has banned the film, as has conservative Kenya.

Advisories are part of the classification and must be included with all advertising, but agencies often list additional warnings on their websites. Ontario noted “nudity, sexual content, disturbing content” as part of the classification, but online also warns of:

  • Limited use of slurs
  • Coarse language
  • Sexual references
  • Partial or full nudity in a brief sexual situation
  • Limited instances of nudity in a sexual situation
  • Illustrated or verbal references to drugs, alcohol or tobacco
  • Crude content
  • Occasional upsetting or disturbing scenes
  • Embracing and kissing
  • Fondling
  • Sexual innuendo
  • Implied sexual activity
  • Limited instances of brief simulated sexual activity
  • Restrained portrayals of non-graphic violence

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

 Area Classification Advisories
Maritimes 18a Under 18 requires adult accompaniment, no admission under 14. Nudity, Sexual Content
Quebec c16 No admission under 16. Érotisme
Ontario 18a Under 18 requires adult accompaniment Nudity, Sexual Content, Disturbing Content
Manitoba 18a Under 18 requires adult accompaniment, no admission under 14. Sexual Content, Substance/Alcohol Abuse
Alberta 18a Under 18 requires adult accompaniment Sexual Content
British Columbia 18a Under 18 requires adult accompaniment  Sexually suggestive scenes, Nudity
MPAA (U.S.A.)  R Under 18 requires adult accompaniment Strong sexual content including dialogue, some unusual behavior and graphic nudity, language.
BBFC  18 No admission under 18 Strong Sex
Australia  15+ No admission under 15 Strong sex scenes, sexual themes and nudity
Ireland  18 No admission under 18 Explicit sexual content.
New Zealand  R18 No admission under 18 Sex scenes & offensive language
South Africa  16 No admission under 16 Strong Language, Nudity, Sex
France  -12 No admission under 12
Singapore  R21 Restricted to persons aged 21 and above Mature Theme and Sexual Scenes

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

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