Mary Poppins Gets New Age Rating Amidst Discussions of Racism in Classics

Mary Poppins Gets New Age Rating
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March 2, 2024 – The beloved musical film “Mary Poppins” has recently undergone a change in its age rating in the United Kingdom. Originally classified as “U,” signifying it was suitable for all audiences, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has now upgraded it to “PG,” meaning parental guidance is suggested. “U” is the equivalent of a “G” rating in the United States.

This shift in rating sparked discussions and debate around the portrayal of sensitive themes in classic films. The BBFC cited the use of the term “hottentots” in the film as the reason for the change. This term, considered racially insensitive and offensive, is used to refer to the Khoekhoe, a group of indigenous South African people. The word is used twice in the film by the character Admiral Boom, played by Reginald Owen, to describe chimney sweeps whose faces are covered in soot.

While the film reflects the societal norms of the time it was made (1964), the BBFC emphasizes that the use of such language is not condemned within the movie itself. This, according to them, falls outside their current guidelines for acceptable language at the “U” classification level.

The decision has received mixed reactions. Some argue that it is crucial to acknowledge and address historical issues of racism, even in beloved classics. They believe the change encourages parents to engage in thoughtful discussions with their children about the film’s content and the historical context in which it was produced.

Others, however, criticize the decision, viewing it as an attempt to impose modern-day sensibilities on a film rooted in a different era. They argue that such changes risk altering the artistic integrity of the film and potentially diminishing its historical value.

The debate surrounding “Mary Poppins” highlights the ongoing discussions about how to handle potentially offensive or outdated content in classic films and other artistic works. It raises questions about censorship, historical context, and the responsibility of presenting and engaging with such content in a sensitive and educational way.

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