Back in the summer we debated the classification of Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1, a film rumoured to be filled with such inappropriate levels of gore and sex that it couldn’t possibly be rated a 12A as the previous three in the saga were. Now that the film has been released (and once again left cinemas sold out of tickets for the first couple of weeks, topping box office sales while topping ‘worst movie of the year’ lists), we decided to follow up that classification article, and see whether or not the classification bosses made the right decision…

Breaking Dawn Part 1 was, eventually, given the 12A certificate, which, according to the British Board of Film Classification, means that the film is not recommended for children under 12, but if accompanied by an adult, under 12’s are able to watch the film in the cinema. The decision then is left to each individual parent.

Bella and Edward’s discussions of the sex scenes were, as was to be expected, very much implied. The same could not be said for the actual scenes themselves. Okay, so they were no Last Tango in Paris, but they were certainly more graphic than any of the sex scenes I remember from films certified ’12’ when I was that age. The very idea that Bella is left bruised by their night of passion is, vampire fiction or not, not exactly something I imagine many parents would feel comfortable discussing with a nine or ten year old child. As for the gore, the birth scene was pretty horrific. Never mind the visual aspects of the scene, audibly, Bella’s screams were deeply unsettling and, I don’t know about anyone else, but the sound of Edward ‘biting the baby out’ sent genuine shivers down my spine. The blood spatter on Edward and Jacob’s clothes, the shots from above showing Bella covered in blood and near to death, and the genuine distress in Edward’s face as he is forced to turn his beloved wife into a vampire weren’t exactly 18 material, but I can’t imagine that too many people (bar a few die-hard fourteen year-old Twilight fans) would have questioned the decision had it been given a 15 certificate.

The fact then that Breaking Dawn was given a 12A certificate raises, as was discussed in the previous classification article, some interesting questions about what society today deems acceptable viewing for children. Okay, so the 12A means that the decision is left with the parents to decide what age they feel it is appropriate to allow their children to view such material, but surely that says something about how times have changed in regard to sex and violence, and how and when children are exposed to it on screen. The BBFC makes decisions based on context, and what they believe is harmful material, and so by leaving that decision in the hands of the parents, perhaps we feel today that since television and advertising are so regularly filled with sexualised images and action packed, edging on violent, scenes, each family will be able to decide for themselves how much is too much for their own children. Who knows. In theory, the context of the film perhaps does excuse some of the scenes – the film is hardly a realistic portrayal of teen romance. But, whether that is the case or not, the more graphic scenes will still have an impact on an audience of any age, and the fantastical nature of the storyline doesn’t change that. Since four of the five films have now been given the 12A certificate, I imagine the last film in the series will follow suit, but only time will tell. For now, under 12’s across the globe are able to join their parents, friends and older siblings in following the story of Bella and Edward, sex, gory birth scenes and all. And perhaps kids nowadays are so used to this sort of imagery that they won’t bat an eyelid – though it would be a sad situation if this was the case. Breaking Dawn Part 2, the final film in the Twilight Saga, is set to be released in November 2012.

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