Posted on 30 March 2021 by Rebecca
Real bodies are seen and celebrated with body-positive messages in Tayrn Brumfitt’s Embrace, new to Netflix in New Zealand this month (from 5 March). And by real bodies we mean close ups of vulvas and boobs, wobbly bits, and tummy rolls in all their glory.
“My body is not an ornament. It is a vehicle and I have learned to think differently about my body,” says Taryn Brumfitt.
The social impact documentary sets out to flip the narrative on mainstream messages targeted at young women in particular and cut through with an empowering burst of self-love. And that does involve graphic body diversity shown with love, laughter and a ‘wiggle and jiggle’.
In NZ the film is rated M, Unrestricted: Suitable for mature audiences aged 16 and over. So why aren’t these graphic images restricted?
In NZ our focus is on injury-based work, that is publications should only be restricted if there is a likelihood of harm to society - and something that's offensive isn't necessarily harmful*. Another way of looking at it is that in order to restrict something we have to identify an actual harm to younger viewers – and it would be difficult to articulate a harm from simply viewing nudity in itself. This is different from some other classification systems which are based on offensiveness or indecency, for example.
In 2016 at the time of release the documentary was to be screened as ‘exempt’ for a Festival audience, but had to be submitted for classification after the Australian Classification Review Board restricted the film for mature audiences 15 and older.
Any film restricted (MA 15+ or higher) in Australia must be viewed and rated by the Classification Office before it can be screened for the NZ general public. The initial decision highlighted at the time that while we often have similar tastes to our Australian friends culturally we can and do diverge. The Australian rating was subsequently revised to an unrestricted M later that year.
“The film does create change and changes people’s perception of themselves,” says Brumfitt. Research was done on the impact of the film by Victoria and Flinders University and published in early 2020: #Ihaveembraced: a pilot cross-sectional naturalistic evaluation of the documentary film Embrace and its potential associations with body image in adult women.
“We found that women who had seen the film were much more likely to report appreciating their body, and, in some cases, the film had prompted some really major and positive shifts in their lives that the women said contributed to their well-being,” says study lead, Associate Professor Zali Yager, from the Institute for Health and Sport at Victoria University.
Study co-author Dr Ivanka Prichard, Senior Lecturer in the College of Health and Nursing at Flinders University, adds: “It’s fabulous to see a film of this nature build awareness about body image around the world, and really be a catalyst for women starting to change the conversations they have about their bodies.”
Embrace is a thought-provoking exploration of body positivity, self-worth and diversity of representation. More mature audiences will appreciate the unique point of view being offered to counter the mainstream narrative. If you’re viewing it with a young person we recommend talking with them about the messages they’re taking away from the film. Ask them how they felt both before and after viewing the film.
Embrace is rated M Unrestricted: Suitable for mature audiences aged 16 and over in the NZ classification system. Netflix have given Embrace a rating of 13+. The Classification Office classifies films, DVDs and video games. Currently content on streaming services such as Netflix don’t have to display NZ classifications before screening here. The system is changing and in the near future NZ ratings and warnings will be shown on services due to a law change. See our Streaming platforms to show NZ consumer information for more information.
*For more on nudity and how we view it when classifying content check out our blog post from 2014: “Contains Nudity”.
For more reading on the film Embrace in the media:
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