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Far from perfect: Why we changed the rating for The Perfection

Posted on 12 June 2019 by David Shanks

The content that most concerns Kiwis is quite different to what gets under the skins of people in other countries, such as Australia, the United States, or most other places in the world.

We have our own culture and values to be proud of, and our own very real problems to deal with.

At our office we try to ensure that Kiwis get all the information they need before they watch a movie or series, so people can make viewing choices that are right for them. Increasingly we are less about ‘censorship’ and more about empowering Kiwis to make their own informed choices.

This is straightforward when it comes to traditional media such as DVDs or movies at the cinema, but content on streaming services like Lightbox or Netflix is not currently covered by our legislation, which makes things a little more complex!

A good example popped up this week after my office was told about themes of sexual violence and child abuse in a film called The Perfection. It initially landed via Netflix as 16+ with a note for ‘Language, violence, nudity’. This looks to me like a US rating. I checked with my counterparts overseas, and found that the Aussies initially rated it as MA15+, with the note ‘Strong Nudity, Strong Violence, Strong Blood and Gore, Strong Coarse Language, Strong Horror Themes, Horror Violence’ and the Brits gave it an 18, with a note for ‘Sexual violence, suicide references’.

That illustrates the issue. Different audiences are concerned with different things. In the States people often want to be warned about coarse language and nudity, but here in NZ Kiwis have told us sexual violence and suicide are topics people want to be warned about in advance. These are big issues that many in our community care deeply about, and have lived experience of.

Once we’d seen the movie, we knew it had content that our audiences would expect to know about, - including suicide references and sexual violence. The warning note that Netflix had for this one really needed to change to be effective for a NZ audience. In terms of age rating we felt it was ‘on the line’ between a 16+ and a 18+ rating, but the range of content and the format suggested the higher age rating.

Fortunately Netflix recognises the needs of our own domestic audience, and do genuinely want to engage with us, and be responsive to a NZ audience. So they were happy to change the information. It is now 18+ with the consumer advice, ‘Rape, sexual violence, suicide references, graphic violence’.

From my point of view, this is just another case illustrating the fact that we’re all just working within a legislative system that was designed for media back in the eighties and nineties, and wasn't built to deal with the international availability of streaming media online.

There is room for optimism as the Government is looking at changing this. We see getting consumer information, particularly as content management tools and support for parents in the future will likely depend on accurate ratings to work properly.

In the meantime you’ll sometimes see stories about OFLC making different calls about the information or ratings available on online movies or series.

 

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