Butter

Suicide themes and bullying Rated on: 12 July 2022

Butter (2020)

What’s it about?

Marshall is a morbidly obese teenager who is bullied at school and feels trapped in his body. He impulsively declares that he will eat himself to death on New Year’s Eve which is only weeks away. All of a sudden, the popular kids at school take a morbid interest in him.

The facts

  • Director: Paul A. Kaufman
  • Runtime: 111 minutes
  • English language

Why did it get this rating?

Butter was initially cross-rated from Australia. The Film & Video Labelling Body gave the film an unrestricted M rating with a content warning for “Suicide themes and a sexual reference”. The Acting Chief Censor called in the film for classification after concerns were raised about the appropriateness of the M rating given the subject matter and the likely audience.

As part of the classification process we sought the views of the Mental Health Foundation and two members of our Youth Advisory Panel. This gave us a better understanding of the potential impacts of this film on young people and those who are vulnerable to suicide and self-harm.

Suicide themes

The film deals with Marshall’s suicide attempt in a highly romanticised and optimistic fashion. All of Marshall’s problems are effectively solved by his suicide attempt. The Mental Health Foundation shared our concerns that this would give vulnerable younger viewers a wrong and potentially dangerous impression of what is likely to happen if they attempted suicide. This is the primary reason for the shift from M to R16.

Bullying

Marshall is bullied in person and online. There is also a flashback where he is assaulted. Viewers who have had similar experiences may be triggered by this content. The positive attention Marshall receives after he declares his plan to suicide is also identified as a form of bullying. A subplot involves a person pretending to be someone else in an online relationship.

Sexual material

There are a few low-level sexual references and a hand gesture that is used to indicate oral sex. A woman also performs a brief lap dance.

Violence

A character is slapped and another is punched. No one is seriously hurt.

Coarse language

Coarse words such as “bitch” and “assholes” are used in a conversational manner.

Imitable behaviour

Teenage underage drinking is normalised in several scenes and there is a brief scene where a group of teenage boys find it exciting to drive really fast in a muscle car.

Support

If you or someone you know needs to talk:

  • Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor
  • Lifeline

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