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R16: sexual content and offensive language

Spoiler alert

This page outlines how the classification criteria were applied. We do our best to discuss the content while avoiding spoilers, but please avoid reading this information if you do not want to learn anything about the content of this movie.

Her poster

Date registered: 15/01/2014

About the film

Her is set in a not too distant future metropolitan society, in which a new technology allows people to intimately interact with their personal computing operating systems thanks to the advancements of artificial intelligence.

A soon-to-be-divorced writer, Theodore, purchases an operating system (which names itself Samantha) and quickly falls in love with her. Their relationship is marred by the question of human physical experience and Samantha's accelerated evolution as a free thinking technology.

A still image from the film - Theodore sits in front of his computer as Samantha loads up

Classification criteria: Sex

The film explores the nature of physical and emotional/mental experiences of sex. Early on in the film Theodore signs into an adult internet chat room. He samples the vocal proposals and settles on a woman who he invites to chat. The camera focuses on Theodore's face during the phone sex scenario. Their conversation is laden with sexual innuendo and heavy breathing and vocalisation implying arousal.

In a scene involving Theodore and Samantha the screen goes black and the viewer is required to experience the entirety of their sexual activity through sound alone. The effect of this is to create a sense of genuine sexual activity between the characters despite the fact the audience is aware one of them does not have physical form. The scene has a distinctive, almost explicit, sexual quality despite the lack of imagery to support it. The film's treatment of sex is of reasonably high impact overall.

A still image from the film - Theodore in bed

Classification criteria: Highly offensive language

The film features highly offensive language. "Fuck" and its derivatives are used often in emotionally heightened scenes or in a crass and casual manner. For instance, a cutesy video game character uses such language regularly as part of game play and as a function of his crude characterisation. Theodore also uses this sort of language to express frustration and despair. This normalised use is likely to inure young impressionable audiences to such language and this effect could have a negative impact on their socialisation.

A still image from the film - Theodore walks alone through the city

Decision summary

A restriction on the film goes against the presumption of freedom of expression but is allowed under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act where it is reasonable and demonstrably justifiable. The film explores the nature of physical and emotional/mental sexual experience with reference to modern technology. Sex is discussed and depicted in such a way to support this purpose. Further the viewer is required to vicariously engage in the sexual activity between characters due to the way the activity is framed and constructed.

Due to their immaturity and inexperience children and younger teenagers, exposed to such material, are likely to be harmfully affected by it. They are not only likely to find it challenging and unnerving, but it is likely to skew their understandings of sex and adult sexual relationships.

Older teenagers and adults (more attuned to the complexities of sexual relationships) will be able to contextualise the depictions appropriately.

Contact the Information Unit if you require further information on a classification decision.

R16 label
R16: sexual content and offensive language