Black Swan is a 2010 film starring Natalie Portman. It follows the story of a talented ballet dancer who wins the lead role in Swan Lake who tries to live up to the expectations of the White Swan Princess Odette, but slowly begins to lose her mind as she falls deeper and deeper into a state more akin to the Black Swan, Odile.
So what has this got to do with critics, complaints and the film classification board? The dramatic and erotically-fuelled film generated 40 complaints from audiences who protest that the 15 rating is too low. Many of the complaints received were about the sexual nature of the film, where audiences expected to see a film about ballet. Some complaints were from uncomfortable viewers who were surprised to see a homoerotic encounter between two women.
The British Board of Film Classification, the BBFC, agreed that 40 complaints is a relatively small number, especially in comparison to the 120 complaints received about the 12-rated Woman in Black, but it did raise a few eyebrows about public perception of films and sex in films. They have since announced that they have commissioned a large research project into public attitudes to sexual violence in films which is due to be released later this year.
David Cooke, BBFC Director, presented the annual report in London last week. He mentioned that one of the major contributing scenes motivating the 40 complaints about Black Swan was a sex scene between two female characters. “While the scene is visually discreet, narratively justified and within the 15 guidelines criteria, some correspondents felt it was pornographic in nature,” he read.
“That it was a sex scene between two women was an aggravating factor for some who argued that portrayals of homosexual activity should either be restricted to the 18 category, or not shown at all.”
Other films that received complaints aside from Black Swan and the “notorious” Woman in Black included The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1, Hanna and Sucker Punch for various sexual and violent scenes which viewers found distressing.
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