'Mary Poppins' upgraded to PG rating in the UK for 'discriminatory language'

British Film Classification Board updates film's rating ahead of 60th anniversary re-release.

'Mary Poppins' upgraded to PG rating in the UK for 'discriminatory language'
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The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has updated the rating of the classic Disney musical "Mary Poppins" from U (universal) to PG (parental guidance suggested) in the United Kingdom, citing the use of discriminatory language. This adjustment reflects growing sensitivity to content that might be considered offensive or harmful, particularly to younger audiences.

A spokesperson for the BBFC highlighted to USA Today that the decision was based on two instances within the film where the term “hottentots” is used. Historically, this term was employed by colonizers in South Africa to derogatorily refer to the indigenous Khoekhoe people and is now recognized as a racial slur.

"Given the historical context of 'Mary Poppins,' the use of discriminatory language, which is not condemned within the film, falls outside of our guidelines for a U rating," explained the spokesperson regarding the reclassification to PG.

The specific scenes under scrutiny involve the character Admiral Boom, portrayed by Reginald Owen, who uses the term in reference to the soot-covered chimney sweeps and in a conversation with Michael, suggesting an adventure to “defeat hottentots.”

This rating change occurs as "Mary Poppins" is set to celebrate its 60th anniversary with a re-release in the UK. The BBFC's decision underscores a broader initiative to evaluate films through a contemporary lens, particularly concerning racism and discrimination.

"Our recent research into racism and discrimination, coupled with classification guidelines, indicates a significant concern among parents about exposing children to discriminatory language or behaviors that could cause distress or be mimicked unknowingly," added the BBFC spokesperson.

Currently, this reclassification affects the UK release of "Mary Poppins" exclusively, with the film maintaining its G rating in the United States.

This move is part of a larger trend within the entertainment industry to address and contextualize potentially offensive content in classic films.

Disney, in particular, has added disclaimers to several of its older movies on the Disney+ streaming platform, advising viewers of "negative depictions" and "mistreatment of people or cultures."

Among the films with these warnings are Peter Pan, Dumbo, Swiss Family Robinson, and The Aristocats, each carrying a message acknowledging the harmful impact of certain stereotypes -- all in adherence of the publisher's adherence to its DEI guidelines. 

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