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Thursday, 29 August, 2002, 13:00 GMT 14:00 UK
The 12: From Batman to Spider-Man
Batman was the first film to be given a 12 rating
The 12 certificate was first introduced in 1989 and made a big difference to the viewing patterns of younger cinemagoers.

Younger viewers had been far more restricted in what they could and could not watch, with only U and PG-rated films to choose from.

But in 1989, it was becoming increasingly apparent to the British Board Of Film Classification that the gap between films rated PG and 15 was widening.
Tomb Raider
Tomb Raider was cut to get a 12 certficiate

Censors found themselves faced with an increasing number of films which were too violent or graphic to be given a PG rating, yet which were likely to be enjoyed by viewers under 15.

And the PG-13 classification, an advisory rating introduced in the US in the mid-80s, made many more films available to younger teenage audiences in the States.

The 12 came about in response to all of this, with the blockbuster hit Batman being the first film to be released across the UK with the new rating.

For the first five years of its existence, the 12 was a cinema certificate only, with films rated 12 at the cinema being bumped up to a 15 on video or, in some cases, reduced to a PG.

The 12 certificate was eventually introduced to video on 1 July 1994.

All of this undoubtedly made a difference to cinemagoing.

Films rated 12 generally dealt with more mature themes, but in a way that would not be off-putting or disturbing to younger teenage viewers.
The last three Bond movies have had 12 ratings

Previously, a film with a single use of strong language or brief nudity would automatically be rated 15, even if the film contained nothing else unsuitable for younger audiences.

However, these were both permitted in 12-rated films, provided they were justified by context.

And the rules on violence at 12 certificate level - no lengthy emphasis on serious injuries, or dangerous behaviour which can be copied - made a huge difference to many of the flashy, effects-laden blockbusters of recent years.

The unrealistic action violence of such films as Minority Report, X-Men, Independence Day and the James Bond franchise would undoubtedly have earned 15 ratings, were it not for the advent of the 12.

However, the rating has not been without its share of controversy. Many youngsters who were questioned complained of the need to cut Tomb Raider in order for it to be given a 12.
Younger viewers will get to see films like Spiderman

And the BBFC was on the receiving end of many complaints for giving a 12 certificate to Spider-Man earlier this year, instead of the PG that would have allowed younger fans to see it.

They landed in similar trouble for giving Billy Elliot a 15 instead of a 12, saying that they would almost certainly have received complaints about the language had it been in the lower category.

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was given a PG certificate after much deliberation, but had to carry a warning that some scenes might upset children aged under eight.

The introduction of the 12A now means that such films as Spider-Man will be available to younger viewers, provided they have an adult in tow.

It follows months of research, with the BBFC canvassing the opinions of younger viewers, and testing a PG-12 category in Norwich last year.

This allowed under-12s in the city to accompany adults to such films as Moulin Rouge, AI, Legally Blonde and Planet Of The Apes.
AI was released with a PG-12 rating in Norwich

"We know that the development and maturity of children varies considerably and parents know best what their children can deal with," said Robin Duval of the BBFC.

"It is important, however, that young children have an adult with them in case they are disturbed by anything they may see."

See also:

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