When pressed about the tricky subject of pornography, the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously said it was hard to define, “but I know it when I see it.” With the impending release of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” film boards across the globe have been put in a similar spot.
One of the big questions in adapting E.L. James’ massively popular erotic novel about an S&M-inclined billionaire (Jamie Dornan) and a shy college student (Dakota Johnson) was how explicit the movie version would be.
Director Sam Taylor-Johnson and screenwriter Kelly Marcel ultimately worked around, toned down and jettisoned many of the source material’s more graphic sex scenes, earning an R-rating in the U.S. “for strong sexual content including dialogue, some unusual behavior and graphic nudity, and for language.”
In international markets, the movie has met with a range of ratings, from laissez-faire to strictly verboten.
In France, children as young as 12 can see “Fifty Shades,” as the country’s film board chose not to give it an adult certificate.
France’s classification president, Jean-Francois Mary, said the erotic drama “isn’t a film that … can shock a lot of people,” according to the Associated Press. He added that it’s “a romance, you could even say schmaltzy.”
The British Board of Film Classification was more prudish, slapping the film with an 18 certificate, meaning anyone younger will not be permitted to see it.
Some socially conservative nations, including Kenya and Malaysia, have banned the film outright.
According to the Malaysian newspaper the Star, the chairman of the country’s film board said the group found “Fifty Shades” to be more like “pornography than a movie.”
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