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LONDON: The rating for “Mary Poppins,” the beloved children’s musical about a nanny with magical powers that was released 60 years ago, has been raised to PG in Britain due to the use of “discriminatory language,” British Board of Film Classification said. The change follows a wave of recontextualising and reclassifying of films from bygone eras for modern audiences amid shifting cultural norms and mores.
“Mary Poppins” includes two uses of an offensive racial slur to describe an Indigenous group in South Africa.It is heard when Admiral Boom asks Michael, a child, if he is going on an adventure to defeat said group. Admiral Boom repeats the slur during a chimney sweeps dance sequence when he shouts he is being attacked. The dancing figures he spots in the distance are not Black Africans, but white dancers with blackened faces from soot.
The film was originally rated “U,” for Universal, upon its release in 1964, and again in 2013 for a theatrical release, BBFC said. When it was resubmitted in Feb for another theatrical release, it was reclassified as PG – the second-least severe of six ratings. The strictest is 18, which prohibits anyone under that age from renting, buying or seeing it in theaters.
“We understand from our racism and discrimination research, and recent classification guidelines research, that a key concern for people, parents in particular, is the potential to expose children to discriminatory language” or behaviour which they may find distressing or repeat without realising the potential offense, a spokesperson for the board said.
The change is part of a growing list of films that have been reexamined in recent years.
BBFC in 2023 reclassified “Santa Claus: The Movie” (1985) with a higher rating, to PG, for its mild violence and language. Similarly, the rating for “Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi” (1983) was also raised to PG for moderate violence. Ratings can also move downward. “Enter the Dragon” (1973) and “Friday the 13th” (1980) are now labeled 15 after holding higher ratings.
Similar reevaluation has been going on in the US. In 2020, HBO Max temporarily pulled “Gone with the Wind,” a film routinely criticised for whitewashing the horrors of slavery and romanticising the antebellum South, from its library. Similarly, Disney+ in 2021 added a content disclaimer to 18 episodes of “The Muppet Show” because they include “negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures.”
Books, too, have been revised. Roald Dahl estate in 2023 changed or removed hundreds of words in at least 10 books, including “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Matilda,” to make them less offensive.


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