We’ve All Had an Apple Out of That Sack

When I first gave my life to Christ I felt so incredibly clean, so new, and fresh it was truly like being born-again.  My old life was washed away and I was a babe in Christ.  Then as I devoured Hi...

Dr. Robert Owens - avatar Dr. Robert Owens

Domestic abuse or genuine relationship? Our welfare system can't tell

Financial abuse can be misinterpreted as 'sharing finances', which can indicate a relationship in the criteria of the couple rule. ShutterstockIn Australia’s social security laws, the “cou...

Lyndal Sleep, Research Fellow, Griffith University - avatar Lyndal Sleep, Research Fellow, Griffith University

Friday essay: why old is new again - the mid-century homes made famous by Don's Party and Dame Edna

A Royal Victorian Small Homes House, designed in conjuction with The Age newspaper, 1955. Photo: Wolfgang Sievers. Pictures Collection, State Library VictoriaOf all the mantras for modernism, the one ...

Kirsty Volz, PhD Candidate, The University of Queensland - avatar Kirsty Volz, PhD Candidate, The University of Queensland

How public libraries can help prepare us for the future

Public libraries can use their status as community hubs to engage the public in scenario planning for the future.Mosman Library/Flickr, CC BYFor generations, libraries have helped people explore knowl...

Matthew Finch, Adjunct Research Fellow, University of Southern Queensland - avatar Matthew Finch, Adjunct Research Fellow, University of Southern Queensland

One-third of all preschool centres could be without a trained teacher in four years, if we do nothing

Currently, half of all early childhood teachers have a bachelor degree, with a further one-third still working towards one. from shutterstock.comOne-third of all preschools may lack a qualified teache...

Megan O'Connell, Honorary Senior Fellow, University of Melbourne - avatar Megan O'Connell, Honorary Senior Fellow, University of Melbourne

Not one but two Aussie dishes were used to get the TV signals back from the Apollo 11 moonwalk

US astronaut Neil Armstrong on the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission.NASAThe role Australia played in relaying the first television images of astronaut Neil Armstrong’s historic walk on the Moon...

John Sarkissian, Operations Scientist, CSIRO - avatar John Sarkissian, Operations Scientist, CSIRO

How our obsession with performance is changing our sense of self

How well we do – at work or on the sports field – influences how we see ourselves.from www.shutterstock.com, CC BY-NDWe live in a society obsessed with performance. For both young and old...

Ben Walker, Lecturer (Management), Victoria University of Wellington - avatar Ben Walker, Lecturer (Management), Victoria University of Wellington

Australian writer Yang Hengjun is set to be charged in China at an awkward time for Australia-China relations

Charges against Yang appear to relate to his work as a writer and blogger in which he has been sharply critical of the Chinese regime. Facebook Australia’s relations with China will be further c...

Tony Walker, Adjunct Professor, School of Communications, La Trobe University - avatar Tony Walker, Adjunct Professor, School of Communications, La Trobe University

More than 28,000 species are officially threatened, with more likely to come

A giant guitarfish caught in West Papua is hung from a fishing boat. Guitarfish are in trouble, according to the IUCN Red List. Conservation International/Abdy Hasan, Author providedMore than 28,000 s...

Peter Kyne, Senior Research Fellow in conservation biology, Charles Darwin University - avatar Peter Kyne, Senior Research Fellow in conservation biology, Charles Darwin University

Grattan on Friday: Being a Trump 'bestie' comes with its own challenges for Scott Morrison

It's now widely observed that Morrison and President Donald Trump have struck an early bromance.AAP/Lukas Coch“How good is this?” Scott might have said to Jenny, when word came that he&rsq...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Australian universities must wake up to the risks of researchers linked to China's military

Two universities are conducting internal reviews of research collaborations linked to the suppression and surveillance of the Uyghur minority in western China.Tracey Nearmy/AAPTwo Australian universit...

Clive Hamilton, Professor of Public Ethics, Centre For Applied Philosophy & Public Ethics (CAPPE), Charles Sturt University - avatar Clive Hamilton, Professor of Public Ethics, Centre For Applied Philosophy & Public Ethics (CAPPE), Charles Sturt University

US Democratic presidential primaries: Biden leading, followed by Sanders, Warren, Harris; and will Trump be beaten?

Joe Biden is the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination.AAP/EPA/Justin LaneThe next US presidential election will be held on November 3, 2020. Incumbent president Donald Trump will almost certainl...

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne - avatar Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

Opera Australia's Whiteley brings together 3 icons to tell the artist's complicated story

Leigh Melrose as Brett Whiteley in Opera Australia's 2019 production of Whiteley at the Sydney Opera House. The opera focuses on the artist's addictions and his relationship with his wife. Prudence U...

David Larkin, Senior Lecturer in Musicology, University of Sydney - avatar David Larkin, Senior Lecturer in Musicology, University of Sydney

Are sports programs closing the gap in Indigenous communities? The evidence is limited

Sports have long been seen as a way to improve outcomes in Indigenous communities, but more research is needed to structure better programs.Paul Miller/AAPIndigenous Australians have a long and proud ...

Rona Macniven, Research Fellow, University of Sydney - avatar Rona Macniven, Research Fellow, University of Sydney

imagePaddington bare.STUDIOCANAL

Not unlike the bear himself, the film Paddington has had a long and bumpy ride to the big screen. Paddington’s movie, like the character, unwittingly left a marmalade smeared paw print on the delicate sensibilities of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC).

The BBFC classified the film a PG with “mild sex references”. After a plea from the distributor, this was changed to “innuendo”. The scene this referred to was one in which Mr Brown disguises himself as a cleaning woman and is flirted with by a security guard – the sort of playful gender switching that is a feature of the many pantomimes about to get into full swing across the nation.

In response to this, the national newspapers ran headlines about the smut in children’s film. Author Michael Bond was clearly very upset by the idea that his creation now had “sex” in it. But this isn’t a one off – lurking behind these headlines is a perennial paradox inherent to the stories for children which are created by adults.

imageMichael Bond (centre) with members of the cast and crew.STUDIOCANAL

Over their heads

It is a clichéd argument found in many reviews of children’s films that much of the humour is there to entertain parents and “goes over the children’s heads”. Yet the question of what is appropriate for children is rarely debated beyond a general hand-wringing concern that each new film is some further indication of the demise of childhood. Meanwhile, children enthusiastically and, at times, unpredictably adopt new stories and new cultural phenomenon, the meanings of which are rarely taken seriously perhaps because it goes “over the heads” of adults.

Paddington Bear seemed rather an exotic character to my seven-year-old self. His journey from Darkest Peru, his penchant for marmalade and his singular independence all seemed peculiarly intriguing and possibly account for my long-term affection for orange-flavoured preserve. But above all Paddington is loved for his predilection for causing chaos.

This comedic device is common to British children’s stories: a neat, tidy, ordinary family existence is disrupted by the arrival of a character, in this case a cute bear, with little or no understanding or regard for the niceties of the adult world. From the physical comedy that inevitably ensues emerges an acute examination of adult social norms from the point of view of a bewildered child, someone for whom the rules, including flirting and taxidermy, do not always make sense. The moments the two worlds collide are key to the appeal of the film, but it is these same moments which are deemed “inappropriate”.

This cosseting is decidedly hypocritical and results in some rather questionable things turning out to be deemed more or less appropriate than others. And so it’s worth looking carefully at the reasons the BBFC offer for their decision.

Classifying bears

The BBFC describe Paddington as “a family adventure about a talking bear from Peru who travels to London looking for a new home”. Their concerns relate to “imitable behaviour”, and refer to “infrequent scenes of dangerous behaviour” such as Paddington riding on a skateboard while holding on to a bus. “Threat” is also an issue, alluding to scenes in which Paddington is captured by a villain who threatens to kill and stuff him. Then there’s the famous mild innuendo, “involving a comic sequence in which a man disguised as a woman is flirted with by another man” and, believe it or not, the single use of the word “bloody”.

This description is fraught with contradictory assumptions about children and childhood. It’s assumed that children will imitate risky behaviour and that risky behaviour is intrinsically bad. Then there’s an anxiety that the film might frighten children and that being frightened is also intrinsically bad. And sexual innuendo and swearing are deemed to be fundamentally inappropriate for children.

imageThe wicked villain.STUDIOCANAL

Yet none of these ideas really tally with contemporary notions of childhood. For example, in their early years we encourage children to take risks, playing outdoors to develop their resilience and confidence. In fiction, peril drives the narrative and provides a moral compass – the goodies outwit the baddies. The fear resulting from “mild threat” in fiction is also an important aspect of children’s developing emotional repertoires. After all, Paddington arrives alone at the station, an evacuee, with a label around his neck, requesting the finder to: “Please look after this bear. Thank you.” Children of all ages encounter displacement and feel lonely which begs the question who we are protecting when we try to sanitise the representation of children’s lives.

Interestingly, the anxiety about children and sexual innuendo is argued to be a modern phenomenon. Historically children have been party to bawdy jokes in stories, jokes and playground rhymes. “When Susie Was a Baby” is one that springs to mind but there are many more rhymes through which children explore the boundaries of taste. It would appear that the rules governing the certification of children’s film are unhelpfully and unrealistically protectionist.

Adults have always co-existed, in children’s fiction, be it book, film, television, comic or game – as characters, but also as makers and audiences of the texts. Children’s stories from the Tales of the Brothers Grimm to The Hunger Games convey our cultural concerns about morality, childhood and parenting but they are also more importantly attempts to see the world from a child’s perspective. It is this which distinguishes a children’s film.

A child is highly likely to enjoy a film or story in which rules are broken and authority is challenged and this is an important pleasure. We have a responsibility to allow children to take risks, not only physically in their play, but also culturally and creatively. If we censure all transgression we will increasingly provide tame, didactic entertainment which will bore children and adults alike. So bring on the mild threat, the flirting and the fun Paddington – all that Mr Curry would definitely not approve.

image

Becky Parry has received funding from First Light. She is affiliated with the Children's Media Foundation.

Read more http://theconversation.com/paddington-sex-scandal-the-bear-would-bore-if-he-didnt-break-some-rules-34779