Close Your Eyes and Everything Will Be 12A*

So far this year two big releases, The Hunger Games and The Woman in Black, have had mere seconds of footage shaved from them in order to drop down from a 15 certificate to the Box Office friendly rating of 12A. What intrigued me about this, rather than the fact that studios are hunting for a 12A rating which makes financial sense, is the fact that the barrier between a 15 and a 12A certificate can be a few seconds of removed or edited footage. Does being three years older make you better able to handle an extra seven seconds of gore?

This got me thinking about the way our bodies naturally censor every film we watch, shaving minutes off the runtime and shielding us from all kinds of images, by blinking. So now the question is whether we blink for long enough during a film to effectively censor it enough for a lower age certificate. That is what we were all thinking, right?

I did a bit of Google investigating and found that we blink 10 times a minute under laboratory conditions and 3.5 times a minute when focussed on something (a film perhaps?). The duration of the average blink is very roughly 0.25 seconds. Are we excited yet!?

The next step in my journey into testing a pointless theory was to pick four films as test subjects. Joining The Hunger Games and The Woman in Black are The Human Centipede II and A Serbian Film; both films having undergone significant cuts to achieve a release at 18 certificate and escape being banned outright. Using the running time for each film I have calculated the total amount of blinking time, under laboratory conditions and for focussed eyes, the average viewer would experience. The results of my calculations are below:

Film Running time Blinking time
(lab)
Blinking time
(focussed)
Amount cut by BBFC
The Hunger Games 142m 18s 5m 56s 2m 5s 7s
The Human Centipede II 86m 50s 3m 37s 1m 16s 2m 31s
A Serbian Film 99m 25s 4m 9s 1m 27s 4m 11s
The Woman in Black 94m 47s 3m 57s 1m 23s 6s

What does this tell us? In reality nothing, but in the delusion you are following me through it means that both The Hunger Games and The Woman in Black could have been released uncut with a 12A rating and our natural eyelid movements would have censored the films dramatically without the BBFC’s help. Staggeringly under laboratory conditions The Human Centipede II could have been released uncut and our blinks would have hidden all the worse of the gore for us! Only A Serbian Film, a truly grim piece of cinema, has too much offensive material for our blinks to take care of.

Taking this even further it is worth considering the fact that for the more scary/gory/extreme films we self-censor even more extensively by clenching our eyes shut, hiding behind coats, and running screaming from the room. When I first saw The Sixth Sense I spent so much time hiding behind a towel, pink and the nearest shield to hand, that I effectively edited it down from a 15 to a PG certificate. I barely saw any dead people thank you very much.

In conclusion: I have too much time on my hands. The BBFC can stop suggesting cuts and just have a BBC Sport style announcer telling viewers when to blink. I stand by my findings 100%.

*Now that you have read the whole thing the title is all the more witty and hilarious, please take a moment to quietly applaud a well written pun.