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France's Censorship Board Said 'Fifty Shades of Grey' Is OK for 12-Year-Olds

Ratings board president Jean-Francois Mary said it's "a romance, you could even say schmaltzy."
Still frame from the 'Fifty Shades of Grey' trailer

If you don't know about Fifty Shades of Grey it's this movie that's coming out about this lady who likes this rich guy, but the rich guy is into spanky-type sex, so they do a bunch of that stuff and have a lot of emotions over the course of three books and 1,600 pages. People loved it, and now it's a movie, which means that various governmental bodies have to rate it.

In the US, it earned an R rating for "strong sexual content including dialogue" and "some unusual behavior." But in France, where "unusual behavior" is probably more usual, the Ministry of Culture's film certification board has decided that the movie is OK for anyone as young as 12.


Rating board president Jean-Francois Mary, a grown man who has presumably seen and done some things in his time, told the AP that Fifty Shades "isn't a film that… can shock a lot of people." He added that it's "a romance, you could even say schmaltzy."

The Europeans, obviously, are cooler about nudity than Americans. But France's film certification board, in particular, seems to be a bunch of libertines. The country's least restrictive rating is "U," which is essentially our "G," although there's sometimes an exclamation mark added to the U to indicate, "Toddlers can watch it, but they might cry or whatever." Then there's "12"—the rating Fifty Shades got, meaning children younger than 12 shouldn't see it. Then there's "16" and "18," and beyond that—well, let's just say that if the French government decides a movie is too much for French 18-year-olds, it probably should be banned.

What movies have been given the U! rating? To start with, there's Team America World Police, and that movie opens with the annihilation of Paris before the scenes where cats chew people's heads off.

Movies that are currently certified "U" without an exclamation mark include Eyes Wide Shut, Braveheart, Blue Valentine, and Mulholland Drive. You know, kid stuff.

But in 2000, a sex-and-killing-spree movie called Baise Moi ("Fuck Me") was given France's 16+ rating, which provoked outrage among conservatives and led to the reinstatement of the country's long-unused 18+ rating. Around this time a subgenre emerged that became known as the New French Extremity. This included the genuinely shocking works of directors like François Ozon, Gaspar Noé, and Catherine Breillat.

But the censors in France were pretty unfazed by all the violence and sex and sexual violence these auteurs threw at them. Most of these films were certified 16+, including Irreversible, which contains notorious 11-minute rape and fire-extinguisher-head-smashing scenes, the latter of which is embedded below to illustrate my point (BUT DON'T WATCH IT, OBVIOUSLY).

Anyway, you can watch Fifty Shades of Grey in theaters starting this Friday, if that's the sort of thing you're into.

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