Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Audience and Certification

Action Adventure and Audience

Escape and excitement
Something for everyone
Family viewing

Research has shown that the typical audiences for action adventure films are:

1/ Primary audience

a. Male – reflected by male characters; stereotypical interest in explosions and action; stories with closure
b. Nationality – primarily American, as reflected in the films’ lead American actors, which, in turn, reflect the common American opinion that the USA can solve the world’s problems
c. Age – 15-24 – main cinema-going age
d. Class – working class/lower middle – the films put the importance of action over character development
e. Interests – masculinity, sports, computer games, etc

2/ Secondary audiences

a. Older men – who have enjoyed these films, or films from the genres that action adventure relies on, in the past
b. Women – may find actors attractive or see them with their boyfriends or husbands (or, in some cases, both!)

There are exceptions, of course. Think of Tomb Raider or Catwoman. Both films contain typical action adventure TROPES and were aimed at men and the women are sexually attractive and portrayed as objects of desire, but women could find ‘kick ass’ protagonists to identify with.

Uses and Gratifications

The theorists Blumler and Katz (1974) identified several gratifications an active audience can get from looking at media products.
a. Escape from reality
b. Social interaction – people can discuss what they’ve seen with friends/colleagues
c. Identity – people identify a part of themselves in media text through character or circumstance
d. Inform and educate
e. Entertain
f. Evaluating self against characters

How many do you think apply to Action Adventure fans?


Most action adventure films are aimed at the 15-24 audience; an 18 certificate would severely cut into its profits, so filmmakers have to be aware of the requirements of the British Board for Film Classification.

The BBFC have become more liberal over the years, so a film like Brotherhood of the Wolf, with some nudity and slow-motion close ups of the result of violent blows can be shown with a 15 certificate; Spider-Man, with similar slow-motion shots of the hero being hit by the Green Goblin was given a 12A.
Here are three examples from the 15 classification

Strong threat and menace are permitted unless sadistic or sexualised.
Sexual activity may be portrayed without strong detail.
Violence may be strong but should not dwell on the infliction of pain or injury. The strongest gory images are unlikely to be acceptable. Strong sadistic or sexualised violence is also unlikely to be acceptable.
Nudity may be allowed in a sexual context but without strong detail. There are no constraints on nudity in a non-sexual or educational context.
While strong language may be justified by the context, repeated and aggressive use of the strongest language would not be acceptable.

You can see that there is plenty of room to manoeuvre, but some films that fall, at least partially, under the action adventure category, like Terminator 2 and Die Harder, received 18 certificates, thereby limiting their audience.Other directors aim for an even wider audience. The recent superhero movie, Thor, was a 12A and it was noted that it featured moderate fantasy violence – in other words, not realistic enough to worry about.

Here’s the BBFC report for The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec (2011): a fantasy adventure film about a novelist called Adele who deals with various real and fantasy distractions whilst trying to restore her comatose sister back to health. It was classified '12A' for brief moderate nudity.The BBFC's Guidelines at 'PG' state there may be 'Natural nudity, with no sexual context'. The film includes a scene in which Adele takes a bath. As she reads a letter, her nipples are briefly visible above the surface of the water. After this, her breasts and buttocks are briefly shown after she gets out of the bath. Although no sexual activity occurs, there is a degree of sexualisation present in the images that means the scene is more appropriately classified at '12A' where the Guidelines state 'Nudity is allowed, but in a sexual context must be brief and discreet'.

The film also contains some scenes of moderate violence. Much of this is clearly fantastical in nature, including sight of a snake necklace coming to life and strangling a man. Other scenes occur within an action adventure context, including sight of Adele kneeing a man in the groin in order to escape, and sight of Adele outrunning a river of fire. In one scene, a giant pterodactyl swoops down and carries a man away from his executioner, causing the executioner to fall back onto the guillotine. The blade descends and the executioner is apparently decapitated, albeit offscreen. The film also includes a scene in which a woman falls backwards onto a hatpin, which subsequently emerges from her forehead and renders her comatose. These scenes lack any real detail and occur within a generally light-hearted and comic context.

There are infrequent scenes showing characters smoking, including Adele briefly smoking a cigarette as she speaks to a reanimated mummy. However, there is no promotion or glamorisation of smoking. The film also features occasional mild language, such as 'ass' and 'damn'.

You can see, in terms of violence, that the BBFC is at pains to distinguish between fantasy violence and the more realistic kind.

It should be noted, however, that for all many of these films feature ‘foreign’ villains, discrimination is not allowed, unless in a critical context, so filmmakers can’t go overboard with this and suggest the villain represents a whole nation.

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