Mr. Turner’s clothed buttocks: most complained about scene last year

Mr Turner poster

In 2014, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) received the largest number of complaints about a sex scene that’s more suggested than depicted. Mr Turner, played by Timothy Spall, is thought to have had sex with his housekeeper during the scene in question however all that’s shown are his buttocks and face.

The complaints seem to focus on the 12A certificate being too lax rather than the scene itself being offensive to the reasonable adult. It’s comforting to note that the BBFC firmly refuted the complainants’ accusations, explaining amongst other things that the scene was important to the plot and quite brief.

Also fortunate is the BBFC’s comment that the number of complaints (nineteen) represented a ‘tiny portion’ of the film’s total audience. Together with the ‘importance in terms of narrative’ justification, it’s refreshing to see that this watchdog organisation is not giving disproportional weight to the bleating of the few despite how often similar bodies have weakened under lesser pressure.

One could hope that these 19 complainants were simply taking a stand on an arbitrary occurrence to satisfy the need to have their static perspectives heard. But it’s possible that they genuinely think that the existence of sex is so reprehensible that it needs to be carefully monitored and metered out to people, much like exposure to lead or x-rays.

If you think back to your own knowledge and experience at age 12 it’s likely you were at the very least familiar with the kind of suggestive imagery described above, if not more direct depictions. And the fact that you’re able to read this paragraph now confirms that said familiarity did not cause you to go blind with disgust, shock, and general trauma.