Mary Poppins film rating raised due to discriminatory language

Mary Poppins

The beloved 1964 classic Mary Poppins, featuring Julie Andrews in the title role, has seen its age rating elevated by British film censors.

This change comes in response to the film’s use of language that is now deemed discriminatory.

The reclassification by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) addresses the use of a derogatory term, historically used by white Europeans to describe nomadic peoples in southern Africa, which in the film is applied to soot-covered chimney sweeps.

According to the BBFC, such language “exceeds our guidelines” for films rated U.

Mary Poppins is set in 1910 London and tells the story of a magical nanny, portrayed by Dame Julie Andrews, who cares for a family’s children with the assistance of Bert, a chimney sweep played by Dick Van Dyke. The film was a major success, securing five Oscars in 1965, including best actress and best song.

Admiral Boom, a character who believes he’s still commanding a ship, uses the contentious term twice within the film’s dialogue.

A spokesperson for the BBFC said: “Most recently, the film was resubmitted to us in February 2024 for another theatrical re-release, and we reclassified it PG for discriminatory language.

“Mary Poppins (1964) includes two uses of the discriminatory term ‘hottentots’.

“While Mary Poppins has a historical context, the use of discriminatory language is not condemned, and ultimately exceeds our guidelines for acceptable language at U. We therefore classified the film PG for discriminatory language.”

The Oxford English Dictionary notes that the term is considered archaic and offensive.

The BBFC’s decision reflects its ongoing research into racism and discrimination, highlighting concerns, especially from parents, about exposing children to potentially distressing or imitable discriminatory language or behaviour.

About the author: Rachel Wise

UK based freelancer journalist Rachel contributes regularly to Stageberry with features and interviews from the hottest new shows and stage stars.


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