Monday, December 14, 2009

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: Thailand's official ratings symbols

The official symbols for Thailand's motion picture ratings system enacted this year are starting to come into use. They are being used on movie posters, ads, cinema websites and are flashed on a title card before the start of the main feature.

The symbols are as follows:
  • Category 1 – Promote (Rated P): For educational films that the government encourages everyone to see. Symbolized by a smiley face.
  • Category 2 – General (Rated G): Appropriate for viewers of any age. Symbolized by a house.
  • Category 3 – 13+: Suggested for viewers aged 13 and older.
  • Category 4 – 15+: Suggested for viewers aged 15 and older.
  • Category 5 – 18+: Suggested for viewers aged 18 and older.
  • Category 6 – 20-: Restricted to viewers aged 20 and older, with ID checks mandatory.
There is also the hidden seventh category, for films that are banned. No symbol has been created for those films because under the law they will never be seen – at least to the knowledge of the authorities. Maybe there should be a symbol for that one – a winking smiley face.

The new symbols replace ones that were earlier drafted but were sent back to the drawing board.

Since the ratings came into effect in August, I've noticed that Thai films tend to be rated more harshly than Hollywood films. Most Thai films have been rated 15+ and higher, while Hollywood films are tending to be more liberally rated than they are in the US. In particular, Thailand's G rating offers more leniency than Hollywood's.

For example, in the U.S., The Road is rated R, restricted to viewers 17 and over "for some violence, disturbing images and language". In Thailand, John Hillcoat's cannibalism-laced adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's bleak post-apocalyptic novel is rated 13+. Disney's A Christmas Carol is rated PG (parental guidance) in the U.S. for "for scary sequences and images", but in Thailand Robert Zemeckis' creepily unsettling hybrid animation of Charles Dickens' novel was passed as rated G. The Rebound, a Catherine Zeta-Jones romantic comedy Rated R "for language, some sexual content and brief drug use" was also passed as Rated G.

Exceptions to this trend include Couples Retreat, rated PG-13 in the States and rated 13+ in Thailand. Ninja Assassin, rated R in the U.S. "for strong bloody stylized violence throughout, and language", which was rated 18+ in Thailand. Under the old censorship system, those sprays of blood would surely have been pixellated or cut altogether.

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