Flash Gordon adds warning for ‘discriminatory stereotypes’ in ‘dubious if not outright offensive’ character Ming the Merciless

 (Rex Features)
(Rex Features)

Flash Gordon has been reclassified by UK film boards for its potentially “offensive” character Ming the Merciless.

The film was released in 1980 and stars Sam J Jones as the titular hero, who must fight to save the planet from the evil Emperor Ming the Merciless, who is played by late Swedish actor Max von Sydow.

At the time of release, the film was rated A (roughly the equivalent of PG today), but has now been given a 12a rating by the British Board of Film Classification, with a warning about “discriminatory stereotypes” added to its recent re-release.

The BBFC’s senior policy officer Matt Tindall said of the decision: “Ming the Merciless is coded as an East Asian character due to his hair and make-up, but he’s played by a Swedish actor in the film… which I don’t think is something that would happen if this were a modern production, and is something that we’re also aware that viewers may find dubious if not outright offensive.”

He continued: “The character of Ming of course comes from the Flash Gordon comic strips from the 1930s and the serials, and let's just say attitudes towards the acceptability of discriminatory racial stereotypes have moved on considerably since then, and rightly so of course.”

Earlier this year, Flash Gordon was among the films to be given a disclaimer by Sky Cinema for containing “outdated attitudes, language and cultural depictions which may cause offence today”.

Other movies to come with the warning included Gone with the Wind and Disney’s Dumbo.

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