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Mary Poppins age rating raised to PG due to discriminatory language 60 years after release

Dick van Dyke and Julie Andrews in the classic musical Mary Poppins
Dick van Dyke and Julie Andrews in the classic musical Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins, the beloved tale of Julie Andrews' magical nanny, has undergone a rating shift from U to PG due to concerns over “discriminatory language.”

The word in question, though obscure, has sparked the change.

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) now advises children not to watch the 1964 classic without parental input, despite its enduring charm across generations.

The reclassification stems from the use of the term “Hottentots,” historically employed by Europeans to describe the Khoekhoe, a nomadic herding group in South Africa, now recognised as racially offensive.

Admiral Boom, portrayed by Reginald Owen, utters the word twice in the film. Initially, while suspended from a rooftop in a boat, he queries a Banks child about facing the “Hottentots.”

Later, amidst a rooftop dance by chimney sweeps, he perceives them as “attacking” and directs fireworks their way.

The BBFC now now advises against children watching the 1964 classic alone
The BBFC now now advises against children watching the 1964 classic alone

The BBFC's PG rating signifies that “some scenes may be unsuitable for young children,” advising parental discretion, particularly for younger or more sensitive viewers.

While acknowledging the film's early 20th-century London setting, the BBFC's decision reflects evolving standards, surpassing the guidelines for a U rating due to the unaddressed use of potentially offensive language.

The BBFC said: “We understand from our racism and discrimination research... that a key concern for... parents is the potential to expose children to discriminatory language or behaviour which they may find distressing or repeat without realising the potential offence.

“Content with immediate and clear condemnation is more likely to receive a lower rating.”

The BBFC recently downgraded Brad Pitt's film Fight Club from an 18 rating to a 15, despite its portrayal of “sequences of graphic and brutal violence.”