A cut too far?

Ken Loach tells the BBFC to mind its attitude to language.

by Jennie Kermode

The BBFC is obsessed by language, speaks the language of Middle England and refuses to accept that certain taboo words are completely natural to the characters who use them, says director Ken Loach. Currently promoting The Angels' Share, a comedy about a group of unemployed Glaswegians who decide to make some money out of whisky, he is unhappy with the BBFC's decision to give it a 15 certificate only after cutting it by dialogue substitution.

The BBFC ruling includes a warning that the film still contains "very strong language". In fact, it contains precisely seven instances of the offending word, only two of them spoken in anger. Speaking to The Guardian, producer Rebecca O'Brien described the ruling as "offensive" in light of the fact that torture scenes were not required to be cut (though a warning about violence was also appended).

"The strongest terms may be acceptable if justified by the context. Aggressive or repeated use of the strongest language is unlikely to be acceptable," say the BBFC, insisting that their policy is based on communications from the public. In 2004, zombie comedy Shaun Of The Dead broke the mould by receiving a 15 certificate although Nick Frost character used 'cunt' as a term of endearment, and recent superhero film Kick-Ass was rated 15 despite an 11 year old girl calling a group of adults cunts.

'Cunt' is considerably less stigmatised in the north of the UK, especially Scotland. It is also more likely to be used in a casual way by working class people than by the middle classes.

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