A scene from the children’s comedy Show Dogs, in which a talking rottweiler has its private parts inspected by a judge, was the subject of eight complaints to the Irish Film Classification Office (IFCO) this year.
This accounted for a third of all complaints to IFCO during 2018. Other films that attracted criticism from members of the public included Red Sparrow, The Shape of Water, and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.
There was also a complaint arising from the fact that a trailer for the Famine-based revenge movie Black ’47 was mistakenly shown immediately before a screening of Pope Francis: A Man of His Word.
Animated comedy-drama Isle of Dogs, in which all canines are banished to live on an island, also attracted a complaint over the phrase “son of a bitch” – “whether meant as a pun or not”.
One cinemagoer complained to IFCO about the general-certified Tad the Lost Explorer and the Secret of King Midas, in which they said “the level of violence was unacceptable”.
The complainant contrasted this with the level of violence in the G-rated Disney animation Frozen, which they said was “quite low”, making it “easy to cover young eyes for a minute or two until it passes”.
There were three complaints about Red Sparrow, a spy thriller starring Jennifer Lawrence. One of these branded the film “extremely disturbing” and said: “I can legitimately say that I was in shock when I left the cinema. There were scenes in that movie that included genitalia on display… is this no longer considered explicit…? Usually in a 16s [movie] there might be a bare rear but not full frontal nudity?”
The Shape of Water, which won four Oscars last March, was the subject of one complaint over a torture scene described as “very sadistic”. In his reply, director of film classification, Ger Connolly, accepted that the scene was “undoubtedly gory” but said it was not gratuitous.
The highest number of complaints were received in relation to Show Dogs, which was branded “pro-paedophile” and “a mechanism for grooming children” by people who contacted IFCO.
The complaints related to a scene cut from the film in the US but retained in the version shown at Irish cinemas. In it, a talking dog called Max is advised to ‘go to his happy place’ while his genitals are examined by a dog-show judge. “Max is trained to suppress a ‘no’ feeling when some stranger feels him up… This is an offensive pro-groomer message in a kids film,” wrote one complainant who called for IFCO to ban the film. In response to eight complaints about Show Dogs, assistant film classifier, David Power, said IFCO’s classifiers “didn’t ascribe any hidden meaning or subtext to the scenes".
A total of 24 complaints were received by IFCO to date this year – one less than in 2017. Other productions subject to complaints include A House With Clocks in its Walls, A Star is Born, and computer game Fortnite.
While most complaints contended that a higher rating was required for films, one complainant wrote to IFCO to argue that Halloween’s 18 rating had been “too harsh”. However, David Power explained that some moments of “brutal violence” in the film had exceeded what was acceptable for a 16 rating.