The Australian Psychological Society (APS) has expressed grave concerns over the classification MA given to the soon to be released movie, The Happening.
APS President, Amanda Gordon, said:
This movie, with its graphic and repeated depictions of violent suicides should receive an R classification instead of the MA rating. We call on the Classification Board to urgently review this rating.
Not only does this movie romanticise and sensationalise suicide, but it depicts many different methods of achieving that end. There is good evidence that the reporting of suicides can lead to copycat behavior, and there are many instances of increased
suicide rates following media portrayals of suicide. The more detailed the descriptions or portrayals of the suicide, the greater the risk that vulnerable people, including young people or people with mental health problems, may harm themselves.
Psychologists have grave concerns that we will see a real increase in both suicide attempts and successful suicides, as a result of people viewing this movie. The most vulnerable, including young people, will be protected by a higher rating by the
We have media guidelines for the reporting of suicide, and classification systems for films for very good reasons. What better reason is there than the protection of vulnerable people in our society?
In the UK, the BBFC passed the film 15 with the following explanation:
THE HAPPENING is a thriller about a couple and a young girl trying to escape a mysterious toxin causing people to commit suicide and murder. The work was passed '15' for frequent images of suicide and moderate bloody injury.
Besides references to terrorism, and a sustained menace from an unseen and uncontrollable threat, the film also features a series of suicides by different methods, including a policeman shooting himself with sight of blood trickling from a bullet wound
in his head, sight of another man lying in a pool of blood having shot himself off-screen, a jump moment where several bodies are seen hanging from trees, a scene where a man slits his wrist at a small distance and another scene where two young teenage
boys are shot. In each case sight of blood and injury is fairly brief. However the treatment of the suicide theme and the frequency and nature of the injury detail went beyond the bounds of a '12A', but met the BBFC's '15' Guidelines which allow 'strong
threat and menace', and state that 'no theme is prohibited, provided that treatment is appropriate for 15 year olds', 'violence may be strong but not dwell on the infliction of pain or injury' and 'dangerous techniques (e.g. combat, hanging, suicide, and
self-harming) should not dwell on imitable detail'.
The work also contains moderate language including uses of 'bitch'.