Disney's Mary Poppins age rating raised over racially offensive word ‘unsuitable for kids’

February 26, 2024
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Mary Poppins, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, is one of the best-loved children’s films in Hollywood history.

Walt ’s Oscar-winning movie adaptation of the PL Travers’ books about a magical nanny has charmed audiences for decades.

But now the Julie Andrews classic has had its UK age rating raised from U for Universal to PG for Parental Guidance, which according to the BBFC’s guidelines means that “some scenes may be unsuitable for young children.”

This reclassification is due to the use of the word Hottentots, which is now regarded as racially offensive.

The derogatory term was used by Europeans to refer to a group of nomadic herders in South Africa called the Khoekhoe.

The word Hottentots dates to late 17th century Dutch settlers and is thought to have been treated as an imitation of the clicks used in the Khoikhoi language. As for its use Mary Poppins, which is set in the Edwardian period, Admiral Boom says it on a couple of occasions during the movie.

Reginald Owen’s character, who believes himself to be a naval commander of a ship, dangles from a roof in a boat before asking the Banks children if they’re “going to fight the Hottentots”. The second occasion is when the chimney sweeps and lead characters have their faces blackened by soot, .

When Admiral Boom spots them dancing to Chim Chim Cher-ee, he shouts, “We’re being attacked by Hottentots!” before launching fireworks at them.

According to the Daily Mail, the BBFC looked at the historical context of Mary Poppins’ Edwardian setting. Yet since the language used by Admiral Boom wasn’t condemned, the film must now exceed its U guidelines.

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.”



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