Why was Alien rated X in the UK? It could confuse teens about sex

Contributed by
Jan 22, 2013, 5:53 PM EST

There are a lot of gruesome moments in Ridley Scott's 1979 classic Alien, but it still seems a bit harsh that the U.K. film ratings board gave the flick an X rating back when it was first released. So why'd they hit the film with such a restriction? They thought it would confuse teens about how sex works. No, really.

The "X" rating (now known as "18") in the U.K. means you aren't allowed entry to the film unless you're 18 or older, and these days it means you can't even rent or buy the DVD if you're not old enough. The rating just beneath it, "AA" (now known as "14+") would have allowed teenagers to see the film, and that's apparently what the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) had a problem with back in '79.

But according to recently unearthed records related to the film's classification, it wasn't the violence or the sci-fi horror or even the infamous "chestburster." It was another famous scene that censors felt would confuse teens about how sex works.

You remember the scene pictured above, right? John Hurt comes upon a room filled with these curious alien eggs, he makes the mistake of looking straight down into one and BAM, he gets up close and personal with a facehugger. Seems like a straightforward piece of make-believe, right? Well, the BBFC censor who wrote the judgment classifying the film had other ideas.

"I feel uneasy about passing for 14-year-olds a film which uses sexual imagery in a horror context," the censor wrote. "The images are not always explicit but run like a dark undercurrent throughout suggesting a powerful, threatening, unnamed force. Occasionally the image is explicit as when the leathery egg opens up to reveal a glistening pulsating membrane which erupts into a squid-like creature."

See, this was back when the censors were allowed much more freedom to interpret things based on how they thought a particularly age group would react. These days they rate films based on images depicted, and don't spend as much time getting all philosophical on us. But for this particular '70s censor, seeing John Hurt getting face-hugged and subsequently knocked up with alien spawn seemed like the sort of thing that could seriously mess up teens who were still, well ... trying to figure out how all their parts worked.

"I don't want to flash ideas like this to teenagers who might not have come to terms with the normal sexual functions," the censor said. "The early teens are a troublesome time with physical changes making terrific demands on emotional stability. I don't myself want to pass for this age-group a film which might be disturbing in a non-specific way to a significant proportion of them."

With all the concern over how sci-fi would affect teens' understanding of sex, you have to wonder what that censor would have made of the dream sequences in The Fly.

(Via Daily Mail)

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