As a component of its forthcoming season honoring British film composer John Barry, the British Film Institute (BFI) has recently incorporated trigger warnings for classic films, including the renowned James Bond films. The incorporation of these disclaimers is a response to concerns that specific material within these films might offend contemporary audiences.
The BFI website includes a disclaimer for the films that are scheduled to be screened during the “John Barry: Soundtracking Bond and Beyond” season, including “Goldfinger” (1964) and “You Only Live Twice” (1967). This advisory signifies that the films comprise language, imagery, or other material that reflects prevailing ideologies during their production era, potentially rendering them offensive in the present day.
Further to the overarching disclaimer, targeted warnings have been issued for particular films. “You Only Live Twice” and “Midnight Cowboy” have received criticism for their portrayal of “outdated racial stereotypes” and “homophobic language and sexual violence,” respectively. It is advised that “Petulia” avoid “scenes of domestic violence.”
These cautionary notices are not solely available on the BFI’s website; they are also displayed at the ticket confirmation point of sale within the venue, including the box office. Moreover, they are documented in the printed guide of the BFI.
Citing a 2021 survey by the British Board of Film Classification which found that the majority of adolescents supported trigger warnings on films that could negatively impact their mental health, the BFI spokesperson provided justification for the inclusion of these warnings.
BFI’s Head of Strategic Communications, Tina McFarling, stated that the institute has a duty to present these films to audiences in a responsible manner, in addition to preserving them as precisely as possible, even if they reject certain language or depictions. Trigger warnings function as indicators that a film depicts perspectives that were prevalent at the time of its production and may be deemed objectionable today.
The BFI’s action exemplifies an emerging pattern within the film industry wherein classic films are being recognized and analyzed for potentially delicate material, thereby striking a balance between the preservation of history and the sensibilities of modern audiences.