The Strange Reason Why 'Alien' Was Rated X in the U.K.

The Strange Reason Why 'Alien' Was Rated X in the U.K.

Jan 15, 2013

Every now and then a story will pop up about an iconic film that was previously branded with a scarlet rating. Ridley Scott's Alien is the new focus of fascination, and Geek Tyrant recently explained why. As the website points out, Scott's film is full of visceral, stomach-churning moments, some of them quite jarring — like the chest-bursting scene that poor John Hurt suffered through — but that isn't the reason Alien was rated X by the British Board of Film Classification.

Instead, the organization was concerned that children and teens would get confused about sex and reproduction if they watched Hurt's character, Kane, examining a pulsing egg — which would later lead to his face-hugging demise. They called it a "perverse view of the reproductive function." The censor continued:

"I don't want to flash ideas like this to teenagers who might not have come to terms with the normal sexual functions. 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."

While it's easy to groan at the board's conclusion, the comments also speak to the power of H.R. Giger's creature design. In 2004, gender and film scholar Ximena Gallardo C. wrote a book with C. Jason Smith called Alien Woman: The Making of Lt. Ellen Ripley. She spoke about the link between Giger's design for Scott's film, birth and sexuality. She described it as:

" ...A nightmare vision of sex and death. It subdues and opens the male body to make it pregnant, and then explodes it in birth. In its adult form, the alien strikes its victims with a rigid phallic tongue that breaks through skin and bone. More than a phallus, however, the retractable tongue has its own set of snapping, metallic teeth that connects it to the castrating vagina dentata."

Sexiest death ever? Alien is currently rated R here in the states. In the U.K., it's rated 18, which is pretty much the equivalent of the X rating from back then. 

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