Juno is a comedy drama about a streetwise 16 year old girl who gets pregnant and decides to give the baby up for adoption.
It was submitted to the BBFC with a PG request. The key classification issues in the work are infrequent strong language, moderate sex references and brief sight of a gory scene from an old horror movie The Wizard Of Gore (rated 18). When making their recommendations examiners also discussed the film’s tone, likely appeal and audience, and the treatment of the theme of teenage pregnancy.
The two uses of strong language ('f**K') are not aggressive nor directed at anyone. They occur firstly when Mark (the prospective adoptive father for Juno’s baby) is trying to appear 'cool' in a conversation about horror movies, and secondly when Juno realises she is going into labour. Though strong language is not permitted at PG, the BBFC Guidelines do allow for infrequent uses of strong language at 12A. Two uses in a feature length work were considered ‘infrequent’.
Sex references are fairly frequent in Juno but they are moderate in tone and strength. Most sex references are comic. They include references to ‘boners’, condoms that ‘make his balls smell like pie’ a ‘vag’, getting ‘snatch'. Some take place in a sexual health clinic where Juno goes when she is considering a termination. Though not educational in a strict sense, the context – discussions between teenagers, including one who is pregnant as a result of unprotected sex – was felt to mitigate any offence. The sex references were also considered to ‘reflect what is likely to be familiar to most adolescents’.
The one sex scene in the film is very brief and discreet – we see a pair of knickers fall to the floor when Juno and Paulie are about to make love, but the act itself is only implied – as allowed by BBFC Guidelines at 12A.
Juno has an exuberant and ironic tone, and is both playful and tender in its treatment of a mature theme. Some criticism of the film had suggested it might advertise teen pregnancy, but the BBFC took the view that the film’s treatment of an important theme was ‘suitable for young teenagers’ as it presented Juno’s pregnancy and its effects on her relationships realistically, rather than through rose-tinted glasses.
The brief clip from The Wizard of Gore, though it isn’t a strong focus in the film, was an interesting classification issue. It comes at a pivotal point in the tale, as Juno and Mark bond over their shared love of music and horror films. Each is trying to impress the other with their knowledge of what is 'cool', and their shared viewing lays the groundwork for the narrative development. The clip itself is well-flagged – they discuss horror directors, and Mark then shows this short illustrative clip. It is gory, but brief – plus further distance is provided by them watching it on a small TV screen. There is some sight of blood and guts, but it is presented in a cod or hammy style, and, without the context of the original horror film, becomes a brief, and comic gory moment. Thus, though the horror work itself would probably be passed at a higher category, the short clip from it here is acceptable under Guidelines at 12A.
Juno was passed 12A and received critical acclaim and Oscar nominations. The BBFCinsight for Juno was 'Contains strong language and moderate sex references'. The theme, tone and horror moments were also mentioned in the expanded version of the BBFCinsight, particularly for parents. The DVD version was passed at 12 in 2008.
A cinema trailer for Juno, which cut together some of the film’s highlights including some comic sex references, a passing mention of hard drugs and sight of a character giving another ‘the finger’, caused some complaints during its theatrical release – as it was played before children’s film.