Director Sofia Coppola’s 2013 drama, based on a true story, explores ideas of celebrity culture and narcissism. It follows a group of young Americans obsessed with celebrity and fashion, who break into celebrities’ houses and steal clothes, jewellery and other possessions.
Oddball Marc moves to a new school and becomes entranced by glamorous classmate Becca. Accompanied by several other female friends, they start to track down the addresses of celebrities on the internet and work out whether the owners are in town, at home, or away filming or working. When they are confident the celebrities are out, the group breaks in, stealing clothes and jewellery, any money lying around, drugs and later art and furnishings. Although they are eventually caught and arrested, they embrace the fame that comes with their own, infamous, celebrity.
The Bling Ring was submitted to the BBFC with 15 category request, which means the distributor was keen to obtain a 15 age rating.
The key issues noted by Examiners included the strong language and drug use (both category defining as they could not have been passed at 12A) but also the themes of antisocial and potentially glamorous behaviour, including criminal behaviour and drug use.
The strong language, around 20 uses of 'f***', alongside milder terms like 'bitch' and 'shit', required a 15 recommendation as only infrequent strong language is usually passed at 12A, under BBFC Guidelines.
There were also a number of scenes of drug use as the youthful characters smoke marijuana joints, pass around bongs and pipes, and snort lines of cocaine. There are several party scenes where groups are seen drinking and sharing illegal drugs.
The protagonists are young, attractive, and shown to be having fun. We see them living and enjoying their hedonistic behaviour, though there are some ‘downsides’, for example we see them crash a car when intoxicated/high, and they are eventually caught. We also see a male character posing in front of a mirror smoking drugs from a glass pipe as he listens to music – this is presented in the same manner as shots of the characters posing and taking numerous ‘selfies’ using their phones and cameras.
The drug use is presented as relatively normal for this group, but the focus on the drama isn’t drug taking, that is just one part of their ‘lifestyle’ which involves obsessing over, stealing from and taking drugs like celebrities they know from films, reality TV and advertising/blogging online. The film as a whole does not promote drug use.
The group is also shown tracking celebrities online, and breaking into houses (usually very simply, crawling through a dog flap and in some instances just opening doors/celebrity’s cars). Novel techniques to break the law, which go beyond what teenagers are likely to be generally aware of, aren’t shown. Members of the group enjoy their criminal behaviour, trying on and enjoying the clothes and jewellery they steal, and it is shown as a boon for them socially, making them famous amongst their peers.
Not all group members are repentant when they are finally caught, but the film doesn’t present them as heroic – it shows them relishing the media attention they attract but also being relatively chastened and getting upset, and the negative effect on their families.
Other issues include mild / moderate sex references – a couple kissing in bed, for example, and a young girl pole dancing (fully clothed) in Paris Hilton’s ‘nightclub room’.
Later the one of the group finds a gun in Megan Fox’s house. She starts waving the gun around which upsets male friend Marc and makes him anxious. Later she waves it around in her boyfriend’s bedroom and it discharges, before they start kissing. There is no injury or violence.
The Bling Ring was passed 15 in 2013 and selected for the National Youth Film Festival that year.