**This post contains potential minor spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, as well as major spoilers for episodes I-VI**
It's finally official in the UK - Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been rated 12A. While children under 12 are permitted, they have to be accompanied by an adult. More than that, it means as far as the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) examiners are concerned, the new Star Wars film is unsuitable for children under 12.
This isn't too much of a surprise, as it has already been rated PG-13 in the states.
So what does this mean for parents like myself, who have a child that adores Star Wars but is way younger than the recommended age?
The UK ratings for the previous Star Wars films have mostly been U - with the two most recent ones Attack of the Clones (2002) and Revenge of the Sith (2005) being rated PG and 12A respectively (Attack of the Clones was originally a 12A too, and had to be cut to be a PG - a 1 sec head butt was removed).
The BBFC ratings of Star Wars films are frankly odd, and I have previously written about the U rating of the original movie. How can a film with so much violence, threat, and even severed limbs and smouldering bodies be given the rating of U?
The 12A for Revenge of the Sith is justified. The Jedi are slaughtered, Anakin kills children ('younglings'), almost murders his pregnant wife, and then he gets both legs chopped off and burned alive by lava.
My daughter is 3-years-old. She has seen all the Star Wars films bar Revenge of the Sith. While we're fairly permissive in terms of what films she can watch, even I think Revenge of the Sith is too much.
Are we to assume that The Force Awakens is of the same level of violence as Revenge of the Sith? Or is the rating more of a technicality like the uncut version of Attack of the Clones? Or perhaps it's more like the original trilogy, and film ratings have become more conservative since?
The BBFC have published notes on their decision, which may shed some light.
With regard to violence, they state it is frequent yet moderate, and includes:
"...blasters and lightsabers, and dogfights between spaceships. Sight of blood and injury detail is limited and brief."
Well that doesn't sound so bad. In fact that sounds like pretty much every Star Wars film rated U.
Bad language can also be a cause of a higher rating. According to the BBFC, it is infrequent and mild - 'hell' and 'damn' are specifically mentioned. Again, nothing out of line with the previous Star Wars movies.
However, there is an additional note labelled threat:
"Occasional scenes of moderate threat include characters being interrogated using 'the Force', which it is implied causes them pain, and characters being held at lightsaber-point."
The "threat" is described as moderate, which again seems to be not dissimilar to the tone of the previous movies. Think of Vader's penchant for choking people with the Force, the Wampa about to eat Luke on Hoth, or the Emperor's torturing of Luke using 'Force Lightning'. These to could be described in the same way.
It's also worth noting that in America the original Star Wars trilogy were all rated PG, while the prequels were all PG-13 (a classification that was only introduced in 1984, after Return of the Jedi).
I've been promising my 3-year-old daughter all year that we're going to see it, when she turns 4 in January. It never occurred to me that it could be rated a 12A. She's watched the trailers many times, has a LEGO set with Rey, and is already a big fan of BB-8.
The obvious answer for me is that I need to see it first, which I will. If I'm honest, it's going to have to be pretty intense for me to decide she can't see it.
Like any kid she can get scared of things she watches, but she embraces the drama of great stories, understanding that empathy for characters you love involves feeling concerned for their well-being - just like people in real life.
In the meantime, she is being exposed to wonderful inspiring stories of friendship, love, triumph over adversity, and as many inspiring female role models as possible.
For me, the most interesting thing in the BBFC notes about The Force Awakens was this:
"STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS is a sci-fi action adventure in which a young woman becomes embroiled in a galactic conflict."
It seems like the suspicions are true - the new female character of Rey (played by Daisy Ridley) is THE central character of the film. After six episodes over a period of decades, we are finally getting a Star Wars movie with a female lead. A woman will be at the heart of the Star Wars saga for the next generation.
How on earth can I not take my daughter to see that.