Why is M3GAN ‘M’? A view from a CMA parent member

Small Screen - Talking Point - Thriving in a Digital World

February 6, 2023

M = M3GAN = Murder, Mutilation and Mayhem. Why is this so?

In cinemas now, M3GAN is classified ‘M’ in Australia, being judged as having moderate impact, in spite of very scary scenes. This is in stark contrast to classifications by Kijkwijzer in the Netherlands at 16+, and the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) at 15+, both of which have legal force. Should M3GAN be rated MA15+ here?


Why is M3GAN ‘M’? A view from a CMA parent member

There is a movie currently screening that my 10 year old would love to see. It is about a lifelike AI doll that is gifted to an 8 year old girl. The doll has huge appeal – she has long blonde hair, and she can talk and dance!

However, I will not let my daughter watch it. M3GAN is a horror movie that is rated ‘M’. This means that while it is not recommended for children under 15, this rating is just ‘advisory’ and children under 15 may legally watch this movie. Much of the horror in M3GAN is implied. For instance, there is a scene where the ‘doll’ rips off a child’s ear. The Australian Classification Board says, in its Decision report, “she implicitly rips off part of his ear” and she “holds an indistinct dark object away from her body, implicitly his ear, staring menacingly at him”. She then “tosses his ear aside … falls to all fours and races after him, loping rapidly on all fours like a wolf”. Later, it is stated that, whilst in the midst of her murderous killing spree with a bloodied blade of a guillotine, the M3GAN doll steps forward to her next whimpering, begging victim and “a sharp thrusting motion occurs, implicitly stabbing [the victim], although the injury is not shown in detail”.  (See also CMA’s review).

The Board says of this implied violence:

In the Board’s view, although the film features tension and a sustained threat of violence as Megan begins to become increasingly autonomous and murderous, the actual depictions of violence are relatively brief and mostly discreet. In the Board’s opinion, the material does not exceed a moderate impact overall and can be accommodated within the M classification, with consumer advice of violence and sustained threat best describing the most impactful content.


Pursuant to the Guidelines, this film is classified M as the impact of the classifiable elements is moderate.

It seems that when the horror is “implicit”, “indistinct” and “discreet” (ie ‘what you don’t see’), then it is in the Board’s view of “moderate impact”.

M3GAN is produced by one of the most prolific minds in the world of horror – James Wan, the filmmaker behind the Saw, Insidious and The Conjuring franchises and the producer of the Halloween movies, The Black Phone and The Invisible Man (M3GAN).

Further, because there are no legal restrictions on children watching M rated movies, it is likely there have been many children who have watched M3GAN, and now a number of them who have been negatively affected by what they’ve seen.

The Netherlands classification system, Kijkwijzer, has given this film a 16 classification for fear, violence and language (which has legal force); the British Board of Film Classification has given it a 15 (with legal force) for strong threat, violence, and bloody images.

A common understanding amongst horror enthusiasts is that the scariest movies are those where you don’t actually see the monster, and the movie producer allows the power of the human imagination to take over. For example, often rated as one of the scariest movies of all time, Paranormal Activity is a movie where mostly you don’t see the ‘evil spirit’ but it is implied that it is there. Herein lies a conundrum of classification. Paranormal Activity is classified ‘M’ in Australia. Personally, I wish I’d never watched it because I can’t un-see it! I believe it should have received the stronger rating of ‘MA15+’, as it does in the Netherlands (16), a highly acclaimed classification system that focusses on what is harmful, and where ‘Fear’ is acknowledged as a classifiable element and hence taken into account. Australian Classification uses the following elements in its decisions: themes, violence, sex, language, drug use, nudity. No mention of fear.


And another thing: if Avatar is ‘M’, why promote it to kids?

Current blockbuster, Avatar: The Way of the Water is ‘M’, and therefore not recommended for children under the age of 15. Then, why is there a current promotion in select cinemas’ Gold Class, for Avatar with a “menu curated for kids”. What is even more baffling is that these Kids Meals are “available for kids under 10 only”!!?? This means that the cinema is enticing parents to bring their children aged under 10 to a movie that is potentially harmful to children!



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