Australian Council on Children and the Media

Fences

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Not recommended under 13; parental guidance recommended 13 to 15 due to themes, violence, sexual references and coarse language

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Fences
  • a review of Fences completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 20 February 2017.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not recommended due to themes, violence, sexual references and coarse language
Children aged 13-15 Parental guidance recommended due to themes
Viewers 15 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Fences
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes, sexual references and coarse language
Length 139 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) is a 53-year-old African-American living in Pittsburgh in the 1950’s. He lives with his wife Rose (Viola Davis) and their 17-year-old son Cory (Jovan Adepo). He has an older son Lyons (Russell Hornsby), a musician, from a previous marriage, who often comes to visit on payday. Troy works hard as a garbage collector to make enough money to provide for his family and keep a roof over their heads. His sense of responsibility weighs heavily on him, and it angers him that Lyons doesn’t get a ‘proper’ job and make real money.

Troy works with his neighbour and good friend Bono (Stephen Henderson) and they often stay and have a chat and a drink after work. It’s during these chats that we learn about Troy’s difficult background. He had an abusive father and left home at the age of 14 but later became a successful baseball player for what was then called an “all-negro” team. He has a brother Gabrielle (Mykelti Williamson) who was injured during the war and is now brain-damaged. Troy was sent to jail for 15 years for accidentally killing a man during a robbery and met and married Rose when he came out of jail. By this time, he was too old to continue his baseball career but he has blamed his ineligibility on his colour and this seems to have had a long lasting influence on his outlook to life.

One day Troy comes home from work with a revelation that is so upsetting to Rose that it threatens their relationship and happy life together. Cory refuses to speak to his father again and Troy retaliates by kicking him out of home. Troy and Rose do stay living in the same house but separately, with Rose refusing to let him back into her life.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Racial issues; father/son relationships; infidelity

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Troy slaps Rose playfully on the bottom on several occasions.
  • Troy smashes things off a benchtop in frustration.
  • Troy hits Cory on the chest and tells him to “get the hell out of my face”.
  • Troy talks about how his Dad used to beat him with a leather strap. When he was 14, he stood up to him but his Dad beat him till he couldn’t see. He hasn’t seen him since and hopes he’s dead.
  • Troy tells how he pulled a knife on a man during a robbery.
  • Rose and Troy verbally fight and yell at each other. Troy grabs Rose by the arm and Cory pushes him away. Troy pushes Cory back into the fence.
  • Troy yells at ‘death’ during a thunderstorm. ‘Death’ seems to answer him with thunder claps. Troy tells ‘death’ to stay on the other side of the fence.
  • Cory and Troy have a serious fight. Cory threatens Troy with his baseball bat and Troy dares him to hit him but says he’ll have to kill him if he does. Cory backs down but Troy grabs the baseball bat and thrusts it against Cory’s neck. He lets him go but sends him packing.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Gabriel is a scary person as he is brain-damaged and acts quite irrationally. He often comes to visit Rose and Troy.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • We hear of a mother who dies during childbirth.
  • Gabriel is seen sitting at his mother’s grave. He leaves some of his food for her.
  • Troy visits Gabriel in hospital – it is full of mentally ill patients

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Some of Troy’s stories are quite disturbing especially how he was treated by his father and had to leave home at the age of 14. His need to steal for food and committing robberies to survive is also disturbing.
  • The scene where Troy argues with ‘death’ during a thunderstorm is very dramatic and quite scary.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Some children in this age group could also be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes.

Product placement

Nothing of concern

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Troy often kisses and cuddles Rose playfully. One time when he’s been drinking he says he ‘has to finish what’s at hand’ while grabbing her crotch.
  • Troy has an affair and has to tell Rose he’s going to become a father again.

Nudity and sexual activity

Nothing of concern

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Troy is often drinking gin neat out of a bottle which he shares with Bono and Lyons. He often says regrettable things after drinking too much.
  • Troy drinks alone at a bar.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • goddamit; hell; damn fool;  just another nigger; negro; black arse; shit

In a nutshell

Fences is a movie remake of a 1980’s play by August Wilson. It is still very much a stage play transferred to screen but the high standard of acting, particularly by the main characters, carries it off. The story is quite intense and the themes, violence, sexual references and coarse language make more suitable for teens and adults. It is not recommended for viewers under 13 and parental guidance is strongly recommended for 13 to 15 year olds.

The main messages from this movie are that we all need to somehow live with others,’ and our own, imperfections and that success comes through hard work.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • patience
  • perseverance
  • forgiveness

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • racism
  • how drinking too much can make you say and do things you might regret.
  • the importance of families and how the family structure has changed since the 1950’s when fathers ruled the roost and had to be obeyed by their wives and children.

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