Australian Council on Children and the Media

History Boys, The

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Not recommended under 15 (Themes, Sexual references, Language)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for History Boys, The
  • a review of History Boys, The completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 3 May 2007.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 15 Not recommended due to themes, sexual references and coarse language

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: History Boys, The
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Moderate themes, Sexual references, Moderate coarse Language
Length 112 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Based on the play by Alan Bennet and predominately supported by its original cast, The History Boys follows the path of eight high-school graduates who have all elected to do an extra term at school to improve their chances of getting into Oxford or Cambridge Universities. The Headmaster (Clive Merrison) is thrilled with the boys’ prospects and enlists the help of Irwin (Stephen Campbell Moore) a mysterious young teacher in the hopes of further improving their chances.
The boys are also guided by their devoted history teacher Dorothy Lintott (Frances de la Tour) and their creative general studies teacher Hector (Richard Griffiths) who has a disturbing tendency to fondle his students, something which they seem to regard with amusement.
As the boys prepare for their entrance exams they are encouraged to “think outside the box” and look for obscure and unusual perspectives. In the process Dakin (Dominic Cooper) and David Postner (Samuel Barnett) begin to look more closely at themselves and question their sexuality.
It takes a tragic turn of events for the boys to recognise some of the lessons that they had been taught and to realize how those lessons would impact not only their choices, but the rest of their lives

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.

Homosexuality, teacher/pupil relationships

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:

  • A teacher repeatedly whacks students on the head with rolled up papers (without real malice).
  • A teacher is killed in a motorcycle accident. (The crash and body is not shown, only the aftermath.)

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.

Children under five are likely to be disturbed by the above mentioned scenes.

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.

Children under five are likely to be disturbed by the above mentioned scenes.

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.

Apart from the violence described above, there are no scenes in this film that are likely to disturb children but children may be disturbed by the idea of a teacher sexually touching students and the way in which they react to this with amusement.

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.

Apart from the violence described above, there are no scenes in this film that are likely to disturb children but children may be disturbed by the idea of a teacher sexually touching students and the way in which they react to this with amusement.

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • There is reference made to foreskins and to the fact that David does not have one as he is Jewish.
  • There are references made about masturbation.
  • The boys discuss monks living in a monastery and some believe that they spent a lot of time ‘bonking up’.
  • There are multiple references made to erections.
  • “He snogged his pupils”
  • “They look like men with tits.”
  • “Sir, I think I may be a homosexual.”
  • “He handled the boy’s balls!”
  • There is repeated reference to the genital massage that the boys receive while riding home with Hector.
  • I am talking about ‘sucking me off.’
  • “I will give you unfettered access to my dick.”
  • “He has been feeling up Fiona.”
  • “It’s always a struggle not to touch the boys.”

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Hector tries to grope boy’s genitals while giving them rides home on his motorcycle.
  • Dakin takes off his pants and pretends that he is a client in a brothel while one of the other boys plays ‘the whore’. This takes place in class with all speaking in French.
  • Dakin and a Fiona (his girlfriend) are making out on a bed. She stops his hands as they begin to move between her legs.
  • While some of the boys sing, or perform in class Hector looks at them lustily and slowly licks his lips.
  • The Headmaster grabs Fiona’s bottom.

Use of substances

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

  • Both students and teachers are seen smoking cigarettes, in a number of different scenes.
  • Dakin asks Irwin out, asking if he wants to get a drink.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • The film contains extremely frequent use of the word “fuck” (in it’s various forms), occasional use of the words “shit” and “cunt”. There is also some name-calling such as “turd”, “nancy” “wanker” and “trollop”.

In a nutshell

The History Boys is a. drama that contains many characteristics of a theatrical production. It will be favoured by fans of the original play and by, mature audiences.

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

  • Studiousness 
  • Discipline
  • Determination
  • Loyalty

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

  • Homosexuality
  • Sexual abuse of pupils by teachers
  • Sexual harassment
  • Lying to impress people and the consequences thereof.

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