Australian Council on Children and the Media

Much ado about nothing

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Not recommended under 15 (Themes; sex scenes and references)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Much ado about nothing
  • a review of Much ado about nothing completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 16 July 2013.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 15 Not recommended due to themes and sex scenes and references

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: Much ado about nothing
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Sex scenes
Length 108 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Much ado about nothing is a romantic comedy, adapted by director and writer Joss Whedon from William Shakespeare’s famous play of the same name. Although it is set in a contemporary context, the language and plot remain largely unchanged from the original.

The film centres on the relationship between Benedick (Alexis Denisof) and Beatrice (Amy Acker), two fiesty and independent people who have vowed never to marry. After being deceived by their friends into thinking that the other is deeply in love with them, the two begin to warm to each other, and ultimately relinquish their pride in order to be together.

Against the backdrop of this central romance, the film depicts the villainous Don John (Sean Maher) in his quest to wreak havoc upon his brother’s family and friends. He attempts to prevent a happy marriage between the young lovers Claudio (Fran Kranz) and Hero (Jillian Morgese) by tricking Claudio into thinking that Hero is being unfaithful.

Don John’s deception is eventually discovered and events move towards a happy conclusion for more than one couple.

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.

Deception; love and fidelity; gender and double standards; public shaming of women

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.

  • After Hero is publically shamed for infidelity on her wedding day, her father Leonato tells her that “if they speak the truth, these hands shall tear thee”, threatening violence and saying that she would be better off dead if she had in fact been unfaithful.
  • Beatrice shouts angrily at a Benedick after her cousin Hero is wrongfully shamed, saying that if she were a man, she would “eat another heart” out of revenge.
  • Benedick slaps Claudio across the face and tells him he is a villain, as he challenges him for being the cause of Hero’s heartbreak and death. 
  • When Don John tells Claudio of Hero’s potential infidelity, Claudio angrily shouts at Don John and shoves him against a wall, with one arm under his chin and pressing down on his neck.
  • Beatrice asks Benedick to kill Claudio for how he treated Hero. Benedick agrees to do this, although it later becomes unnecessary for him to follow through on the challenge.
  • Upon her arrest, Conrad repeatedly hits Dogberry as she shouts at him “You are an ass”.

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 in this age group are likely to be scared by the violent scenes described above

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 in this age group may also be scared by the violent scenes described above

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.

Younger children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the violent scenes described above

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.

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this movie

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

There were a few sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Don John sets out to cause trouble, telling Claudio that the woman he loves is “The Lord’s Hero… every man’s Hero”, suggesting she has been repeatedly unfaithful.
  • Believing Don John’s deception, Claudio confronts Hero on the day of their wedding, stating that she “knows the warm bed” and “rages in savage sexuality”. He goes on to say that he “will not give [his] soul to a wanton”.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Don John has an intimate scene with Conrade– he climbs on top of her while she is lying down on a bed, spreads her legs apart and begins touching and kissing her breasts. They then kiss passionately before they are interrupted by a knock on the door.
  • In the background while the lead characters talk in the kitchen, the maid Margaret begins kissing a man – he touches her body and breasts while pushing her against the wall and kissing her neck. They eventually run off together as the other characters continue their discussion.
  • There are flashback scenes depicting sex between Beatrice and Benedick – both are seen without clothes on, although Beatrice is in lingerie, while they kiss and make love.
  • Boratio seduces Margaret in an effort to trick Claudio into believing that Hero has been unfaithful. They have sex in Hero’s room, but remain fully clothed (as Boratio had asked Margaret to wear Hero’s clothing).
  • Several of the characters share passionate kisses, including Claudio and Hero and as Benedick and Beatrice.

Use of substances

There was substantial use of substances in this movie, including:

  • During the first party, many of the guests are seen drinking wine and champagne. They all carry glasses with them, while a few guests (such as Claudio) are seen drinking entire shot glasses of alcohol.
  • At multiple points in the film, the characters toast in celebration – for instance, Claudio, Hero, Beatrice and Don Pedro all toast to the newly announced marriage between Claudio and Hero.
  • Claudio, Don Pedro and Leonato all drink shots as they plan to play ‘love gods’ and match-make Benedick and Beatrice.
  • Conrad is seen smoking a marijuana joint when she secretly meets with Boratio at night.
  • Claudio and Don Pedro are seen drinking from a flask.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Frequent name-calling in Shakespearean  language, such as ‘pernicious suitor’, ‘harpy’, ‘seemingly wanton’, ‘lying knave’

In a nutshell

Much ado about nothing is the latest version of this story of love and romance. The film is most likely to appeal to adults and its themes and sex scenes and references make it more suited to children 15 and over.

It speaks about the desire of individuals to form connections, strong bonds, and lasting relationships. The fate of Don John, who gets captured and faces punishment for his deception, demonstrates the just nature of the world in which the characters reside. The film suggests that those who do wrong by others will suffer the consequences, while those who make mistakes but are well-intentioned will ultimately find happiness.

The movie also suggests that it is sometimes better to follow your heart than your head, and that you should not allow pride to rule your life. The importance of forgiveness, trust and honesty in a relationship is emphasised.

Parents may wish to discuss the double standards and issues of gender inequality illustrated by the film.

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