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Last night I watched This Film Is Not Yet Rated. It explores the MPAA ratings system. I'm so infuriated by the ratings system that I don't even know where to begin. Some of this resentment was present before I saw the film, and movie just validated it for me. The guidelines for rating movies are quite subjective and left to the whims of a handful of anonymous Los Angeles suburban parents. They are supposedly anonymous to keep them free from influence but: 1) They work in a building in Hollywood with studio executives constantly coming in and out; 2) It was disclosed that if they don't rate movies strictly enough they receive hate mail from conservative groups.

One issue that the filmmakers interviewed seemed to have: Realistic or artistic sex is often given an NC-17 rating for being too sexual. Yet graphic depictions of rape and other violent acts against women skate by with R or even PG-13 ratings. All those ridculous raunch films like the American Pie and Scary Movie series objectify women yet the MPAA ratings board seems to find them socially acceptable while The Cooler had to cut about 5 seconds of nudity during a tender love scene in order to get its rating down from NC-17 to R. Seriously, if teens are going to be seeing R-rated movies, isn't it better for them to see real love-making for 5 seconds rather than 2 hours of raunchy objectification?

If your movie is given an NC-17 rating, you lose a huge portion of your marketing dollars. Your film won't be distributed. Says the MPAA: If your movie is that good people will see it. But realistically the filmmakers know that is just not true. If your movie is viewed as too risky, or risque, for the mainstream audience, it will not get distributed no matter how good it is. If you appeal the rating, you are not allowed to cite precedence in your defense. (And the appeals board is also anonymous. The filmmaker hired a private investigator to find out that the appeals board is actually made up of high-ranking studio executives.)

The film didn't even get into the fact that movie theaters rarely card teens for R-rated movies anyway. R is supposed to mean no one under 17 allowed without an adult. But they'd probably make no money if they turned away all the high school kids who want to see those films. (Yet Mike and I were carded for an NC-17 film once, because the theater policy was to card everyone for every NC-17 movie. I know we look young, but do we really look like high school kids trying to sneak in to a movie? If they're going to enforce rules, they should be carding for the R-rated ones! Oh, and the movie was The Aristocrats, which was given the NC-17 strictly for language. There are absolutely no images of violence or sex in the entire film. It's 90 minutes of people standing around talking.)

Obviously I am fired up and therefore disjointed with my writing. If you care about the artistic integrity of films please do not write-off NC-17 films as being pornographic, or whatever your reasons might be for automatically rejecting them. See them for yourself before you decide if they are appropriate for your teenagers. Don't trust the ratings! (I'd like to say write letters to the MPAA in complaint, but it's not likely I'll get around to actually doing that so I don't want to be a hypocrite.)

Comments

Anonymous said…
You can't complain about American Pie. You love Stiffler.

-MD

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