Friday, March 30, 2012


The Motion Picture Association of America or the MPAA is no stranger to controversy. This past few weeks, it became embroiled in another controversy with their rating of the documentary Bully which the producers and distributors hoped would be a PG-13. But instead it was slapped with an R because of six instances of strong profanity (the F-word). The makers had hoped to have the film screened for students and the R-rating would have been prohibitive for some of them. In response, Harvey Weinstein rejected the R-rating and decided to release the film unrated. 

This is just the latest in the long line of controversies that have plagued the MPAA. When it was first formed in the late 1960's, it was a blessing because it abolished the need for a production code and censorship. It was self-governing body that rates and classifies films according to age appropriateness as a guide for parents. While I do agree that there needs to be some sort of classification system for films and the system worked for a while, the MPAA has since devolved into borderline censorship, a stubborn stickler for outdated rules and committing galling and obvious double-standards. 

According to the film This Film Is Not Yet Rated (highly recommended), a documentary film exposing the bureaucracy and the corrupt system of the MPAA, the aforementioned double-standards include being far more lenient towards violence than they are towards sexuality, nudity and language and more lenient towards studio films than towards independent films. A very violent studio picture (like say a James Bond movie) can get a PG-13 as long as little to no blood is seen while an independent drama with just a little too much F-words is automatically an R. It's also easier for a bloody and gory horror film like say Hostel to get an R-rating than for a racy, daring, sexually charged picture like say Shame which got an NC-17. I find it very hilarious that The King's Speech, a film that was rated R solely because of language has the same rating as Hostel II, a film where a woman graphically cuts off a man's penis and feeds it to the dogs. That's just a few examples. There are many, many more I can cite here. 

Also another problem is the NC-17 rating. The rating calls for no children below 17 is allowed to see the film. Technically speaking, I have nothing against this rating. There are films out there that most minors should not be allowed to see because of its themes or content and I think filmmakers should have the freedom to tackle any subject matter they wish. However, the main problem of this is that a lot of movie theaters refuse to play NC-17-rated movies in their cinemas and network TV bans advertising of NC-17 rated movies on their broadcasts so the rating gravely limits the amount of audience the film can reach which is already limited enough by its rating as it is. So NC-17 is tantamount to censorship. Victims of these are of course independent films which often have limited budgets and are forced to either edit their films or make do with lower profits.

Hopefully, this latest controversy will reform and revamp the MPAA. Perhaps change its ratings systems or adjust their guidelines to keep up with changing times. 


YeamieWaffles said...

This is seriously interesting stuff buddy. You're especially right at the end, the MPAA do need to make some reforms and hopefully this ridiculous controversy will be enough to force these reformations through.

The Angry Lurker said...

I saw that "This film is not yet rated" and enjoyed it a lot, a real eye opener!


Yet again censorship rears its head

Mark said...

I think the only way the MPAA can be "fixed" is if it's destroyed.

That Bastard From Bellingham said...

Oh jeez, the MPAA.

Y'know, I was JUST hearing about this on the radio! Yeah. Old Media once again proving how losing sight of simply being content can ruin what was once an honorable establishment.

Corruption! You hit the word on the head, m'man.

There's been the suggestion that Bully did this on purpose in order to generate hype and free publicity at the expense of the MPAA, but then again I've heard enough double-talk and soft speech the past three weeks to make my head spin.

No. If these guys were going to go that route, they would've released this on the internet, their own website, SOMETHING along those lines, y'know?

Bah. Someday, hopefully soon, this'll get dealt with. Like Mark said, the only way you can fix something as fucked up as the MPAA is to destroy.

To quote one of my own songs, sometimes the only way to restore something you must first flush/burn it all away.

G said...

I suppose on one level there does need to be controls around kids not being able to buy/rent stuff that would not be suitable...but then again no one ever seems to abide by these ratings and it just seems like over centralised censorship to me.