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July 28, 2009: "A Proposal for the MPAA" 
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Post July 28, 2009: "A Proposal for the MPAA"
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Tue Jul 28, 2009 5:13 pm
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Post Re: July 28, 2009: "A Proposal for the MPAA"
Interesting, but impractical. Your is too general in its current form. Parents need a specific rating system to feel secure about what their kids are seeing. The biggest problem with the current system in my view is actually the age of R-rated consent. Does the MPAA seriously believe that no one under age 17 should see adult material? The age should be changed to 12 or 13. The theaters I go to, even the big ones, are still moronically slavish to the system and ID at any chance they get. I even heard one manager suggest that the kids sneaking in were breaking the law. Just for the record though, I'm not convinced that Slumdog Millionaire deserved less than an R. Some of the material was definitely adult...but like I said, the age should be no greater than 13.


Tue Jul 28, 2009 5:32 pm
Post Re: July 28, 2009: "A Proposal for the MPAA"
I wrote a paper a few years ago attempting to devise an alternate rating system in a similar fashion. It was probably as well-intentioned and presented many of the same problems as anybody else's best idea. My main concerns then were the subjectivity of the review process, and that it conferred less responsibility on the parents than it did on the people selling and taking the tickets (likely kids themselves).

My opinion has evolved a bit since then. While those concerns are still operative in my mind, it's the "backdoor censorship," as James calls it, that looms over everything else. If your movie is really bad, the MPAA can't ban it, but it can give it a scarlet letter to ensure that virtually none of the big theater chains will carry it.

As a filmmaker, your movies are not only your art, but also your livelihood. So you have two options: voluntarily change your content according to the MPAA's standards, or eat the production and distribution costs and probably never make a movie again. Never mind that even if your movie makes it into the big chains, the MPAA has an alphabet soup of other nice letters that allows them to exercise some control over who will and won't be able to see your dirty little movie.

On the subject of those standards, whose are they, what are they, and where do they come from? James uses the term "puritanical." That's a nice way to describe it, but let's get even more honest about it. These standards are, on one hand, derived from a pseudo-traditional set of values determined largely by stuff in the Bible--not the nice stuff that applies to everybody, but the really stupid stuff that attaches weird rules to aspects of everyday life that are not harmful, and are in many cases quite nice. On the other hand, the standards are also derived from the perspective the MPAA attempts to adopt, which is that of a person who is mortified by the most slightly offensive content imaginable. Never mind the countless people who aren't offended by that stuff--if even one person objects to it, asses need to be covered. Forget artistic freedom.

As Frank Zappa said during the PMRC music sticker hearings, "If you are a songwriter, did anyone ask you if you wanted to spend the rest of your career modifying your lyric content to suit the spiritual needs of an imaginary 11 year old?"

My new proposal is this: we are in the information age. If you are a parent in need of information about a movie you might take your kid to see, there is no excuse for not being able to find it yourself, without the assistance of a committee of cranks and housewives. In other words, there is no longer any need for a rating system whatsoever. It brings no benefit that can't be achieved by alternative means, and we've already been over the drawbacks. Let's ditch the letters and at least pretend that the parental segment of our population is capable of making its own decisions.

And before anybody says anything, it shouldn't be an issue that theaters will no longer be able to turn certain patrons away from certain movies based on the MPAA's recommendations. Influencing which movies theaters do and do not show is, at least ostensibly, outside of the purpose of the lettering system.


Tue Jul 28, 2009 6:22 pm
Post Re: July 28, 2009: "A Proposal for the MPAA"
Ken wrote:

My new proposal is this: we are in the information age. If you are a parent in need of information about a movie you might take your kid to see, there is no excuse for not being able to find it yourself, without the assistance of a committee of cranks and housewives. In other words, there is no longer any need for a rating system whatsoever. It brings no benefit that can't be achieved by alternative means, and we've already been over the drawbacks. Let's ditch the letters and at least pretend that the parental segment of our population is capable of making its own decisions.

And before anybody says anything, it shouldn't be an issue that theaters will no longer be able to turn certain patrons away from certain movies based on the MPAA's recommendations. Influencing which movies theaters do and do not show is, at least ostensibly, outside of the purpose of the lettering system.


There are segments of the population that simply cannot be trusted with this. They would take their 7 year old to see Antichrist because they haven't got a babysitter. There are some films kids should not be able to see under any circumstances, and the ratings system should exist to prevent this, without economic considerations. The biggest flaw in the US is that there is no area between a film a kid can see (R) and and the 'adult' rating (NC17) which of course is death to box office. So no films are made for an adult audience anymore, because either kids can see them or they won't make any money. The UK system simply states the age the viewer has to be to watch the film, parental guidance is irrelevant, be it U, PG, 12, 15 or 18. Works here.


Tue Jul 28, 2009 6:47 pm
Post Re: July 28, 2009: "A Proposal for the MPAA"
It is funny, as James noted, to see an uplifting, if often violent film, like 'Slumdog Millionaire' to get slapped with an 'R', the same rating that 'Towelhead', a relentlessly pessimistic and extremely graphic film depicting underage sex both willing and forced, was given. Whereas, 'The Dark Knight', a gripping but nightmarish film with a nihilistic streak, grotesque imagery,
[Reveal] Spoiler:
and body count of over 30 people (including an excruciating off-screen death where a man is burned to death on top of a stack of money)
is a PG-13 film. I don't see much thematic difference between 'The Dark Knight' and 'Se7en', a very strong 'R' rating, and lack of curses be damned (yeah, I went there), it's an intense and suffocating film to see in theatres (or, some might argue, at home in front of a humongous screen). I think the film, despite being in all technical aspects a PG-13 film, approaches an extremely adult perspective which a more thoughtful viewer might discern, at any age, more easily than the standard popcorn-muncher. And the uplifting, colorful film from India gets the 'R'. This might just be me, but this seems skewed.


Tue Jul 28, 2009 7:34 pm
Post Re: July 28, 2009: "A Proposal for the MPAA"
I'm sure this is common knowledge for many, but IMDB has a Parents Guide for several films. Unfortunately, the guide does not include all films, but for the films it includes, it is very thorough. For example, the film Requiem For A Dream has the following parents' guide:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0180093/parentalguide

With information like that (and considering that the title has very little to do with the action of the film) I know that I would never EVER allow my kids to see this film while they were living under my roof (the fact that I consider it to be one of the most effective and gripping cautionary tales ever notwithstanding)

Perhaps the MPAA or some similarly interested group might use this as a starting point to give parents and others the information they need to make more informed decisions


Tue Jul 28, 2009 7:48 pm
Post Re: July 28, 2009: "A Proposal for the MPAA"
That "Hot Naked Cheerleader Camp" movie sounds like it would be worth seeing. lol.

No doubt economics has something to do with the MPAA ratings today. A movie like "Live Free or Die Hard" was cut down to size by the PG-13 rating to get more viewers than to let it have an "R" rating like the previous "Die Hard" films. If a studio is going to blow a lot of money on a movie, it's sure going to do what it can to make it's money back. I'm sure one way to do it is by compromising the integrity of the film in some ways to get in more viewers for that precious opening weekend gross.


Tue Jul 28, 2009 7:51 pm
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Joined: Thu Mar 26, 2009 9:21 pm
Posts: 29
Post Re: July 28, 2009: "A Proposal for the MPAA"
My Libertarian-conservative beliefs agree. One of the top reasons I read the reviews here in not just because I trust them but because of the details of why it is rated what it is you place in each review. The ratings system is broken and even the video game rating system makes more sense.


Tue Jul 28, 2009 8:00 pm
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Post Re: July 28, 2009: "A Proposal for the MPAA"
Hi, I registered just for this topic, I thought it might be interesting to post how movies are rated in The Netherlands (Holland).

We have a system based on age. The ratings are: All Ages, 6, 9, 12 and 16. With the ratings 6 and 9 there kids younger than 6 or 9 are still allowed in, it is not forbidden by law, just a guideline in those cases. With the ratings 12 and 16, it is illegal to let kids younger than 12 and 16 in, when caught, the theaters will be punished.

Television shows with the rating 12 are not allowed to be broadcast before 20.00, and those rated 16 only after 22.00.

Parents can have an indication of possible offensive content through icons that are always shown with the ratings: frightening scenes, sex, violence, profanity (a puking guy =)), discrimination and substance abuse.

I think rating boards are more lenient here though, couple of examples:

Brüno, R in US, 12 in The Netherlands.
The Hangover, R in US, 12 in The Netherlands.
Slumdog Millionaire, R in US, 12 in The Netherlands.
Heat, R in US, 12 in The Netherlands. (on television tonight)
Snatch, R in US, 12 in The Netherlands. (also on television tonight)

I think it works all right, although I am a proponent of more personal responsibility and I would be for James' system if everyone was as sensible as I am. However, within the confines of the society we live in, I think it's a good enough system.


Tue Jul 28, 2009 8:03 pm
Post Re: July 28, 2009: "A Proposal for the MPAA"
Film ratings are so worthless. I'm sick of seeing movies sliced and diced for the sake of getting softer ratings. I'm a single 29 year old male so I usually don't even know what the rating for movies I go to see. I go to a friends house every week and he has a young son. We've watched all kinds of movies with him around from G to R. I just think it's a way for control freak busy bodies with nothing else to do other than tell everyone else what to watch.


Tue Jul 28, 2009 8:40 pm
Post Re: July 28, 2009: "A Proposal for the MPAA"
I probably said this in an email the last time you did an MPAA rant, but here it is again. Adopt the Australian rating system. It makes much more sense.

G = General Viewing
PG = Parental Guidance recommended
M = Mature Audiences
MA 15+ = Restricted to viewers 15 years and older unless accompanied by a parent or guardian
R = Restricted to viewers 18 years and older

Not only are the classifications themselves better but the way in which they are applied is better. Countless films that are rated R in the States are rated M in Australia. Like the Matrix. The M rating let everyone know that there was a lot of violence and gunplay in that film, but nothing so horrific that a father couldn't watch it with his 12 year old son and make sure he understands that guns aren't toys.

Of course, we do have our own issues- The Dark Knight was rated M, and I think it should have been MA. It was scary as hell and when I went to see it I saw countless 9 year olds because it was a Batman movie. Some things should not be viewed by kids that young.


Tue Jul 28, 2009 10:05 pm
Post Re: July 28, 2009: "A Proposal for the MPAA"
Quote:
Brüno, R in US, 12 in The Netherlands.


Wow, that's really lenient. That's essentially giving Bruno a PG-13 in the States.

But about the topic at hand, cool idea James, but as you've said many times before, we as a quick-fix society need our stars and our ratings. A lot of people would deem the descriptors you suggested as "too wordy."

I agree the MPAA's current system is FUBAR. But I like the Australian system. Age 15 is a perfect variable because I have a hard time thinking of any R-rated movies appropriate for a 17-year-old but not a 15-year-old. You're in high school at both of those ages, anyway. And what the hell is the difference between M and MA 15+ anyway? A vast majority of teenagers could get into either one with the next level up being the "18 and over ONLY" rating.


Tue Jul 28, 2009 10:43 pm
Post Re: July 28, 2009: "A Proposal for the MPAA"
I'm one of those who'd never blame James for taking any sort of stance on the whole ratings issue. Why? Because I feel that he, along with myself and others, feels that ratings aren't worth thinking about. A film's quality isn't determined by how many times the word "F--k" is uttered or how much nudity is shown or how far the director goes with portraying sex acts.

As was stated in the Reelthoughts article, the responsibility for determining what a child sees should be solely on the shoulders of the parent. Any parent who blames movies/tv/music/etc and not him/herself for any effects on the child's upbringing shouldn't be a parent, IMO. Therefore, I present my idea of a ratings system as shown below:

General (G) - Suggested to be suitable for everyone
Parental Guidance (PG) - Suggested that anyone below the age of 18 should be accompanied by an adult due to content.
Restricted (R) - Anyone below the age of 18 *must* be accompanied by an adult due to content.

Keep it simple- to me, ratings like "PG-13" or "NC-17" are just plain bullshit. They were created specifically to allow Hollywood to sneak some movies into theaters past ridiculously-puritanical and overly-conservative ratings boards. Of course, all of this is easier said than done. I'm just tossing in my 2 cents- as far as I'm concerned, the Internet has more or less made movie ratings a joke.


Tue Jul 28, 2009 10:57 pm
Post Re: July 28, 2009: "A Proposal for the MPAA"
Zedferret wrote:
There are segments of the population that simply cannot be trusted with this. They would take their 7 year old to see Antichrist because they haven't got a babysitter. There are some films kids should not be able to see under any circumstances, and the ratings system should exist to prevent this, without economic considerations. The biggest flaw in the US is that there is no area between a film a kid can see (R) and and the 'adult' rating (NC17) which of course is death to box office. So no films are made for an adult audience anymore, because either kids can see them or they won't make any money. The UK system simply states the age the viewer has to be to watch the film, parental guidance is irrelevant, be it U, PG, 12, 15 or 18. Works here.
As long as there's a ratings system, it will essentially exist as de facto censorship. I am also not particularly fond of corporate and governmental entities usurping the parents' responsibilities as child-guardians in situations that don't threaten the life and health of the children. Sure, some parents have unquestionably stupid ideas of how they should raise their children, but that doesn't mean an organization with religious and/or political motives should be handed the reins.


Wed Jul 29, 2009 12:57 am
Post Re: July 28, 2009: "A Proposal for the MPAA"
I definitely agree with James on the idea of more detailed descriptions for film content. That for me, is the most frustrating about the current ratings system. The content descriptions used now are laughable at best, using such flexible language as "Nudity", "Graphic Violence", and my favorite: "Adult Themes". Those words have so many convenient interpretations that there is no point in having them. Adult Themes in particular is infuriating, especially since even films like WALL-E and UP contain themes that can be classified as "adult". I would like to see instead of a ratings systems, the MPAA use a spectrum or scale system. On a scale of 1-5 where do you think this movie falls? A 1 being suitable for all ages, while a 5 is most likely 18 and older fair. Each number on the scale would also be accompanied by and explanation of what can be expected from a film with this ranking, as well as a detailed content description. That's probably more than people want to read when they look up a film's rating, but I'm a pretty through guy, and I don't want any loopholes in my system.

The issue of the MPAA ratings system used to be a hotter topic, but nowadays the internet and video games take most of the heat for the corruption of the youth in today's society. Hell, the last time I was carded seeing an R rated movie was in 2001 when I was 14 and went to see Black Hawk Down (no joke). Most theaters are not willing to sacrifice the $10 they will make letting a 14 year old kid go see an R without an adult to help "uphold the moral fiber" of our nation's youth. My younger brother and his friends, all of whom are 16 years old, have already all seen Watchmen, Friday the 13th, and Observe and Report in theaters this year without adult supervision and not been carded.

Most parents don't bother to do the research and just figure they will be told what they should and should not let their kids see by someone or something that they think has authority on the subject. Besides, if I was a parent I would be much more concerned about my kids getting their young minds destroyed and innocence broken by some Chan on the internet than by an R rated Hollywood movie. Because even most R rated movies nowadays are watered down for mass consumption.


Wed Jul 29, 2009 1:02 am
Post Re: July 28, 2009: "A Proposal for the MPAA"
Ok, so a lot like the problem I had. Which I explained here.

I'd personally have no problem if they allowed parents to buy the tickets up front and then let their children see the movie by themselves. Who is the MPAA or the theater to say that they are better parents than mine?

How would you be able to contact the MPAA to ask questions?


Wed Jul 29, 2009 1:43 am
Post Re: July 28, 2009: "A Proposal for the MPAA"
I think a good start would be for theatre and rental chains and newspapers to stop punishing NC-17 rated films with draconian restrictions rather then doing away with the rating completely. Maybe then studios would stop having serious films with explicit content either censored or keep gradually pushing the envelope of the R rating to harder extremes. In Australia and the UK, plenty of US rated R films get the maximum 18 and over ratings but plenty of adults still fork out tickets to see them.


Wed Jul 29, 2009 3:21 am
Post Re: July 28, 2009: "A Proposal for the MPAA"
I think James' idea is a good one. In the UK, the rating labels are supplemented by a description of the content, which is way more useful than a letter or number.

In Germany, we have the ratings 0 (= All Ages), 6, 12 (children under 6 may be allowed if accompanied by their legal guardian), 16 and 18. An 18 rating is always the result of extreme violence in the movie rather than sex. (For instance, Bertolucci's The Dreamers was rated 16 and shown on TV uncut after 10pm - the US rating is NC-17!) Sexual content by itself will result in a 16 rating. That's the legal minimum age for buying beer. Generally, this seems to be a quite sensible system.

Whatever system is used, the problem is always the implementation. In the 80ies, there was a big scare about "video nasties" (The Evil Dead was a cause celèbre) and the rating board went nuts: Because they have not been resubmitted for re-classification, films such as The Thing, Predator or Robocop aren't just rated 18 but are still listed on a list of films, which may not be advertised for or displayed for sale in places accessible to anyone under 18, just like pornography.


Wed Jul 29, 2009 3:35 am
Post Re: July 28, 2009: "A Proposal for the MPAA"
Ugh i'm amazed at the people here who consider their countries systems better than the MPAA. I would take the MPAA any day over a system where the government itself can choose to completely ban content. Either way I think we should get rid of age restrictions. There should be either content discripters, or specific ratings (PG, PG-13 etc.) that simply let people know the content of the film. Anyone should be able to walk in and see whatever they want. It's up to the parents to know what their kids are doing. I remember my mom would always get so annoyed when I would want to go see a movie after school and I couldn't because it was R rated and she would have to drive down and get the ticket for me. Also cable TV drives her crazy with it's censoring of bad words. I just don't think film and fantasy alter peoples minds anymore than bad parenting. This same system should be in place for videogames. And it basically is. The problem though is that the console manufacturers (Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft) do not allow AO rated games on their consoles. They have the right as they are a business, but it doesn't make it any less stupid.


Wed Jul 29, 2009 4:11 am
Post Re: July 28, 2009: "A Proposal for the MPAA"
Cartman86 wrote:
Ugh i'm amazed at the people here who consider their countries systems better than the MPAA. I would take the MPAA any day over a system where the government itself can choose to completely ban content.


Huh? Where did you get the impression that "rating authority" in the Netherlands or Germany is a government or administrative authority? Don't know about the Netherlands, but the German rating system is based on law, but is handled by an organisation of the film industry (FSK), not unlike the MPAA. Only films, which have not been rated by FSK can be subject to further restrictions regarding their sale. And a film can't be banned as such - a court may consider the contents to break criminal laws, though (incitement of racial hatred, glorification of the Nazi regime, child pornography etc.)


Wed Jul 29, 2009 4:35 am
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