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October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13" 
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Post October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
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Sun Oct 03, 2010 8:35 pm
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Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
The studies I've seen seem to imply 9 years old and younger being the age at which fantasy violence and sex can have an adverse effect. Any age after this to me is all about context. If you are a good parent you will raise a kid who watches violence and sex and treats them with thought and rational thinking. If not you will get a "hood rat".


Sun Oct 03, 2010 8:40 pm
Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
Cartman86 wrote:
The studies I've seen seem to imply 9 years old and younger being the age at which fantasy violence and sex can have an adverse effect. Any age after this to me is all about context. If you are a good parent you will raise a kid who watches violence and sex and treats them with thought and rational thinking. If not you will get a "hood rat".


I agree completely. Censorship does have its place in society but I find that it can be and too often is overdone and sometimes abused. I think that it's more important to instill a sense of morals (whether or not you're religious) in your children and teach them how to properly behave in society. To me, it seems as though that's the reason why so many parents (including mine) resort to censorship; they seem to think that if you keep your kids away from certain material, that they're somehow less likely to emulate certain abhorrent behaviors, when all it does is simply create a "forbidden fruit" complex. I believe that censorship (perhaps monitoring would be a better word) is good with young children but as they grow older and develop a sense of wrong and right to where they can view certain movies or listen to certain music with an open mind and not try to emulate what they see and hear, some of these restrictions should be limited, if not completely lifted altogether. Moreover, I feel that censorship should be the job of parents with their children as opposed to studios who try to curtail their filmmakers' creative visions by forcing them to take material that is adult in nature and tone it down to make it "more palatable" to a younger audience, most of whom have already been exposed to much worse anyway.


Sun Oct 03, 2010 9:21 pm
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Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
Yeah definitely time for the ratings system to be ditched. One particular way to go about it would be what has been hinted at here and elsewhere. Don't rate the film and determine who can see it. Instead provide a description of the content (albeit not in a way that would give away important plot details) and allow individuals to make up their minds for themselves. If one wants to find more detailed information about the content there are places to go on the internet. One particular website (screenit.com) was designed with the intent of helping parents make informed choices about the movies their kids see and works nicely in that regard. (Brief Digression: I'd recommned avoiding pluggedin.com unless you like laughing at puritan ridiculousness).

The current rating system was originally designed to (as James noted) replace the Hayes Code which was a Puritan holdover. But today it's becoming even more of a Puritan holdover than the Hays code was.

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Sun Oct 03, 2010 9:47 pm
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Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
My issues with the ratings system are that it is more designed to benefit the studios than it is to inform the general public. Kirby Dick's documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated explains this much better than I ever could.

What bugs me more than anything is that in their zeal to help the studios make as much money as humanly possible, the ratings have become so diluted that their original meaning is, well...meaningless.

If I were designing a ratings system, I'd break it into four categories, and they follow:

G for General Audiences. And it would mean general audiences, as in, "this picture is suitable for a wide range of individuals, including children 10 and under." I would give Avatar a G. Toy Story 3, Shrek, the Karate Kid remake, the Harry Potter movies. All of those would be G. I'd even give Inception a G. It's not that violent.

PG for Parental Guidance Suggested. And once again, it would literally mean "Parental Guidance Suggested." I would probably give Watchmen a PG. Schindler's List would get a PG. Currently R-rated films like The Firm, The Matrix and Air Force One would probably get a PG.

R15: This would generally mean "Parental Guidance Suggested for Kids Under 15." Films that would get this: Machete, Pulp Fiction, Saving Private Ryan, and the NC-17 rated Bad Education and A Dirty Shame, among others.

A for Adults Only. I'd give this to Hostel, the Last House On The Left remake, the Saw movies, and Mel Gibson's Jesus movie.

If you see where I'm going with this, the more severe ratings go to the films with a higher violence quotient. It's not a perfect system, but it's better than what is out right now, and I'd rather see something like this (since we'll probably never see the abandonment of a ratings system).

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Sun Oct 03, 2010 11:40 pm
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Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
James,

An outstanding and very objective post. Really enjoyed it.

As a European it constantly saddens me to see the American obsession with violence and fear of sexuality. The ratings system is a joke. My 11 years old son hears foul language at school (6th grade) every day.

Only last night I watched a fascinating french film "Home" that openly portrays family life with young kids and women walking about naked. Nobody batted an eyelid. It was refreshingly natural and not even slightly sexual. we walk around naked in my house as I don't want the kids to see the human body as forbidden, though in my case I may be inflicting untold horrors on them :-(

The US rating systems has little to with movies and alot to do with pressure groups. As James said, it's religion that drives the fear of sex in America.

Today, whilst walking my dog I listened to my favorite Podcast. Kermode and Mayo. A 90 minute weekly radio program on the BBC that reviews movies, interviews directors and stars and is extremely funny.

There is controversy in the UK this week because the film "made in Dagenham" which is supposed to be awesome, has been rated 15 because the F word is used. Yet the story about women triumphing against adversity is something that is surely fit for a broader audience. Stephen Woolley, the producer made many of the same observations as James.

My argument to my kids is that swearing is the language of the stupid. it goes, duh i'm too stupid to think of a smart adjective, so I just swear. When they swear, i don't react, i simply ask if that's the best they could come up with.

Nice job!
Rob


Sun Oct 03, 2010 11:56 pm
Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
You raise some good points with your system, but Schindler's List PG? seriously?! :shock: Yeah I REALLY don't think that's gonna work as I can gurantee you there'll be a ton of parents protesting something like that. I get that it's important for kids to learn about the Holocaust, but there's plenty of books that can teach that sort of thing just as effectively, that's how I learned about the Holocaust when I was in school, those books went into enough detail for me to understand how just how tragic of an event it was. Bottom line is kids can learn about the Holocaust without watching that film and possibly being tramautized by it, and besides, most kids won't be able to truly appreciate that film until they're older anyways.(I can't imagine most kids being too enthused about Inception either, but that's another story) Anyways I mostly agree with James here, I heard my dad cuss all the time when I was younger, so I really didn't get why I wasn't allowed to see fictional characters swear when I heard swearing almost every single day.


Sun Oct 03, 2010 11:59 pm
Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
oafolay wrote:
Moreover, I feel that censorship should be the job of parents with their children as opposed to studios who try to curtail their filmmakers' creative visions by forcing them to take material that is adult in nature and tone it down to make it "more palatable" to a younger audience, most of whom have already been exposed to much worse anyway.


Completely agree with this. I went to see Buried earlier yesterday, and I was surprised to see a woman come in with two children, one around 3 and the other in a stroller. Of course, the kids were crying off and on throughout the whole thing, which is completely understandable. What's not understandable is how a parent would deem a film solely about a man buried alive in a coffin for 95 minutes appropriate to take children in to see. I don't care if you can't find a babysitter or you really want to see a film so badly you can't wait for it on video. There is no excuse for taking children to see Buried. You hear all the time in the media about violence in the movies and how its corrupting children. The fact is, children are being exposed to this material long before it could even be considered remotely appropriate simply because a lot of parents are stupid and/or ignorant. Censorship is not the right answer, and clearly the MPAA ratings have become worthless; either parents need to wise up, or theater chains need to enforce a minimum age restriction, with or without parental supervision.


Mon Oct 04, 2010 12:07 am
Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
Blonde Almond wrote:
oafolay wrote:
Moreover, I feel that censorship should be the job of parents with their children as opposed to studios who try to curtail their filmmakers' creative visions by forcing them to take material that is adult in nature and tone it down to make it "more palatable" to a younger audience, most of whom have already been exposed to much worse anyway.


Completely agree with this. I went to see Buried earlier yesterday, and I was surprised to see a woman come in with two children, one around 3 and the other in a stroller. Of course, the kids were crying off and on throughout the whole thing, which is completely understandable. What's not understandable is how a parent would deem a film solely about a man buried alive in a coffin for 95 minutes appropriate to take children in to see. I don't care if you can't find a babysitter or you really want to see a film so badly you can't wait for it on video. There is no excuse for taking children to see Buried. You hear all the time in the media about violence in the movies and how its corrupting children. The fact is, children are being exposed to this material long before it could even be considered remotely appropriate simply because a lot of parents are stupid and/or ignorant. Censorship is not the right answer, and clearly the MPAA ratings have become worthless; either parents need to wise up, or theater chains need to enforce a minimum age restriction, with or without parental supervision.


My experience is that most people who go to theaters are either stupid or inconsiderate, or most likely both.
Taking very young kids, who might scream, to a theater is plain and simple selfish.
I used to go twice a week, now it's 4/5 times a year
Rob


Mon Oct 04, 2010 12:12 am
Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
Robert Holloway wrote:
Blonde Almond wrote:
oafolay wrote:
Moreover, I feel that censorship should be the job of parents with their children as opposed to studios who try to curtail their filmmakers' creative visions by forcing them to take material that is adult in nature and tone it down to make it "more palatable" to a younger audience, most of whom have already been exposed to much worse anyway.


Completely agree with this. I went to see Buried earlier yesterday, and I was surprised to see a woman come in with two children, one around 3 and the other in a stroller. Of course, the kids were crying off and on throughout the whole thing, which is completely understandable. What's not understandable is how a parent would deem a film solely about a man buried alive in a coffin for 95 minutes appropriate to take children in to see. I don't care if you can't find a babysitter or you really want to see a film so badly you can't wait for it on video. There is no excuse for taking children to see Buried. You hear all the time in the media about violence in the movies and how its corrupting children. The fact is, children are being exposed to this material long before it could even be considered remotely appropriate simply because a lot of parents are stupid and/or ignorant. Censorship is not the right answer, and clearly the MPAA ratings have become worthless; either parents need to wise up, or theater chains need to enforce a minimum age restriction, with or without parental supervision.


My experience is that most people who go to theaters are either stupid or inconsiderate, or most likely both.
Taking very young kids, who might scream, to a theater is plain and simple selfish.
I used to go twice a week, now it's 4/5 times a year
Rob
Yes, I see young kids in R-rated films all the time, Hostel Part 2, Law Abiding Citizen, Descent, Turistas, and Machete being a few such examples, though fortunately they've all been pretty quiet are easily calmed down in all my experiences so far. ALso was anyone else surprised to see that Red got a PG-13 rating?


Mon Oct 04, 2010 12:50 am
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Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
Vexer wrote:
You raise some good points with your system, but Schindler's List PG? seriously?! :shock: Yeah I REALLY don't think that's gonna work as I can gurantee you there'll be a ton of parents protesting something like that. I get that it's important for kids to learn about the Holocaust, but there's plenty of books that can teach that sort of thing just as effectively, that's how I learned about the Holocaust when I was in school, those books went into enough detail for me to understand how just how tragic of an event it was. Bottom line is kids can learn about the Holocaust without watching that film and possibly being tramautized by it, and besides, most kids won't be able to truly appreciate that film until they're older anyways.(I can't imagine most kids being too enthused about Inception either, but that's another story) Anyways I mostly agree with James here, I heard my dad cuss all the time when I was younger, so I really didn't get why I wasn't allowed to see fictional characters swear when I heard swearing almost every single day.


I think you're missing the main point with my proposed ratings system. It's not designed for children, like the current one is. It's designed for the general public. PG literally means "Parental Guidance Suggested." To apply that to Schindler's List, it would mean that parents should exercise some discretion in allowing their kids to see the film.

As I see it, most movies could easily fall under the G/PG standard.

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Mon Oct 04, 2010 1:17 am
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Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
Sexual Chocolate wrote:
Vexer wrote:
You raise some good points with your system, but Schindler's List PG? seriously?! :shock: Yeah I REALLY don't think that's gonna work as I can gurantee you there'll be a ton of parents protesting something like that. I get that it's important for kids to learn about the Holocaust, but there's plenty of books that can teach that sort of thing just as effectively, that's how I learned about the Holocaust when I was in school, those books went into enough detail for me to understand how just how tragic of an event it was. Bottom line is kids can learn about the Holocaust without watching that film and possibly being tramautized by it, and besides, most kids won't be able to truly appreciate that film until they're older anyways.(I can't imagine most kids being too enthused about Inception either, but that's another story) Anyways I mostly agree with James here, I heard my dad cuss all the time when I was younger, so I really didn't get why I wasn't allowed to see fictional characters swear when I heard swearing almost every single day.


I think you're missing the main point with my proposed ratings system. It's not designed for children, like the current one is. It's designed for the general public. PG literally means "Parental Guidance Suggested." To apply that to Schindler's List, it would mean that parents should exercise some discretion in allowing their kids to see the film.

As I see it, most movies could easily fall under the G/PG standard.

Oh I see, that makes some sense, but you can still that alot of parents are going to protest that sort of thing.


Mon Oct 04, 2010 2:12 am
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Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
I think it's worth bearing in mind the long shadow of Wal-Mart: if it decides not to stock a particular DVD, sales suffer a substantial drop because it's often the only retail outlet for a fair distance, and it doesn't stock anything that offends a 92-year-old man's American-Christian sensibilities.


Mon Oct 04, 2010 4:32 am
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Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
"There are so many ways for a minor to see or obtain R rated material (or even X rated, but that's another column) that the "protection" argument has more holes in it that Swiss cheese."

Yes, it would be a separate column, but would it be a separate argument?


Mon Oct 04, 2010 8:45 am
Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
"Expand upon what is done today and provide more detailed descriptions. Instead of "nudity," how about "female toplessness" or "male rear nudity"? Instead of "violence" how about "bloodless injuries" or "graphic, bloody maimings"? Inform, don't regulate."

While I agree with the rest of your column, isn't this making things worse rather than better? Your point is that it is
silly to keep children from seeing nudity (I agree, for a variety of reasons). However, most people will be "nudity's fine"
or "no nudity", not "boobs are OK but no balls".


Mon Oct 04, 2010 8:48 am
Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
It is interesting to look at which movies get what ratings in which countries. In Europe, R films are routinely
without age restriction (e.g. Shakespeare in Love) while some PG(-13) films are the equivalent of R or even NC-17
due to violence (including a few James Bond films).


Mon Oct 04, 2010 8:49 am
Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
The reason sexual content has tighter control, from where I'm sitting, is that teenagers cannot be trusted to be responsible in the slightest. James is right; life is R rated, but in the 'Porkys' sense, not in the 'Lost In Translation' sense (not an R rated movie but one where people show restraint and responsibility in the face of obvious temptation).

Self indulgence and enjoyment of life are important. Equally important are responsibility and common sense and I feel that until teenagers actually realise this, institutions like the MPAA are going to keep trying to take a high and mighty stance on the matter.


Mon Oct 04, 2010 10:40 am
Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
It's economics. The MPAA does not know or even really care about the welfare of children, but it does know and care about the business responsible for its own existence.

The MPAA's first job is to keep movies naughty enough to put butts in the seats. Most people, when pressed, will admit that violence and sexual content are a major draw in and of themselves. Those things in the movie for marketing purposes--to make the product more attractive to consumers who otherwise might pass on it. The MPAA knows this.

The MPAA's second job is to keep movies clean enough to avoid sullying any brand names in the eyes of parenting groups. Allow enough sex and violence in and you'll get a windfall of ticket sales. Allow too much of it in and you'll trip the alarms. You might make more money in the short term, purely out of consumer curiosity, but you'll be on the uptight Christian moral blacklist.

It's a careful balancing act. The point of equilibrium has come to be known as "PG-13." The MPAA ratings, like so many other elements of the film industry, exist so that the film industry can make more money. No economic incentive = no ratings, at least not as they are.


Mon Oct 04, 2010 1:38 pm
Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
I posted about this before when JB wrote a column about MPAA ratings, and I'll say the same thing here. Doing away with silly letter ratings would be awesome and allow for a lot more creative freedom amongst filmmakers as well as allow parents to truly look at the guidelines and make an informed a decision. However....

Tommy Lee Jones' character said it best in Men In Black, "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals, and you know it." Most people NEED their ratings, whether they be numbers (like star ratings and 1-10 ratings) or letters (MPAA system), because it doesn't force them to think so much. Why bother reading a bunch of silly content descriptors? We're a society that needs quick information now and on the move. The MPAA and its ratings do most of the thinking for us.

This isn't actually what I'm advocating. I'm just saying that in order for JB's proposal to work, society needs to get smarter. Proper english, rather than slang and l33t, needs to be a priority for young minds. I'm sure everyone on this board (myself included) likes JB's idea or some variation of it. It's because we stop to think and analyze every now and then. Most people don't.


Mon Oct 04, 2010 2:04 pm
Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
MPAA ratings are also rather inconsistent and seem to be situational based on the prestige and clout of the recipient. I'm still curious to know how THE SOCIAL NETWORK got away with a PG-13, especially considering the near constant barrage of alcohol and drug use. I'm fairly certain that limited drug use has been nitpicked in the past to determine the difference between a PG-13 and an R. Now, we can have cocaine snorted off of a young college girl's cleavage and it's okay?

Not that I'm complaining, but I wonder how that stuff gets under the rader (or a free pass) while other movies have to settle for a compromised theatrical release on the way to catch-all umbrella that is the "unrated" home video release.


Mon Oct 04, 2010 2:33 pm
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