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October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13" 
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Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
5wivesofbergman wrote:
"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".


The idea behind this is to give people as much information as possible about a movie, but doing so in a non-judgmental manner. There are always going to be people who are offended by nudity for whatever reason. Let them know it's there so they can make a decision whether it's appropriate for them or their children to see. But do not shut out an entire age group of people because there's a bare boob or butt to be found.


Mon Oct 04, 2010 3:22 pm
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Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
Robert Holloway wrote:
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.


I rarely use profanity. I'm not bothered by it and certainly don't mind if others use it around me. On those rare occasions when I use it, it's done for effect. For the most part, however, I find that my vocabulary is wide enough that I can come up with more colorful expressions. Profanity doesn't show much in terms of verbal creativity.


Mon Oct 04, 2010 3:24 pm
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Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
I've thought for awhile now that PG-13 should become PG-15, and PG should be replace the existing PG-13, with G covering everything else.

Today's early teens are exposed to more language and violence playing online games than they will get in ten movies combined. When my 16-year old son is playing Call of Duty online, the language coming out of the headphones would make an R-rated movie blush. He's either mature enough or desensitized to it (maybe both) that it goes in one ear and out the other. Same goes with the on-screen violence.

It's all about sales, and as long as there is the "R-rated" stigma, we'll continue to get watered-down (in terms of sex and violence) movies.


Mon Oct 04, 2010 3:49 pm
Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
Tom Kessler wrote:
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?

It's funny you mention The Social Network, as I went to see it on opening day, there were quite a number of 8-12 year olds in the screening. And I was perplexed. Not because it's obviously an adult film, but why they would want to see a courtroom drama. Then, it hit me that they likely thought it was Facebook: The Movie and made for them (because children do use Facebook nowadays. Kind of funny since the website was originally created mainly for university and college students).

Not surprisingly, when they left the screening, I heard them groan that "it was boring." I really liked the film and I probably would have found the film boring if I saw it at ten years old as well. I think the box-office attendants need to make a point to tell parents or older siblings accompanying children when they attend a film like The Social Network, that it's a film for adults.

It's also kind of interesting James' comment about how teenagers and young adults wouldn't be caught dead seeing a G or PG-rated film, when the massive success of Toy Story 3 would probably be attributed to that demographic just as much as families.


Mon Oct 04, 2010 9:03 pm
Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
I'm always intrigued by this situation because I've never seen anybody online defending the MPAA system. I very much appreciate James' take on many things, but his is by no means a counter-stance to anybody who seriously watches films. I've heard this argument countless times for a very long time.

The thing that bothers me, however, is that the majority of folks arguing about the unfairness of the MPAA system aren't the ones for whom it was made -- parents with kids. The rating system is meant to protect the weakest of our society, not the strongest. Should parents take more responsibility? Absolutely. I'd imagine almost anyone bothering to look in this forum would argue for that on all degrees of the political and religious spectrum. But they won't. There are some who will let their children watch anything, and I feel badly for those children whose childhoods are taken away too early...but almost certainly not just by film, either.

I think that the idea of violence vs. nudity in film is not especially a religious idea in America (at least not any more) so much as it is an understanding of what is "normal" in our world. A child may see a lot of violence in films, but there's almost an inherent understanding that it's not real. Even in horror movies, the splatter and whatnot eventually becomes humorous the more unreal it seems. The vast majority of movie violence is something that you can't pull off in the real world. Nudity and sexuality, however, is a different story. There is a natural curiosity about it inherent in almost all of us. The concept is that if it appears enjoyable, fun, and easily accessible -- and it seems that way in the real world as well -- more experimentation will result. What becomes more problematic is that movie nudity and sex are just as make-believe, in their own way, as movie violence. The only difference is, when I watch mindless violence in a film, I have no interest in being a part of that in real life. Sex, though? Most everybody wants to be a part of that.

The profanity thing, though, I just don't get. If the MPAA was in any way like a legal entity and needed to follow precedent, all you'd need to get your F-bombs in would be to reference 1988's Running On Empty for your PG-13.


Mon Oct 04, 2010 11:43 pm
Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
AkiraKaneda wrote:
I think that the idea of violence vs. nudity in film is not especially a religious idea in America (at least not any more) so much as it is an understanding of what is "normal" in our world.


I think it probably is, but even if it is not, the ideas about what is normal have a religious basis.

AkiraKaneda wrote:
A child may see a lot of violence in films, but there's almost an inherent understanding that it's not real. Even in horror movies, the splatter and whatnot eventually becomes humorous the more unreal it seems. The vast majority of movie violence is something that you can't pull off in the real world. Nudity and sexuality, however, is a different story. There is a natural curiosity about it inherent in almost all of us. The concept is that if it appears enjoyable, fun, and easily accessible -- and it seems that way in the real world as well -- more experimentation will result. What becomes more problematic is that movie nudity and sex are just as make-believe, in their own way, as movie violence. The only difference is, when I watch mindless violence in a film, I have no interest in being a part of that in real life. Sex, though? Most everybody wants to be a part of that.


And what is wrong if young people are curious about sex, experiment etc? Let's face it: most are curious without
prodding from movies. The world would be a better place if young people in places like the US had more sexual
freedom.


Tue Oct 05, 2010 5:14 am
Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
Excellent article (followed link from baloonjuice). Couldn't agree more about the capriciousness and stupidity of the MPAA. But the power of the MPAA lies in the fact that movie theaters pay attention to its ratings and newspapers (principally) post the MPAA ratings. Otherwise, the internet has solved the ratings problem based on innovation and enterprise.

There are several websites that rate movies according to content and make no recommendations, allowing people to decide what they want to watch per their motivations. My favorite is kidsinmind.com since it obscures details and doesn't spoil the plot while being ridiculously detailed (and I do mean ridiculously); screenit.com is OK but it mentions character names so the plot is ruined, and it also needs subscription; hate the religious ones, all righteous fury but useless; most of all hate commonsensemedia which is like MPAA-lite.

As an aside, I'm continuously as surprised as James at how many R-rated movies don't have much violence, and even sex, but just "bad" words. Words! Sheesh...


Tue Oct 05, 2010 8:04 am
Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
I was 16 when the South Park movie came out in the UK. A group of us went to see it where our ages ranged from 12 up to the oldest who was nearly 17 and the film's rating was 15.

We all got in due to the fact that we knew someone working at the theatre and once you're past the ticket desk, no more checks are made on age.

Consequently, the entire group was quoting the movie at most given opportunities (even myself, although my sense of humor was more mature than most and I preferred the jabs at institutional racism etc) but the rapid profanities that the movie became known for were all you could hear for a good while.

The problem ended up heading back to the classroom where one of the younger of our group was sent to his head of year for calling a teacher "uncle fucker".

Impressionable? No doubt. Who is to blame? I feel that in todays climate, sometimes it's a taboo to actually look down on stupidity unless people are taking advantage of said idiots.

Can we then say that it's film makers who actually need to be scorned? See the Oliver Stone issue over NBK for more on that.


Tue Oct 05, 2010 12:34 pm
Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
If nudity were expressed in a realistic way, like National Geographic, I could see your point. My kids have always been exposed to nudity, whether through Nat'l Geographic or the Anatomy for the Artist books I have in my home for reference. The sex/nudity expressed in most American cinema is an illusion, and a false reality isn't good for kids (or anyone).

I kind of saw this coming for a while, with your comments in reviews gearing more and more towards "Yay, this movie was R and had naked women". Not that it matters much, but with this article you've lost one long-long-time reader. :(


Tue Oct 05, 2010 1:46 pm
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Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
AkiraKaneda wrote:
A child may see a lot of violence in films, but there's almost an inherent understanding that it's not real. Even in horror movies, the splatter and whatnot eventually becomes humorous the more unreal it seems. The vast majority of movie violence is something that you can't pull off in the real world. Nudity and sexuality, however, is a different story. There is a natural curiosity about it inherent in almost all of us. The concept is that if it appears enjoyable, fun, and easily accessible -- and it seems that way in the real world as well -- more experimentation will result. What becomes more problematic is that movie nudity and sex are just as make-believe, in their own way, as movie violence. The only difference is, when I watch mindless violence in a film, I have no interest in being a part of that in real life. Sex, though? Most everybody wants to be a part of that.


I think that it's pretty clear that inappropriate exposure to sexuality while in the developmental stage can have significant impact on someone (incidentally, I think that Capturing the Friedmans illustrates this). Also, I think that the vast majority of younger people do not have the emotional maturity to be able to handle the emotional complexities that sex involves. Or the medical consequences of reckless sexual behavior.

I don't use vulgarities in my speech, in part because of my faith (LDS) and in part because I don't like the sound of them--even without my religious beliefs, I doubt I would use them. But I'll watch movies with vulgarities in them (this sets me apart from many in my church, in fact). I don't watch movies whose violence I deem to be gratuitous--eg the Saw franchise, and I don't watch movies whose treatment of sex I disagree with--eg the more vulgar R rated sex comedies. But some of my favorite movies (eg The Lives of Others) contain sexual content.

And what is wrong if young people are curious about sex, experiment etc? Let's face it: most are curious without
prodding from movies. The world would be a better place if young people in places like the US had more sexual
freedom.[/quote]

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Tue Oct 05, 2010 7:20 pm
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Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
Of course Americans are obsessed with violent imagery. Where else is all that sexual repression going to surface itself?!? :roll:


Tue Oct 05, 2010 8:00 pm
Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
Timmy Shoes wrote:
Of course Americans are obsessed with violent imagery. Where else is all that sexual repression going to surface itself?!? :roll:
I'll permit myself my biannual "lol."


Tue Oct 05, 2010 10:59 pm
Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
Good article. I like your suggestion of describing the content involved so that people can make more granular choices about whether or not a movie is suitable for their children. If that's too cumbersome a change for the MPAA, maybe they could at least change the system to reduce the financial incentive to censor material to achieve a lower rating (like replacing PG13 and R with R15, like someone else suggested).

I'm also surprised that people are more concerned about sex than violence. A lot of the violent stuff is an excess of what is necessary to engagingly depict scenes--even though I think such violence is fine if done for artistic reasons, some of it can be pretty horrific. Has anyone seen the TV show Drawn Together? I appreciate lowbrow humor so I used to like the show, but on successive viewings of episodes I find it less funny but also, some of the violence in that show is just downright disgusting. It seemed like it featured people being randomly sliced and diced in every other scene.

Another issue that concerns me is the censorship of movies on television. I understand why this is done on major networks, but it disappoints me that cable channels do very similar stuff. Half-assed dubs distort the phonetic aesthetics of lines, and, worse, entire scenes are deleted. More cable channels should consider airing uncensored versions of movies late at night.

I wonder how much movies are censored when they are played on channels in other countries. Also, do any readers from the UK watch the Inbetweeners? It seems like TV over there is much more permissive of nudity. In the first episode of the new season, a wardrobe malfunction at a fashion show causes the testicle of one of the guys to be visible to those attending. Although I didn't object to this, I did find it somewhat shocking that they actually showed said testicle, and not briefly either. Is nudity on late-night shows pretty common over there?


Tue Oct 05, 2010 11:05 pm
Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
A couple of people have touched on this, but I wanted to lay it out more explicitly.

No matter how violent the images on the movie screen, be it someone slipping on a banana peel, punched by Batman, gunned down by a Nazi, or tortured to death with a scythe, it's all 100% fake. None of it is real. No one was actually hurt, and when the camera stopped rolling everyone smiled and went on about their lives. As convincing and involving as any well-made film can be, at the end the credits still roll.

Sex and nudity can't be faked, at least not in the same way. When someone takes off their shirt, the shirt is off, you've seen it, it's real. They can "fake" having sex, but it's still two actors rubbing against each other erotically. They're faking the feelings behind the sex, and there may not be any penetration, but they're still all over each other. You've seen it, and been titillated by it, and it's almost no different than if you'd seen it "for real".

Now, I absolutely agree that the MPAA system is past its prime, and needs dramatic changes, and I have my own version of what the new system would look like. And American prudishness (at least publicly) is epic. But I take serious issue with the "European" sensibility that movie violence is so much worse than movie sex. One is fake, and one really isn't.


Wed Oct 06, 2010 1:57 am
Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
The rating system is really in place so that the cinema liability cannot be put into question.

I believe that the cinemas should be regualted as follows.
If you wish to attend a film ( no matter what the content is) then if you are under 16 you have be acompanied by an adult.
This means that he / she is reponsible for your behaviour because under the age of 16 you are not responcible for your own behaviour. If the behaviour by one person is bad then the adult will be asked to deal with it. If he/she does not then the entire group that the adult is with would be asked to leave.

The adult is also reponcible for deciding if the film is appropiate for you.
If the underage viewer is affected negatively by what they have seen on the screen then it is not the reponsiblity of the cinema or studio. It is the responsibilty of the adult who paid for the ticket.
This would solve the issue of liability.

If they regulated cinema's in much the same way as the drinks industry then there would be no problem. At the moment if You do not have 18+ id you cannot be served ina pub. The same should be applied to cinemas. If you have no 18+ id then you cannot buy a ticket. If you are sold a ticket underage then the cinema, much like any pub, will be prosecuted and have their licence revoked.

This solved several problems. It removed the need to have a rating system. and it removed nusupervised children from the cinema.


Wed Oct 06, 2010 6:47 am
Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
reelvwr559 wrote:
I wonder how much movies are censored when they are played on channels in other countries.

Is nudity on late-night shows pretty common over there?


With the exception of places like Saudi Arabia etc, no country is more obsessed with nudity (in the sense of trying
to repress it) than the U S of A. In Europe, practically all films are show uncensored, though "higher" rated films are
shown later. However, keep in mind that in Europe a film would not get the equivalent of R just because of nudity.


Wed Oct 06, 2010 9:05 am
Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
Quote:
Now, I absolutely agree that the MPAA system is past its prime, and needs dramatic changes, and I have my own version of what the new system would look like. And American prudishness (at least publicly) is epic. But I take serious issue with the "European" sensibility that movie violence is so much worse than movie sex. One is fake, and one really isn't.


Meekday - that is a profound point - I hope people saw it. JB - I'd be curious to know your response to this.


Wed Oct 06, 2010 10:46 am
Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
MeekayD wrote:
Now, I absolutely agree that the MPAA system is past its prime, and needs dramatic changes, and I have my own version of what the new system would look like. And American prudishness (at least publicly) is epic. But I take serious issue with the "European" sensibility that movie violence is so much worse than movie sex. One is fake, and one really isn't.


You can depict a car accident in a movie with real cars or with the cgi. Theoretically, in a movie should not be important the technique used to represent an action, but the action itself.

If you could depict a sexual act with the cgi indistinguishable from reality, then the problem would not arise?

(sorry for my terrible English..)


Wed Oct 06, 2010 12:38 pm
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Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
hopetocontainme wrote:
Quote:
Now, I absolutely agree that the MPAA system is past its prime, and needs dramatic changes, and I have my own version of what the new system would look like. And American prudishness (at least publicly) is epic. But I take serious issue with the "European" sensibility that movie violence is so much worse than movie sex. One is fake, and one really isn't.


Meekday - that is a profound point - I hope people saw it. JB - I'd be curious to know your response to this.


This presupposes there is something "wrong" with sex and that it's not a natural part of the human experience. The fundamental disconnect here is not whether the sex is real or simulated but whether there's anything repugnant about its depiction in the first place.

The problem with violence is that, while most people accept that it's real and don't try to emulate it, there's a small percentage that don't fall into that category. That's why every once in a while a real-life criminal makes reference to copycatting something from a movie. I don't blame the filmmaker in cases like this, but it punches a hole in the argument that violence should get a pass because it's obviously fake.


Wed Oct 06, 2010 4:58 pm
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Post Re: October 3, 2010: "Life Is Not PG-13"
James Berardinelli wrote:
Robert Holloway wrote:
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.


I rarely use profanity. I'm not bothered by it and certainly don't mind if others use it around me. On those rare occasions when I use it, it's done for effect. For the most part, however, I find that my vocabulary is wide enough that I can come up with more colorful expressions. Profanity doesn't show much in terms of verbal creativity.


I guess colorful expressions show more creativity than colorful metaphors. ;)


Wed Oct 06, 2010 5:44 pm
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