Movie Ratings: A Rant
I hope you are surviving Winter-pocalypse. Dallas can’t make up its mind–is it winter? Is spring? Is it Spinter? Who knows.
Also, just a quick reminder (and some batting eyelashes), there’s a Kickstarter out there to help make the Matt Archer books (or at least book 1 to start with) into an audiobook. If you’re a Matt fan, you can head over to the Matt Archer website or to Kickstarter for details. I appreciate your support!
So, let me ask you a question, Gen Xers. Do you remember, when you were say, ten or so, going to a “PG” movie that was anything but? My mom inadvertently took my sister and me to see Ice Pirates when I was twelve. Just old enough to understand all the jokes…just young enough to think “I’m not sure I should be watching this.” Awkward! Some of those jokes were not meant to be watched with my mother at my side, but rather on a bootleg VHS with a couple of inquisitive and giggly friends.
Anyway, cringe-worthy situations like this are what brought about a stricter rating system–and the invention of PG-13. (Ironically, in 1984, the same year Ice Pirates was released. Coincidence?). Don’t get me wrong, I like it. I like that I have some warning that a movie that sounds fun might be too intense for my daughter, who’s only 10.
But, let’s get something straight. Not all PG-13 movies are created equal. Just like not all PG movies were created equal back in the 80s. Why? Well….movie ratings aren’t objective or based on a strict set of criteria. Nope, they’re decided by a panel of–get this–
Yep, the people deciding what ratings movies receive aren’t movie-execs or auditors. They’re parents, and their methods are anything but objective. In fact, the MPAA website even says as much here. There’s a great documentary on it called This Movie Is Not Yet Rated. WARNING: it’s explicit and not for the faint of heart, as it deals with the death sentence for a film when it receives the dreaded the NC-17 rating, as well as the excessive editing that goes on to have films re-reviewed to get down to an R.
So what does this do, you ask? What’s the harm? Aren’t these people just looking out for kids? Yes, but not always in a way that makes sense. Let’s use The King’s Speech as an example. Except for one totally appropriate and not gratuitous scene of rampant cursing (the King stutters, but when asked to curse, he discovers he doesn’t stutter when cursing), this movie is thoughtful, elegant and pretty dang clean. But drop six or seven F-bombs, and this movie I would show my 13 year old (who declined because he got bored : D), was rated R. That’s right. The King’s EFFING Speech was rated ‘R.’ The latest G I Joe movie, filled with tons of gratuitous violence and some nice objectification of scantily dressed women? PG-13.
See where I’m going with this? There are a number of reasons why ratings are all over the map (the documentary makes some very interesting points about sex/language scoring higher on the R-rating checklist than violence), but common sense doesn’t really seem to be a part of it.
Thoughts? Am I off base here? Don’t get me wrong–we need some sort of system to help parents avoid an “Ice Pirates” situation. But (movie announcer voice) in a world where the The King’s Speech is rated R, are we doing the best we can with that system? Or are we limiting audiences based on one small group’s narrow set of subjective criteria?
Tell me what you think–I’d love to hear some opinions on this one.