Monday, July 03, 2006

Right Target, Wrong Shot

To hell with the Motion Picture Association of America. The thought of an unelected body deciding whether or not it’s legal for kids to see movies in public theaters isn’t the sort of injustice that cries out for revolution or anything, but it’s certainly worth complaining about and I want to see the bastards go.

Get this: Congress is mad at the MPAA for giving a “PG’ rating to a movie that a lot of people think should have a “G.” The problem is a scene where an American flag accidentally catches fire and burns. No reason for it to have a “PG” rating except for that.

House Majority Whip Roy Blunt is furious:

"This incident raises the disquieting possibility that the MPAA considers exposure to burning flags more dangerous for children than exposure to gratuitous sex and violence," Blunt said in a letter to MPAA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dan Glickman.

That is a damned good point. The MPAA, with its tendency to view sex and bad words as far worse than violence, has a history of getting its priorities totally wrong. “Remember what the MPAA says; horrific, deplorable violence is okay, as long as people don’t say any naughty words.”

So let’s hear it for Roy Blunt. I’m no fan of Republicans, but I must give credit where credit is due. I think that—oh, wait a minute. Whoops. I misread the article, which is actually about a movie getting a PG rating, supposedly on the grounds that it is basically a commercial for a specific type of Christianity. The movie is billed as

an inspirational drama about a high school football coach who relies on faith to battle fear and failure. “He dares to challenge his players to believe God for the impossible on and off the field," the movie's Web site says.

Wrong issue. What matters here isn't whether Christianity or burning flags or sex or violence is bad for children; what matters is, who the hell is the MPAA to be the arbiter of that? Nobody at all. Get rid of 'em.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Timothy said...

Interestingly, IIRC, the MPAA is a completely voluntary organization, and theatres have no legal requirement to enforce the ratings. Most do as a matter of policy, but any number of arthouses I've been to don't.

10:00 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I am not sure about the legal bit, Timothy--what would happen if a small kid were allowed into a porn theatre? And I'm pretty sure I've read about localities, at least, enforcing some of them.

10:20 PM  
Blogger Handsome Dan said...

Thing is, there really aren't many theaters around anymore that show hardcore pornography. And anyway, even when those places existed, they didn't show anything that had been reviewd by the MPAA. New Wave Hookers and Cafe Flesh (to name just two early 80's classics) (that, uh, somebody told me about once) may have billed themselves as 'XXX', but there is no such rating - most likely, they didn't even bother applying for one. Nope, MPAA ratings are entirely voluntary, no filmmaker or studio has any legal obligation to bother with 'em at all. They do have a financial obligation - typically, theaters (certainly theater chains) won't book anything without a rating (and they usually won't touch anything rated NC-17). So if you want people to see your movie (and, more importantly, pay for the privilege), you have to deal with 'em. In fact, the MPAA came about in the late '60s as a means of industry 'self-regulation' in response to grumblings from the feds, who were threatening to take over the job themselves. The current ratings system may be nothing but a hypocritical scam designed more to protect the fortunes of major distributors and studios, but at least its not under control of the Bush administration. Silver lining, I guess.

(Now I suppose that this or that locality could pass some sort of measure making it illegal for someone under age 17 to see something rated R (or someone under 13 from PG-13 and so forth), but that has nothing substantially to do with the MPAA - a town could just as easily make the comics code legally binding.)

11:18 PM  
Blogger Handsome Dan said...

Thing is, there really aren't many theaters around anymore that show hardcore pornography. And anyway, even when those places existed, they didn't show anything that had been reviewd by the MPAA. New Wave Hookers and Cafe Flesh (to name just two early 80's classics) (that, uh, somebody told me about once) may have billed themselves as 'XXX', but there is no such rating - most likely, they didn't even bother applying for one. Nope, MPAA ratings are entirely voluntary, no filmmaker or studio has any legal obligation to bother with 'em at all. They do have a financial obligation - typically, theaters (certainly theater chains) won't book anything without a rating (and they usually won't touch anything rated NC-17). So if you want people to see your movie (and, more importantly, pay for the privilege), you have to deal with 'em. In fact, the MPAA came about in the late '60s as a means of industry 'self-regulation' in response to grumblings from the feds, who were threatening to take over the job themselves. The current ratings system may be nothing but a hypocritical scam designed more to protect the fortunes of major distributors and studios, but at least its not under control of the Bush administration. Silver lining, I guess.

(Now I suppose that this or that locality could pass some sort of measure making it illegal for someone under age 17 to see something rated R (or someone under 13 from PG-13 and so forth), but that has nothing substantially to do with the MPAA - a town could just as easily make the comics code legally binding.)

11:18 PM  
Blogger Handsome Dan said...

Oop, sorry...

11:18 PM  
Anonymous Jeff P. said...

About ten years ago I saw a Gamera movie at a local art house. The film was unrated, so the trailers they showed were for other unrated films. Among them were The Kama Sutra and Margaret's Museum. The trailers for both were "unrated" adult audience varieties. Chock full of sex.
And the theater was full of pre-teens.
I went out to the lobby to get a drink and said to the manager "you do know you're showing Helena Bonham Carter's tits to a bunch of kids, right?"

6:32 AM  
Blogger EB said...

As Timothy said, the MPAA is completely voluntary and no films are required to be rated. Some films have chosen to be released without a rating because they didn't want to get the dreaded "G" that can turn away some audiences.

The MPAA provided a voluntary system that ended years of local censorship and approval boards. Before the MPAA films were much more restricted in content.

So I'm not really sympathetic to whining about the MPAA. Only in the US would people bitch about a voluntary system being oppressive.

7:11 AM  
Anonymous Tony said...

But the system isn't completely voluntary if the Feds threaten to force the job if the industry doesn't.

8:43 AM  
Blogger Franklin said...

Shameless self-promotion: You might be interested in a 2001 column of mine in which I called for abolishing the MPAA: http://home.hiwaay.net/~tfharris/pulpculture/columns/010823.shtml

4:14 PM  

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