Wednesday, December 29, 2010

This Film Is Not Yet Rated

Well, this was certainly an eye-opener.  I knew that the MPAA rating system could be inconsistent and arbitrary, but I had no idea how arbitrary.  Or how secretive.  Or all-inclusive for the US movie industry.

What I also didn't know was that no one is allowed to know who is on the ratings board, or what guidelines they use to make the ratings, or know who's on the appeals board, or that during an appeal you're not allowed to compare your film to any other film in any way (such as pointing out the obvious "but you gave the same thing an R rating in these other 5 films, why am I getting an NC-17?"), or that the big studios get a point-by-point list of things that would need to be changed to get a different rating, where small studios get told nothing.

As a parent, I do find the rating system helpful.  But as Matt Stone points out in an interview, it's because it's the only game in town.  I have to wonder what would happen if a film was released unrated by the MPAA but with its own rating put on it?  I'm reminded of when Marvel dropped out of the Comics Code Authority years ago and instead implemented their own rating system.  People said that newsstands and stores would stop carrying Marvel comics without the CCA seal.  They didn't. Marvel did get off to a shaky start-- there were a lot of books not being rated that definitely needed to be-- but they seem to have got their act together and now I find their rating system more trustworthy than the CCA seal.  (I can't tell you how many times I would look at all the blood and gore in a mainstream comic and check the cover, and be shocked that it was Code Approved.)  Similarly, an unrated film won't get into many theaters, get the studio advertising push, or be allowed to be sold in Wal-Mart... but what if, say, Spielberg decided to do it?  Release a film unrated by the MPAA but with his own rating system?  Someone who's the movie equivalent of Marvel might be able to get it done.

After seeing this I think it's clear that we need true, honest transparency in the MPAA Rating System, and the appeals system needs a complete overhaul.

If you consider yourself a fan of movies in the slightest, you need to see this film.

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