Movie Ratings System Turn 40, Still Sucks

The movie ratings system turned 40 this past weekend and to commemorate the event, Time magazine spoke with Dan Glickman, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, and Joan Graves, Chairman of the Classification and Ratings Administration. If you’ve ever followed any news about the ratings system over the last several years, then there is nothing new in this interview for you. Glickman and Graves continue to spout the same old tired talking points, platitudes and scripted responses that they continue to give when discussing the ratings system.

It is a shame that two years after Kirby Dick’s excellent documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated exposed the many flaws in the ratings system that nothing has been done to fix any of them. The system continues to be, on its best day, barely adequate.

It would be easy to point out the hypocrisies of a ratings system that routinely gives violent, gory fare like the latest installment of the Saw franchise an R rating while director Kevin Smith has to fight to keep his own latest film from receiving the Scarlet Letter of ratings, NC-17, for a comedy about sex with surprisingly little nudity. Is the ratings board telling us that gruesome violence is marginally better than discussions about two consenting adults bringing pleasure to themselves and each other? That’s kind of sick if you ask me.

And their position on the NC-17 rating is patently absurd. They know well enough that no filmmaker is going to deliberately shoot for an NC-17 rating as no studio would want to release such a film. Many theater chains won’t exhibit them and many newspapers won’t advertise them. It would be financial suicide. This is why major studios contractually obligate their directors to deliver the film in a shape for a specific rating, and no studio is going to ask for an NC-17 film. Of course, since all the major studios fund the MPAA, don’t expect one of their films to receive a rating that the studio wasn’t expecting to receive either, if you know what I mean. If the MPAA wants the stigma of the rating removed, than they will have to get out there and do it themselves. Just hoping filmmakers make more films with that rating is a cop out.

I could rant about the inadequacies of the ratings system all night, but its late and I’m tired.I’m tired of the nonsense Graves and Glickman continue to spout.Suffice it to say that unless the MPAA decides to stop giving lip service to wanting to help audiences determine if a film’s content is appropriate for them, they need to actually show that they’re trying to do something about it instead of waiting for Steven Spielberg to make NC-17 movies suddenly acceptable.

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About Rich Drees 7219 Articles
A film fan since he first saw that Rebel Blockade Runner fleeing the massive Imperial Star Destroyer at the tender age of 8 and a veteran freelance journalist with twenty-five years experience writing about film and pop culture. He is a member of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle.
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