July 16, 2007

This Film Is Not Yet Rated

This Film Is Not Yet Rated is an independent documentary that looks at how the Motion Picture Association of America rates movies for theatrical release. They have a secret review board whose job it is to evaluate submitted films and make an "average parent" judgement as to its rating. The creater of the documentary, Kirby Dick, makes a pretty good case that the MPAA is applying the personal morals of the people in charge to films, in ways which are sure to please some particular groups, but also hurt the public at large. And because of how those ratings are used, the morals of those individuals really do dictate what can be made and what cannot.

I think really that this film is a good start at exposing how movies (as well as television and video games) are not considered equal intellectual pursuits as books. The same sort of judgemental activity applied towards books is the motivation for Banned Books Week. People seem to recognize that you can't just classify violence as categorically bad, or sex as categorically bad, or even pedophilia as categorically bad. Yet the same intellectual truth disappears when applied to other "relatively young" media.

One great example of this, as pointed out in the film, is the movie Boys Don't Cry. The original submitted version received an NC-17 rating for the sex scene between Brandon Teena and Lara Tisdel. However, the film as a whole is an extremely important film that portrays a real story and discusses a sensitive but timely subject in a very grown up and intellectual way.

Another example is the documentary Gunner Palace, which is a documentary about the soldiers in Baghdad that uses real footage taken as interviews with soldiers and as operational documentation. Of course, given the subject matter, violence, language, and other realities of life and war are fully exposed. This film was given an NC-17 as well, but really is exactly the sort of thing the American public, including children as they are paying attention to world events and politics, should see. The director made a very lucid comment about the silliness of trying to put a rating on reality.

In fact, one thing critics of violence and sex in popular media never allow for is the difference between fantasy and reality. It's always a blanket statement that all children cannot distinguish between the two, when of course it's all individual. Plus, there is the argument that fantasy violence desensitizes people towards real violence. But there are ten-year-olds who can go on gory and realistic frag-fests for hours a day, then get grossed out by a dead rat. While there are fourty-year-olds who can't tell the difference between the two (i.e. they find the fantasy frag-fest as disgusting as the dead rat).

I guess my overal rant is simply about individuals, or groups of people, trying to impose their personal morality upon others. This applies not only toward movie ratings, but also towards other personal moral beliefs like homosexuality or polygamy/polyandry or even less controversial things like social mores. And just as much towards fantasy (as a depiction) violence and sex, the two big flags when it comes time for the MPAA to assign a rating to a movie.

Posted by josuah at July 16, 2007 7:37 AM UTC+00:00

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