The Current Rating System in the United States
The current content rating system in use for film, the MPAA, is the only content rating system that is legally enforced in the United States. For this reason, the system has caused controversy. Many have claimed that the system is unbalanced, as the MPAA bases the level of appropriate content for all people in the United States off of the opinions of an unidentified council of people over the age of forty (Jenkins). The stance on how the system’s effectiveness is a relative stance, however, the secondhand effects of the system are obvious and existing today. Decisions have been made by film distribution companies that have affected the way films with objectionable content are made and distributed to a mass audience, and have branded certain subjects as appropriate and certain subjects as inappropriate, which most might find objectionable in itself. The MPAA’s good intensions to create a system that bars certain topics from specific ages have turned into a system that is ultimately censoring films for box office gain.
When one thinks of objectionable content, usually the subjects of language, sex, and violence come to mind. When extreme amounts of any of these topics are presented, one might want to restrict the access and publicity of these materials from younger audiences. When dealing with restricting access however, who really gets to decide what types of content are ok for younger audiences to see and what is not ok? In the article "MPAA Ratings, Black Holes, and My Film: An Interview with Kirby Dick", Dennis West interviews the filmmaker Kirby Dick about his film This Film is Not Yet Rated that deals with the issues of the MPAA’s controversy. In the film, Dick mentions that the MPAA is a secretive council of people who do not reveal who they are to the public because of the dangers of being accused of having bias views on certain subjects and content. In the film, filmmaker Kirby Dick unmasks the entire association of people. During the unmasking, most people in the MPAA were revealed to be over the age of forty and all were parents. Also, most were affiliated with one religion, Christianity. No other religions were represented on the board. This being said, one religion’s beliefs on objectionable content are the only one’s getting the say on the board. This is an unfair way to judge content for the public eye. The MPAA is basing all ratings for the entire United States population off of the views of one main age group, one main marital status, and one religion. Is this really a fair group of people to be rating films of their content? To truly be fair, the film should be judged the same way a court jury is run, to be judged by a group of the film’s peers: a well rounded group of individuals from all different types of backgrounds. Every major religion, marital status, and age should be represented. This way, the film would be given a rating most would find to be fair. The current group of people who judge these films carry an obvious bias that damages the system’s credibility.
On the subject of objectionable content, the topic of sexuality is the most controversial in the current rating system. The MPAA has been known to be very harsh on this type of content in film. Most any type of sexual content is viewed as explicit pornography, no matter what context the content is told in. History shows that NC-17 ratings are given more often because of the sexual content used in those certain films (Jenkins).
Now, because of the higher ratings being affiliated with sexual content, the box-office potential of these films plummet when released. With this fact in mind, film studios now tell filmmakers to cut down on certain sexual aspects of the filmmaker’s films, due to the box office limitations that come with a higher rating. This censorship in film has a spiraling effect on its viewers. If a higher rating is given to those with...
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