English Composition 102
MPAA: Who Are They Helping?
American Psycho, A Clockwork Orange, Boys Don’t Cry, and Clerks. What do all these movies have in common? They were all rated NC-17 at first viewing. The reason why they were rated as such is the real issue. They were rated NC-17 for the sexual content, either shown or talked about. The way in which it was presented in these movies made the MPAA give it an NC-17 rating. The MPAA found it offensive and inappropriate. The violence, some of it quite gruesome, was seen as less offensive and inappropriate according to the MPAA. Despite their best efforts in trying to protect children and what they’re subjected to, the MPAA is utterly useless. The internet provides easy access to pornography and other sexual content by the click of a mouse. The boundaries made by the MPAA in regards to sexual content are unclear most of the time and the rating is inconsistent and gender biased. The MPAA has worn out its usefulness and should be entirely eliminated and replaced with a more democratic, fair and open rating system.
A rating system for film has been around for quite a while. Since 1926, the film industry has been rated in some manner. Back in 1926, much more was banned sexually and in terms of violence. “For almost 40 years the US film industry was governed by the Motion Picture Production Code, which banned nudity, drug use, religious ridicule, disrespect for the law and other depictions in film that would have the effect of lowering society’s moral standards” ( Feiser, np). Many movies back them were quite subtle compared to today’s day and age. Many filmmakers didn’t get adventuress and stayed well within the parameters of the rules because our society was more modest and pure. There was a much harsher strain on sexuality. “Romantic scenes were heavily scrutinized to uphold ‘the sanctity of the institution of marriage’ and ‘excessive and lustful kissing, lustful embraces, suggestive postures and gestures, are not to be shown’” (Feiser, np). Filmmakers had no option, they needed to comply with the code or their film would not be released. When the times changed, the rules needed to as well. “In 1966 the standards of the production code were relaxed, and two years later it was replaced with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) film rating system, which, in modified form, we follow today” (Fesier, np). However, with this rating sysyem, filmmakers have the option to not follow the guidelines set in place. “Filmmakers can opt out by not submitting their films for rating and accept an NR (not rated) designation. But by taking NR rating, a film will have less theatrical distribution and will attract fewer viewers to movie houses. Thus, for mainstream films, participation in the rating system is a practical necessity” (Fesier, np). Many filmmakers are stuck when it comes to getting their movie rated because the MPAA is the only company out there that rates films so what they say goes. Even though filmmakers can make their films NR, the film won’t get any publicity and will most likely fail.
All filmmakers can do is hope for the best when they submit their film for rating. No filmmaker wants to receive an NC-17 rating because it would require severe editing and cutting of the film. Every filmmaker knows that sex is the only thing that will drastically effect a rating but the rules and guidelines of what sexual things are and aren’t allowed have never been stated by the MPAA and often times, it is shocking what is allowed in one film and not another. Let’s first discuss the issue of masturbation in films. For example, Kevin Smith’s film Jersey Girl, released in 2004, was made by Kevin Smith for his daughter. It’s about one man’s struggle to be a single father after his wife dies in childbirth. The movie contains no nudity or sex scene. When Kevin Smith gave it to the MPAA for rating, Kevin Smith said “The MPAA gave...
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