(First posted over a year ago)
I have a daughter 16, a son 18, another son 19 and another daughter 21. And while I find some of their movie choices questionable, I find the rating system used to evaluate the content of the movies they watch laughable and dangerous.
I was always the member of any group attending a movie to insist that I not miss the previews. Opening night of a long awaited movie would produce the best movie trailers of yet more favorites. I have several times made a movie selection based on the fact that a new trailer was showing at a particular theatre for a movie I really wanted to know more about ("Serenity" and "Revenge of the Sith" come to mind). But I've lost my passion for movie trailers at the theatres.
I have begun a steady campaign over the last few years of complaining to friends and family that I am becoming increasingly motivated to speak out against being a captive audience while waiting for the movie I paid to see. Now every movie with an "R" rating has the vilest and most disgusting remake of every horror film imagined, promoted in a movie trailer designed to get as much of an emotional response from me as is possible in 2 minutes or less.
Just this week a couple of friends and I went to see the action movie "Crank". The star of the movie is very good at this sort of movie and I knew a few guys would enjoy this afternoon movie like a few kids on a Saturday afternoon watching western matinees. But I was very near demanding my money back (and would have had I been with my kids or my wife) after the movie trailer Horror film fest I had poured over me like a bucket of blood in the movie "Carrie".
My wife is finally starting to see my point when I tell my 4 young adult children how mind polluting these movies are. I don't know what the psychological effect these movies have on the young minds they are marketed to but I bet someone does and it is exactly what "They" want.
While sex on the beach between two consenting adults can get you the dreaded NC-17 rating if you show too much skin, but the same scene accompanied with the disemboweling of one of the lovers by the other is awarded an “R”. I am a very tolerant guy and promote a lot of freedom for my children and myself, but allowing movies like “Hostel” (young men and women take a trip to Europe and are tortured to death with power tools in graphic detail) in my home is the same as allowing a drum of toxic waste to be stored under my dining room table.
Having teenagers for the past decade has exposed me to what is being dumped into their minds. Unlike many parents I am very happy that the Internet allows them to pick their entertainment rather than have them mass marketed into thinking that they and all of their friends are missing something if they don’t see the next “gorefest” ‘coming soon to a theatre’ near them. I am often distracted at home by the hooping and hollering of a room full of teenagers watching video clips on the Internet of other teens doing amazing and/or stupid things that are very entertaining.
Internet pornography has its own worries on the development of a young mind and we have done our part as parents and are pleased with the resulting adults we are raising. My wife Donna and I have a running debate on the relative damage done by porn vs. horror films. While the argument can be made for living a life without either I certainly prefer one over the other (and which preference of one over the other would scare you more???)
What is also interesting is the binding of sex and violence in many of the teen horror films. Many years ago I remember one of these films on cable TV (Jason/Leatherface/13 whatever) where two teenagers were having sex on a small bed one summer night at ‘Camp Slaughterfest’ when our ghoulish hero sneaks up on them and drives a spear through both of them and the bed pinning them to the floor. This is just one example of the various bondings of teenager sex and violence.
With the training of a parent I think I can venture a guess that the effect (if not the intention) that sex results in death and dismemberment is part of some larger intent (must be my suspicious mind). A young undeveloped mind is unpredictable and I don’t feel comfortable linking sex and gore as much as the movie industry is guided into doing by the rating system. Market forces always apply and if high emotions and T&A are only available in horror flicks then that is where the teenagers will get it. In my day we got our T&A from movies like “Kentucky Fried Movie” and “Caddyshack” (don’t remember the scene do you?). If the majority of our high school group of friends could convince the rest of us to go see a scary movie we were pretty sure bare perky breast were not going to be on the screen.
In fact, Kentucky Fired Movie was another movie making fun of what was allowed on TV by the censors and it became a cult classic by a generation that understood exactly what was going on. Well now the same rating given to these adolescent money makers are reserved for blood gusher movies designed to…. what?
I am very happy to see that this movie is being made. Large Screen home theatres and the next generation of “Google Video/You Tube” offerings of programming will free us from corporation/government mind bending even more. While I suspect that there will always be someone targeting a niche of blood thirsty movie patrons, I suspect that the average offering will be a lot softer, more beautiful, more educational, more beneficial with a lot less brain damage than what is now offered as new releases in the theatre (some really cool car chases would be nice)
In the end, Freedom Always Wins… it just gets really messy first.
TIMELINE: THE MPAA'S GREATEST HITS
1915 - The Supreme Court rules that motion pictures are not covered by the First Amendment.
1922 - The MPAA is founded.
1930 - The MPAA adopts the "Production Code" (also known as the Hays Code) - a set of industry guidelines governing the production of American films: 1. No picture shall be produced that will lower the moral standards of those who see it. Hence the sympathy of the audience should never be thrown to the side of crime, wrongdoing, evil or sin. 2. Correct standards of life, subject only to the requirements of drama and entertainment, shall be presented. 3. Law, natural or human, shall not be ridiculed, nor shall sympathy be created for its violation.
1934 - The MPAA establishes the "Production Code Administration," which requires all filmmakers to obtain a certificate of approval before they can release their movie. In order to receive a certificate, the movie had to be free of "excessive or lustful kissing," any references to "sex perversion" (e.g. homosexuality) and any depiction of childbirth, among other things.
1952 - The Supreme Court reverses its position on movies, declaring that "liberty of expression by means of motion pictures is guaranteed by the 1st and 14th Amendments."
1953 - Otto Preminger, whose films repeatedly violated the Production Code, releases "The Moon is Blue," the first movie to use the words "virgin," "seduce," and "mistress." The film is released without a certificate of approval.
1955 - Preminger's "Man With The Golden Arm" is released without a certificate, leading to the production code being changed the next year to allow films to deal with drugs, kidnapping, abortion and prostitution. The film is nominated for three Oscars.
1960 - Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" is released without a certificate of approval.
1964 - The Production Code is revised to allow for "tasteful references to homosexuality."
1966 - Jack Valenti becomes president of the MPAA and faces scrutiny from civil rights, gay rights and youth movements.
1966 - MGM becomes the first MPAA member company to violate the production code, releasing the film "Blowup" without a certificate of approval. In the same year, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf" is released by Warner Bros., featuring an unprecedented amount of profanity and sexual implication. These two films ultimately break the back of the production code, prompting Jack Valenti to begin work on a new rating system.
1968 - The Production Code is abandoned and the MPAA introduces a rating system. Originally, the rating system offered four ratings - G, M, R, and X.
1969 - The X-rated "Midnight Cowboy" wins Best Director and Best Picture at the Academy Awards. It is the only X-rated film to ever receive an Oscar. A year after its initial release, the film is re-submitted to the MPAA without any changes, and receives an R-rating.
1970 - After audiences confuse the "M" rating with 'for mature audiences only,' it is replaced with "GP" for general patronage.
1972 - When critics express concern that 'general patronage' is too permissive, it is changed to "PG" for parental guidance suggested. The G rating becomes increasingly associated with movies made specifically for children, while the PG rating becomes representative of family films.
1972 - Former MPAA rater and film critic Stephen Farber publishes "The Movie Ratings Game," the first, and to date, only inside look at the workings of the current ratings system.
1973 - Stanley Kubrick cuts thirty seconds out of "A Clockwork Orange" in order to receive an R instead of an X rating. Today, all DVDs of the movie contain the original X-rated version.
1976 - To avoid an X, Martin Scorsese desaturates the colors during the shootout scene in his film "Taxi Driver" because the MPAA feels that the darkened colors disguise the blood. Later, Scorsese comments that the changes ordered by the MPAA actually made the scene more shocking.
1980 - In order to receive an R, William Friedkin has to cut 40 minutes from his film "Cruising," featuring Al Pacino as an undercover cop investigating gay bars in order to track a serial killer. Almost 30 percent of the original film ends up on the cutting room floor.
1982 - "Poltergeist" is originally rated R, but after an appeal the MPAA stamps an unchanged version of the film with a PG. Many critics assert that Steven Spielberg's association with the movie helped it to win its appeal.
1983 - Brian de Palma edits and submits his acclaimed gangster movie "Scarface" three times in an attempt to reduce its rating from X to R - to no avail. DePalma gets help from a panel of police officers, who convince the MPAA that the violence in the film serves to educate the viewer about the real-life dangers of the drug trade. Ultimately the original "director's cut" version of the movie is released to theaters with an R-rating.
1984 - After "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" is released, the MPAA introduces the PG-13 rating in response to public complaints about the severity of the movie's horror elements.
1990 - Miramax sues the MPAA in the state of New York after "Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down," a Spanish film starring Antonio Banderas, receives an X. Though the MPAA ultimately wins the court case, the judge issues stern warnings about the rating system and its practices.
1990 - Noted filmmakers Spike Lee and Francis Ford Coppola are among those to sign "An Open Letter to Jack Valenti," a letter warning that "the taint of an X rating clearly results in massive and arbitrary corporate censorship. Failure to address this problem will help foster a new era of 'McCarthyism' in the arts."
1990 - The X rating is changed to NC-17 (no children under 17 admitted) to distinguish between pornography and "legitimate motion pictures." Universal Pictures' "Henry and June" becomes the first NC-17 film.
1994 - Miramax hires renowned civil liberties lawyer Alan Dershowitz to appeal the MPAA's decision to give "Clerks" an NC-17. Ultimately Miramax is successful, and the film is given to an "R" rating without a single frame being altered. Independent filmmakers without the ability to include legal counsel in their budget may not have been so lucky.
1994 - Quentin Tarantino, fearing an NC-17 rating for his cult hit "Pulp Fiction," includes an effects sequence of a head exploding when he submits his film to the MPAA as a diversionary tactic. As expected, the MPAA suggests that he remove the image of the head exploding (which he had never actually planned to include) but allows him to hang onto the image of brains in Samuel L. Jackson's hair (which he was worried they would reject).
1995 - "Kids," director Larry Clark’s film about New York City teenagers, is stamped with an NC-17. Miramax's contract with Disney barred them from distributing NC-17 films, so Miramax ultimately releases the movie through an independent corporation called Shining Excalibur Films.
1995 - Paul Verhoeven's movie "Showgirls," about a woman who moves to Las Vegas and works her way up the ladder from stripper to showgirl, has the biggest opening weekend of any NC-17 movie, but is still considered a flop, grossing $8,112,627 on 1,388 screens.
1996 - The NC-17 age limit is subtly increased from "no children under 17 admitted" to "no one 17 or under admitted."
1997 - Trey Parker's independently released porn spoof "Orgazmo" is marked with an NC-17 rating, despite being considerably tamer than major release "Boogie Nights." "The reason we got the NC-17 on 'Orgazmo' was that it was released by October Films, which had no clout, and we didn't have the money to re-edit the film and continue to resubmit it," Parker told the Los Angeles Times. ("Rated 'R' as in Ridicule" by Richard Natale, 6/28/1999)
1997 - Gregory Nichols appeals the NC-17 rating given to his film "Broken English," but is informed that "We can't expose the youth of America to buttock thrusting of this type." Nichols publicly protests the idea that "buttock thrusting" "is more dangerous to the youth of America than graphic scenes of violence, torture, rape and murder which they can see in any number of mainstream movies." (more - http://www.sonypictures.com/classics/broken/nc17.html)
1998 - "Saving Private Ryan" virtually re-defines movie violence, but receives an R rating. Many Hollywood critics insist that the movie would have received an NC-17 if it weren't for Steven Spielberg's involvement.
1998 - Troy Beyer, writer-director of "Let's Talk About Sex," complains about her experience with the MPAA, saying, "I felt violated. I felt raped artistically." While the MPAA insisted that she cut out entire scenes from her film, the movie aired completely uncut several times on national television in France. ("Why Ratings Suck!", E! Online)
more - http://msn.eonline.com/Features/Specials/Ratings/One/index2.html
1999 - Inspired by his battles with the MPAA, "Orgazmo" director Trey Parker releases "South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut" which receives an R rating. Thanks to its 399 profane words, 128 offensive gestures and 221 acts of violence, it also receives a spot in the "Guinness Book of World Records" for the most profanity and violence in an animated feature. Parker attributes the R rating to the fact that Paramount Pictures backed the "South Park" movie.
1999 - Collette Burson's "Coming Soon," a teen comedy about three girls' search for an orgasm, is rated NC-17 when the filmmaker expected a PG-13 rating, prompting questions of whether the MPAA favors depictions of male sexuality over female sexuality. In an interview with Seattle Weekly, Burson said, "Men who have issues with their sexuality, or issues with their daughters' sexuality—we're talking about men in their 40s with seventeen-year-old daughters—they're the audience that does not respond to this movie, and unfortunately many of them are in marketing." ("Not now, girls" by Bret Fetzer, 7/7/1999)
more - http://www.seattleweekly.com/film/9927/film-fetzer.html
1999 - The trailer for "Twin Falls Idaho," an indie film about conjoined twins, is rejected because the MPAA finds a scene showing a woman in bed with her husband inappropriate, since his attached brother is also present.
1999 - Kimberly Pierce's Oscar nominated "Boys Don't Cry" is rated NC-17. Moments from a tender love scene have to be cut. Pierce asserts that these frames unnerved raters not because of gratuitous graphic content, but because both characters are female.
1999 - In order to receive an R instead of an NC-17, Jamie Babbit removes a scene where a fully clothed female masturbates from her film "But I'm a Cheerleader." Also in 1999, the R-rated "American Pie" is released. Even the "American Pie" trailers include scenes of a male teenager masturbating.
1999 - Warner Bros' decides to digitally obscure 65 seconds of sexually explicit scenes in Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut" in order to avoid an NC-17 - after Kubrick's death.
2000 - Eighteen seconds are cut out of "American Psycho" to adhere to the MPAA's "standards" for an R rating, but not from any of the movie's multiple murder scenes - featuring, among other things, axes and chainsaws. The offending frames are of a menage a trois scene which doesn't even include full frontal nudity.
2000 - The MPAA stamps the critically acclaimed "Requiem for a Dream" with an NC-17 rating. "If you're a major studio film, you're in a position of having leverage over the MPAA because you're paying their budget. So, essentially, we're dealing with a paid jury," producer Eric Watson tells Moviemaker. ("Separate and Unequal?" by Doug Atchison, Winter 2001)
more - http://www.moviemaker.com/issues/41/mpaa.html
2001 - The independent film "L.I.E." is given an NC-17 rating. The distributor, Lot 47, wages a publicity campaign against the MPAA, which refuses to release its reasons for the NC-17 rating. Ultimately, the film is released without a rating.
2003 - After Wayne Kramer's drama "The Cooler" gets the NC-17 stamp because of a brief glimpse of pubic hair during a love scene between two characters in an established relationship, Kramer appeals the rating, accompanied by actress Maria Bello. Kramer and Bello lose the appeal, and the offending seconds are trimmed from the scene in order to get an R rating.
2004 - John Waters' film "A Dirty Shame" is given an NC-17. Producer Christine Vachon is told that if everything that the ratings board objected to were removed, the 89-minute film would be reduced to 10 minutes.
2006 - Filmmaker Kirby Dick launches an investigation into the MPAA ratings board. In his documentary, "This Film Is Not Yet Rated," Dick demands that the MPAA take responsibility regarding their treatment of independent films compared to major studio releases, the disparity between violence and sex in films, and their bias against gay-themed movies. His search for answers includes interviews with filmmakers, critics, lawyers, and authors - not to mention a private investigator's quest to discover the top-secret identities of the members of the ratings board.