First Harvey Weinstein threatened to pull out of the MPAA because they gave the documentary about bullying, aptly titled Bully, an R-Rating due to some "F-Bombs." That inspired me to question the whole role of the MPAA, especially it's erratic and capricious ratings system.
Well, now it's getting weird.
The National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) is now saying that if the Weinstein Company releases the Bully unrated they will treat it as if it's an NC-17 film. For those who don't know the intricacies of the ratings system it's the replacement for the old X rating, and it means that no one under the age of 17 will be allowed in to see the movie, no newspapers or TV stations will carry ads or showtimes, and you can be sure to lose all the money put into the movie.
All this over the film's use of the word "Fuck."
Has the whole movie world lost its fucking mind?
This is exactly what I mean where there seems to be no rationality or logic when managing the ratings system. It's becoming as irrational and erratic as the old production code that did things like ban the word "pregnant" and said that you could only show married couples in bed if they were in separate beds.
It wasn't always that way.
I recently saw, thanks to a free preview of a movie channel, a bunch of movies that were released during my childhood. Now most of these movies had PG or PG-13 ratings when they were initially released, and it slowly sank in while I was watching them, that if they hit theaters now, they'd all be rated R.
So I have to ask....
Ratings can affect a film's performance at the box office. An R-Rating can potentially slash a mainstream film's box office take in half. An NC-17 rating takes a film almost completely out of the mainstream, and can potentially cripple its box office performance and home video sales.
This makes logic and rationality extremely important. I think the ratings system needs to be reformed, if not completely gutted, and whatever takes it place, the people deciding the ratings need to ask themselves these questions about the films they rate:
1. What is the intended audience of the film?
Let's admit it, the ratings system is supposed to ease kids into being exposed to varying levels of coarse language, nudity, and violence as they grow into adulthood. That means that the ratings minions have to consider if kids would be remotely tempted to see the movie in question. Giving The King's Speech an R Rating over a scene full of "F-bombs" was inane, because what kid would go, on their own, to see the fucking King's Speech. Give it a PG, or even a PG-13, with a notice that there will be some language, and be done with it, because no kid will be going WITHOUT any parental guidance.
2. Why is the offensive or inappropriate material in the film?
Is the language, violence, and nudity essential to transmit the film's theme or central arguments, or is the filmmaker just doing it for cheap attention or to cover up their own creative shortcomings. There's a tendency with the MPAA ratings board to punish films for having mature material, no matter why said material is in the film. Intent is very important in criminal law, why not in rating movies?
Then maybe they can create a rating system that isn't a complete embarrassment.
At least for a while.