Have you ever wondered what goes into rating a film? Or who even does it? Well, that’s the purpose of the excellent documentary, This Film is Not Yet Rated. If you’d like to read the show notes from this week’s episode, just click the link…
Carlin gets the conversation started by mentioning why he wanted to watch This Film is Not Yet Rated. He brought up our review of The Hunger Games and how he thought it should have received a harsher rating due to it’s violence.
They discuss how the film is broken down into two parts — the history of the MPAA and the investigative story of finding out who the raters are. They discuss how the MPAA is the only game in town when it comes to movie ratings.
Jordan mentions that the MPAA is intended to provide a guideline for parents in movie selection for their kids. He mentions that the internet provides enough material for savvy parents to make these kinds of choices. He then breaks down the general ratings: G, PG, PG-13, R, and NC-17. Carlin thinks R and NC-17 should be merged into one rating category.
Jordan brings up that most movies are not watched in the theater, but at home or over the internet. They discuss how little ratings factor in their own movie watching decisions.
They discuss the point that the movie makes about NC-17 movies. A lot of films that receive that rating get it for “aberrant sexual behavior,” but that apparently includes women enjoying sex.
Jordan notes that most directors in Hollywood, and in independent circles, are men. He wonders if using the NC-17 rating is a way to exclude the minority of female directors in the market.
Carlin makes a point that This Film Is Not Yet Rated seems to differentiate between gay and straight film, pointing out that film with homosexual content receives harsher ratings. He discusses the side-by-side comparisons of gay/straight and independent/corporate films that Not Yet Rated uses to make this point. Jordan mentions that this a challenge of the status quo. Carlin agrees and discusses the documentary’s comparison of But I’m a Cheerleader and American Pie to illustrate this point. Jordan points out that American Pie is supposed to be a comedy, whereas But I’m a Cheerleader is dealing with a serious topic. Carlin wonders if that could affect the mindset of the MPAA raters when they’re watching films.
Jordan mentions Jack Valenti and how he uses “it’s for the children” as an excuse for harshly rating art films. Carlin mentions that Valenti (and the MPAA as a whole) used the threat of government censorship to maintain his hold on the film rating system. Jordan mentions that a film rating system is a necessary thing, but points out that the MPAA doesn’t have any real definable standards to it. Carlin mentions the secrecy that shrouds the MPAA, and how the lack of transparency leads to a lot of contradictions in the standards and practices of the organization.
The guys talk about the investigative portion of the film, including hidden cameras, dumpster diving, and cold calls.
They also discuss the violence issues discussed in the documentary. They talk about how movie makers have to go through an entire vetting process by the Pentagon in order to make films with any kind of military context.
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They talk about how the MPAA ostentatiously doesn’t tell filmmakers how to edit a movie to receive a lower rating, At least, indie films. They give all sorts of advice to corporate films.
They talk about how the ratings are meant to protect kids from inappropriate material. However, much of the time, kids are already involved in such “inappropriate” behavior. So, in reality, it’s keeping the parents safe from cognitive dissonance and also from having open conversations about important life topics with their kids.
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They discuss the appeal process, which has (in addition to the members of the appeal board) clergy members in attendance. Carlin says that there should be more faiths represented than just Christianity. Jordan points out that the history of the film ratings movement falls in the same mindset of the temperance movement. They discuss how the ratings can come from peoples’ biases. They also mention how the appeals board is all members of the industry, interested in the bottom line of what they can get financially from the films that will be released.
Jordan mentions that the film discusses what it would look like if the government did monitor films like they do broadcast media. He brings up the legal definition of obscenity, and discusses how it relates to some of the films discussed in This Film Is Not Yet Rated.
Carlin’s Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars Jordan’s Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
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