I have never been a fan of the Motion Picture Association of America's rating system. The ratings are too lenient on violent and too strict on sexuality (especially when sexuality is integral to the plot). That's a completely different story, though. It was announced recently that the MPAA was going to tweak their ratings system in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre. Will talks about curbing gun violence do anything?
Back in January, Vice President Joe Biden met with MPAA head Chris Dodd to discuss gun violence in movies, and Dodd insisted that Hollywood would oppose any kind of regulation of content. Dodd told The Hollywood Reporter, "We're vehemently opposed to that. We have a free and open society that celebrates the First Amendment."
A gleeful Dodd
On Monday, Dodd and National Association of Theater Owners (NATO...seriously) presented a campaigned that promised PSAs and posters to be showcased at theaters across the country. In addition, the ratings reasons will be easier to read at the beginning of film trailers. The plan urges parents to "check the box" (the ratings box that describes the reason for the rating) to gain more information of the films that are shown in theaters.
"We're changing the way they're presented so that they're easier to read," said MPAA spokesperson Kate Bedingfield. One example provided is: "An intense scene of war violence, some images of carnage, brief strong violence."
I know the MPAA is kind of a broken system (please watch Kirby Dick's documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated), but this seems really stupid. They are just describing the content more vividly. Probably using an online thesaurus. I don't know what the PSAs or poster materials are going to include, but I think it will look similar to this:
First of all, the content of a hard-rated R movie is probably not going to play before anything PG-13. I know this. The amount of digital movies I built or helped build when I managed a theater is ridiculous. You're not going to see a trailer for something like Eyes Wide Shut before you sit down in a theater to watch The Dark Knight or The Blind Side. Also, no one pays attention to the ratings reason. The only reason they do is to laugh at the strange wording. "Pervasive language, smoking, and a brief moment of penguin fornication."
If parents are truly upset when they discover what their kids are watching, they primarily should blame themselves. I am NOT saying every parent is horrible and they are singularly responsible for messing up their kids, but they need to take some accountability.
When I worked at a movie theater, stupid parents would drop their kids off and then get upset at employees because of the content of the films they were watching. I know this is the age of Twitter and Facebook and everything moves so fast, but I remember when my parents sat with me through an entire movie and talked about it on the way home or the next day. Not a stupid "let's talk about everything you felt" conversation, but a healthy discussion about everything and anything. Or, God forbid, research the movie more. Talk to parents you trust who have seen it or GO SEE IT YOURSELF AND SEE IF IT IS APPROPRIATE. Perhaps the PSAs should encourage sensible communication.
Don't just make the words bigger. We see them.