Monday, September 11, 2006

This Blog Is Not Yet Rated

While the FCC is successfully keeping us safe from ourselves via TV and making sure that the media can communicate only with people that have grade school sensibilities, they have allies at the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) who are also doing a good job of this in the film industry.

Their rating board has assigned the well-known G/PG/R system to all domestically released films since 1968. After some protest (and a supposed copyright violation), the X rating was changed to NC-17. All of this was done under the guise of protecting children from explicit content in films.

Or so the story goes. Kirby Dick's This Film Is Not Yet Rated explores the rating system and the inherent hypocrisy involved in it. Filled with interviews of directors who have butted heads with the rating board (and possibly fear retribution from them for appearing in the movie), This Film makes a compelling case for reform of the system.

The crux of the problem that many producers and directors face is getting slapped with an NC-17 rating. Such a movie will then automatically not appear in many theatres across the country, which prefer to show more family-friendly entertainment. As such, a film will then lose a lot of money because it will be less widely available. One of the greatest problems that the film-makers then face is trying to figure out a ratings standard which supposedly doesn't exist- they're sometimes told that the board doesn't want to censor films so they can't say which exact scenes need to be cut to get an R-rating.

Not surprisingly, indie studios have a much tougher time getting an R-rating instead of an NC-17 rating. Trey Parker of South Park fame found this out the hard way- his 1997 film Orgazmo (released by an indie studio) was slapped with an NC-17 rating while the South Park film which came out two years later through a major studio (and was filled with a record number of obscenities and scenes of violence) received an R-rating.

And so it goes with gay scenes which are almost identical to male-female sex scenes in movies: This Film shows them side-by-side in comparisons with only difference that one of these type of movies gets the NC-17 rating and the other type gets the R-rating. Guess which is which. The same goes for male-female scenes were the women is having a little too much pleasure from the encounter.

As for scenes of violence, with regards to body count, the sky is usually the limit. An action hero film where 100's of people are slain casually? No problem. That's an R or maybe even a PG-13 rating. And what does this say to the kiddies that the board is supposed to be protecting with their ratings?

In a wonderful turn of fair play, Dick spends a lot of the movie also tracking down the previously invisible ratings board by hiring a detective. Not only does she get names and photos for Dick but she also tracks down the members of the appeals board even after the MPAA people try to hide them. It turns out the appeals people are made up of studio suits and theatre retail bigwigs, all who have vested interest in the system.

Dick ends the movie with his own trials and tribulations of submitting This Film for a rating. Not surprisingly, the secretive board didn't appreciate the expose and slapped it with an NC-17 rating. Dick takes his case to the appeals board whose star-chamber process doesn't allow him to question anything or barely lets him speak. The final verdict? A 10-0 unanimous vote against him. At this point though, it doesn't matter. Dick has already exposed them as the two-faced cowards that they are.


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