This week an antiquated, discriminatory organization proves that it exists for itself and not for its customers. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is responsible for the rating system that has become such a fixture of movie-going life. Ironically, the modern ratings system was created by the nefarious Jack Valenti to acknowledge that the Hays code still in place in the late 60s was outmoded and did not reflect the evolving culture. Since the creation of the ratings, they have changed slightly, last in 1990 when the PG-13 and NC-17 ratings were added and X was dropped.
MPAA ratings have come under increasing protest over the past two decades. Movies with mildly sexual content, especially LGBT content, are routinely given more restrictive ratings (Homophobic much?). Violent movies often sneak by with a PG or PG-13. The game is also quite political; appeals are possible and elimination of specific scenes — integral to the film but offensive to a rater — are the frequent result. Because of the tight connection between the MPAA and the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO), the commercial fate of a film may depend on the rating. This bigoted hostage-taking and application of antiquated “values” is a major problem with the modern movie industry.
Last week it took a very nasty turn. The Weinstein Company has produced a powerful film, Bully, designed to empower youth and share the horrific impact of bullying. Because of “some language” the MPAA rated the film R, virtually ensuring that the people who most need to see it would not be able to do so. Harvey Weinstein filed an appeal, bolstered by impassioned testimony from Alex Libby, one of the bullied kids from the film. The MPAA rejected the appeal.
So here’s their message to America: Blow things up? GREAT! Degrade women? No problem. Crack juvenile, homophobic jokes? Kids need to see that! Craft a meaningful message of empowerment and education for kids and schools? Oooh, that’s too scary. Kudos to Weinstein for stating his intent to take a leave of absence from the MPAA. They’ve held too much power for far too long. Finding ways to inform moviegoers about film content? Great! Arbitrarily enforcing antiquated mores? Just say no.
Dishonorable mention goes to NATO (the theater one) for standing with the MPAA on this issue. When Weinstein declared his intent to release the film without a rating, they said that they would then tell their members to mark it NC-17. Way to take care of the next generation of moviegoers, NATO.
And of course, a Huge Dishonorable Mention to Rush Limbaugh, for once again exposing his misogyny and insisting that no one else be given access to prescription drugs! Yet another misogynistic fool that thinks he owns women’s vaginas.