Bigot of the Week Award: March 2, Motion Picture Association of America

2 Mar

Bigot of the Week

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.

Ironic Much

6 Responses to “Bigot of the Week Award: March 2, Motion Picture Association of America”

  1. Didion March 2, 2012 at 7:47 am #

    And did you hear Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke (the Georgetown law student forbidden from testifying before Congress about birth control) a “slut” and a “prostitute”?

    Why am I even surprised about Limbaugh?

    Why am I surprised that a swear word might make the MPAA forbid children from seeing this film, despite the fact that they hear these words (and much worse) every fucking day in school?

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt March 2, 2012 at 8:32 am #


      Your comments always make me smile–probably because I feel less alone. How is it that fools like Limbaugh are able to come to such fame? Why do people listen to him?

      • Jay March 2, 2012 at 10:47 am #

        People listen to Limbaugh, in part at least, due to confirmation bias. While some of this is seen on the left, conservatives tend to be far more uncomfortable with change, variety, novelty, and the unfamiliar than liberals, which exacerbates the tendency most humans have for preferring to hear their own views, biases, and beliefs confirmed, reinforced and verified, rather than having those beliefs scrutinized or challenged. Limbaugh packages his shtick with particular overstatement and exaggeration, increasing the entertainment factor for his followers and the cringe factor for everyone else.

        And while I agree that there’s good evidence that the MPAA is biased in their treatment of movies with significant LGBT content, I think this bias also extends to mildly explicit depictions of straight sex. For example, Jack Nicholson has complained that it is more difficult to show a tit being kissed than a tit being cut off (I’m paraphrasing, and pardon the crudity of the phrasing, but damn, that shudder-worthy comparison has stuck with me for a couple decades now).

        I’d also like to defend the concept of industry self-ratings–it is the application of this concept that needs reform in the case of the MPAA, rather than the rating system itself. The ratings on music, video games, and TV shows, as well as on movies, have in practice given artists considerable artistic freedom. Most of my favorite TV shows from the past decade have been rated TV-MA–that rating has given considerably more artistic license than the old network ‘standards and practices’ censors would ever have allowed.

      • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt March 2, 2012 at 11:52 am #

        You make several good points. I would assert that there is great disproportionality when it comes to rating LGBT movies. The bullying movie seems like an exceedingly cruel move on behalf of the MPAA.

  2. nevercontrary March 2, 2012 at 5:10 pm #

    Looks like I am going to the movies which is something I don’t usually do.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt March 2, 2012 at 6:28 pm #

      If you get a chance, rent Beginners with Christopher Plumber. I think you will enjoy it.

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