In the Blog
This post has not been rated, either
My pick for the week is a great documentary from last year called This Film is Not Yet Rated. The film looks at how movie ratings happen – whether a movie gets a G, PG, PG-13, R or NC-17 label, and why. The difference in ratings is quite significant. An NC-17 film suffers from diminished advertising and distribution potential: dramatically fewer people will see, or even hear of movies that get the dreaded rating. And the factors that distinguish the R from NC-17 are much more disturbing than you’d think.
Ratings are decided by a secret panel at the MPAA made up of ordinary American parents. And here’s what they are determined to protect society from: female masturbation, female orgasm, a woman getting oral sex, non-missionary sex and gay sex. I mean, think of the children! (Actually, don’t – they wouldn’t be getting into R movies, anyway.)
Violence, on the other hand, is pretty OK in any form. So, in other words, if you’re a filmmaker, it’s easier to get away with having a woman get beaten up than having a woman get off.
The doc is ripe with great interviews with filmmakers including John Waters (who is hilarious), Kimberly Peirce (who made Boys Don’t Cry), Atom Egoyan, Matt Stone (of South Park fame), Darren Aronofsky (who made Requiem for a Dream) and Kevin Smith who have all come up against the MPAA in their careers. Their viewpoints are often funny but frustrating – when a film comes back with an NC-17 rating, filmmakers are often not told what specifically the offending material was – and must go back and blindly edit to make the film less “offensive” if they wish to win the lesser rating.
This last fact is most offensive of all: there are no concrete guidelines to argue with, nothing out in the open to debate and denounce: just a chill that goes through film if indie filmmakers want anyone to see their movie at all. It’s censorship, pure and simple. And, it’s just so supremely fucked up that a woman having an orgasm is more controversial than murder, war or execution.
(The other half of the film is also intensely satisfying: filmmaker Kirby Dick hires a private investigator to figure out who, exactly, is on this secret panel. Through stakeouts, surveillance and stealing trash, they uncover the people behind the MPAA.)