Request for Reform: MPAA Classification and Ratings

Mr. P and his parents have a long-standing tradition that on Christmas day, after the grandkids have left and things begin to calm down, they head over to the movie theater and catch the latest hit movie.  This was my first year to partake in this ritual and I was excited to be a part of it.  Although the selection seemed a little slim for Christmas day, we all agreed on a movie and away we went.

I don’t watch a lot of television, but I love going to the movies.  Because of this, I might only see a preview once or twice before seeing the actual movie so many times I’m left in the dark about the actual plot line.  This is usually fine.  At least if the only funny parts are in the preview, it’s like seeing it for the first time when you watch the movie.

The movie we ended up going to see was The Wolf of Wall Street.

For those who haven’t seen the movie or may be on the fence about it, let me give you a brief warning of movie-goer beware.  This one movie is by far one of the most graphic movies ever created for public viewing.  Beyond the extreme use of foul language, constant nudity and sexually explicit scenes, and perpetual use of drugs, the movie itself was just bland.

How many times do you have to see the same type of scenes portrayed before you get the point?  Apparently, Scorsese thought it was needed for the entire film.  Beyond the repetitive lameness, the main characters are vapid and empty with zero redeeming qualities and the storyline is played-out.  This movie brings nothing new to the silver screen except an emphasis for a change.

It really is disappointing to have such creative and talented individuals participate in such a grotesque film.  However, the real responsibility lies with the Motion Picture Association and the poor and outdated rating system that we use in the United States.

Just a few years ago, this movie would have never made it with a Restricted (R) rating without some severe editing.  As society has become more accepting of changes to what is seen and heard in the entertainment industry, there is a need to review the old system and establish a more accurate rating system.

This is not only needed for a better public understanding, but also for the making of future films.  Is it really fair for a movie to receive an R rating for having 5 cuss words when it’s counterpart has 500?  As a movie-goes, how can we tell the difference?

There are currently 5 main ratings that the Motion Picture Association of America uses to rate and classify a movie.  These include General Audience (G), Parental Guidance Suggested (PG), Parents Strongly Cautioned (PG13), Restricted (R), and No One 17 and Under Admitted (NC-17).

The following is an exerpt from the MPAA website regarding what each rating means.  For a full explanation of classifications, you can find it here.

G – General Audiences, All Ages Admitted – nothing in theme, language, nudity, sex, violence or other matters.
PG – Parental Guidance Suggested. Some Material May Not Be Suitable For Children – some profanity and some depictions of violence or brief nudity; no drug use.
PG-13 – Parents Strongly Cautioned – may go beyond PG rating in theme, violence, nudity, sensuality, language, adult activities or other elements; any drug use, more than brief nudity, depictions of violence, single use of harsh language requires a minimum of this rating.
R – Restricted – Children Under 17 Require Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian – contains some adult material which may include adult themes, adult activity, hard language, intense or persistent violence, sexually oriented nudity, drug abuse, or other elements.
NC-17 – No One 17 and Under Admitted – “the rating does not imply obscene or pornographic, just that it is suitable for an adult audience only.”

There are so many examples of movies that are considered mild for today’s standards, but still get lumped in with the most graphic of films because the Motion Picture Association of America refuses to use a rating greater than R.  What is the solution?  That’s easy.  Change the system.

The current rating system would be fine, but the Motion Picture Association of America doesn’t want to use NC-17 for many reasons – most involving money and the knowledge that this is basically the kiss of death for a public movie.  Moviemakers don’t want to make a film with this rating because movie theaters won’t be able to show it.  If movie theaters can’t show it, there is no money to be made.  Why even have the rating if it’s not going to be used?

There is a stigma with the NC-17 rating.  Would as many people see a movie in the theaters if that was the rating for the film?  Probably not. Would those same people be willing to watch it in their homes?  Maybe.

With a change in what is portrayed in movies, several countries have already adopted a new classification and rating system.  For example, according to Wikipedia, the bulk of Canada uses a system with 6 main levels of rating including a General Audience (G), Parental Guidance (PG), 14 Accompaniment (14A), 18 Accompaniment (18A), Restricted (R), and Adult (A).  By having a more specific rating system, the films that are made and shown to the general public in Canada are better classified and understood.

The goal here is not to restrict or ban movies, but rather better educate the public on what the movie contains.  Based on the changes in movie making and viewing tolerance, we are requesting an additional rating to accompany the current classification system used by the MPAA.

New in italics –
R – Restricted – Children Under 17 Require Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian – contains some adult material which may include adult themes, adult activity, hard language, intense or persistent violence, sexually oriented nudity, drug abuse, or other elements.
MA – Mature – Children Under 17 Require Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian – contains strong adult material which may include adult themes, adult activity, heavy use of hard language, intense, persistent, or graphic violence, frequent use of sexually oriented nudity, drug abuse, or other elements.
NC-17 – No One 17 and Under Admitted – “the rating does not imply obscene or pornographic, just that it is suitable for an adult audience only.”

If you would like to see changes and reform of the current classification system used by the MPAA, please get the word out there.  What changes would you like to see?

Leave a Reply