posts a provocative dissection
of the movie rating system from its June 22 edition online.
Writer Mark Harris, prompted by the extreme and sexualized violence of Hostel II receiving an R rating, puts his finger firmly on some of the weaknesses of the rating system as it now exists:
The hypocrisies of the ratings system are familiar: Indies have it harder than studio films, naked men are naughtier than naked women, and almost any sex is worse than almost all violence. But the problem runs deeper. The MPAA has never decided whether its job is guidance or rule making. As a result, four ratings - G, PG, PG-13, and R - are merely advisory: The raters tell parents what's in a movie and let them decide whether to take their kids. But the fifth rating - NC-17 - carries the force of law: It's the only stage at which raters decide their judgment should overrule yours. It's a sharp distinction, and Hostel II's R rating proves that they're manifestly incompetent to make it.
NATO has repeatedly called for the proper rating of films - particularly films that merit an NC-17. At ShoWest in March, NATO president John Fithian stated
Speaking of the NC-17 rating, we call again for efforts to revitalize that important category through the release of significant movies under the NC-17 rating. Contrary to often-repeated myths, most theatre companies will play NC-17 movies that are appropriate for their markets, and most newspapers will run advertisements for the pictures. NC-17 movies on average make $3.9 million, while unrated films on average make $1.8 million. Serious filmmakers need to take NC-17 seriously. Everyone in the industry should resist any temptation to treat NC-17 as a negative judgment, rather than an integral part of the rating system that contemplates entertainment for both children and adults.
This approach is simple, but it is not easy. NATO General Counsel Kendrick Macdowell's column in Boxoffice magazine's May issue makes the point:
Read the rest of this entry »
We do not pretend that simply saying "NC-17 is not a negative" can suddenly alter entrenched public perceptions. But we know that better educating the public begins with more precise communication. We also know that the vast majority of exhibitors will play NC-17 movies, if otherwise appropriate in content to their communities, and that virtually no exhibitor has a categorical policy against playing NC-17 movies. The same holds true for the vast majority of newspapers and their policies about ads for NC-17 movies.
We further do not pretend that there is no consequence whatever from an NC-17 rating. Yes, there is a consequence. Per above, patrons under 18 need not apply. But if I might paraphrase a Supreme Court ruling on the limitations of government regulation of free expression, we rue the day that all entertainment is reduced to the level of what is suitable for children.