The New York Times' movie critic A.O. Scott gets the ratings system better than almost anyone in the media.
Mr. Dick’s film, a critique of the ratings system in the name of artistic freedom, dwells on the commercially fraught boundary between the R and NC-17 ratings, which caused problems for the directors of films like “The Cooler,” “Boys Don’t Cry” and “A Dirty Shame.” But for the public — at least for children and their parents — the more embattled frontier is the one between PG-13 and R.
In actual ticket-buying practice, the difference between them is that a young-looking adolescent must be accompanied either by a full-fledged adult or by an older-looking adolescent. Otherwise it may take a practiced eye and ear to realize that a popular Anglo-Saxon expletive is acceptable in a PG-13 movie as long as it is only heard once and does not refer to a sexual act. Thus “Billy Elliott,” as wholesome and uplifting a film as you could hope for — its story about a kid who dreams of being a dancer is likely to inspire other kids with similar dreams — has an R rating because its proletarian English characters talk more or less as they would in the real world.
It is easy to scoff at that rating only if you have never received angry letters from parents or grandparents appalled by profanity. But of course the rules about specific rules allow a lot of leeway, and no one would claim that by taking your children only to PG-13 comedies, say, you would spare them sustained exposure to coarse sexual humor. Nor would a PG-13-only diet prevent them from seeing violent deaths and grisly images, including the genocidal warfare in “Avatar” itself.
Read the whole thing. It's really good.
Tags: A.O. Scott
, New York Times
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A little imagination, that's all I'm asking for...
I look forward to "elbowed with a PG-13," "noogied with a PG," "tickled with a G," and "defenestrated with an NC-17".
Quite, seriously, if you're not a parent, why do you care what the rating is at all? The ratings really aren't talking to you. If you're under 18 - or 17 - I get it. Every rating that doesn't let you into the movie of your chocie is unjust. And who wants to go see a movie with your parents that you'd rather see with your similarly under-aged friends? I'm nearly 50 and I still don't want to see movies with my mother.
But this is the bargain movie theaters and distributors made with America's parents. The Ratings Board rates a film as honestly as it can (and being composed of humans, it will make decisions that other humans, being humans, will disagree with), the distributors and movie theaters post those ratings clearly and the movie theater does its best to enforce them.
This system, of necessity, is not perfect. It requires an imaginative empathy with the concerns of a diverse population of parents with concerns that vary by region, income, education and religiosity. It also requires a certain degree of movie literacy from parents. They need to understand the broad range of films that may come under a PG-13 rating, or an R, and use that knowledge to compare the rating reasons that accompanies each rating. An R for "some sexual humor" will not be directly comparable to a film rated R for "sequences of grisly bloody violence and torture throughout, and for language".
The question I asked earlier, though, still stands. If you're not a parent - and not under 18 - why do you care what a movie's rating is?
Tags: "slapped with an R"
, movie theaters
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Utah Governor Jon Huntsman has vetoed H.B. 353, an amendment to Utah's Truth in Advertising law, that would declare that a deceptive trade practice occurs if a business publicly states that it will not sell a product labeled with an age restriction or advisory to anyone under the age specified and then in fact makes a sale to someone under that age.
Publicly touted by perennial (and disbarred) anti-video game gadfly Jack Thompson, the amendment would allow patrons to sue retailers and movie theater operators after the third offence. The obvious problem with the bill is that the most likely solution open to retailers and movie theaters is to stop posting notices that the voluntary industry rating system will be enforced rather than risk a lawsuit over the most inadvertant failure to enforce them.
NATO, along with the Entertainment Merchant's Association and the MPAA lobbied vigorously for the governor's veto. In NATO's letter to the governor, NATO's Vice President, General Counsel & Director of Government Affairs Kendrick Macdowell noted
H.B. 353 destroys that private partnership and substitutes the specter of government-imposed liability for mistakes or intermittent errors by theater employees-all based upon exhibitors promoting ratings enforcement. H.B. 353 effectively takes what everyone agrees is good and constructive conduct by business and makes it the basis for vexatious lawsuits and expensive liability. What rational Utah exhibitor would fail to hesitate before ever again promoting ratings enforcement and inviting rounds of lawsuits? While we understand and respect the impulse of Utah lawmakers to promote age-appropriate restrictions on access to entertainment products, H.B. 353 would perversely have the opposite effect-encouraging silence on ratings enforcement.
Utah Association of Theatre Owners president Dick Cornell testified to that likely response of Utah's theater owners before the legislature.
Huntsman's veto letter used much the same language in rejecting the amendment:
The industries most affected by this new requirement indicated that rather than risk being held liable under this bill, they would likely choose to no longer issue age appropriate labels on goods and services. Therefore, the unintended consequences of the bill would be that parents and children would have no labels to guide them in determining the age appropriateness of the goods or service, thereby increasing children's potential exposure to something they or their parents would have otherwise determined was inappropriate under the voluntary labeling system now being recognized and embraced by a significant majority of vendors.
More coverage here.
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