The MPAA’s Unshifting Malaise

I believe that in my manifesto on this blog I stated that I was both not claiming that I was providing consumer advocacy, for the most part, and I was also not a source for parental guidance. My intent is to chronicle my journey through watching films. I’ve also mentioned in introduction to certain themes that either things I am writing, plan to write, or my desire to minimize my massive pile of unwatched DVDs have influenced watching themes. In short, my goal is to have my blog be as diverse as my viewing options and interests. So at times I will get more technical, other times more fan-oriented.

My goal at either end of the spectrum is to stay on the more aesthetic end of the spectrum be it as a fan or filmmaker. However, the news of the MPAA’s new approach to ratings, though not really changing the focus of how it grades films, is noteworthy.

I think that the expanded rating box, where an explanation of what induced said rating, is an improvement. I could go on about what the deficiencies in the rating system are, but that’s not what I’m addressing. I think the quotes in this article to an extent show promise. There is no “X” branding. There is no barring rating in the US, not really.

Admittance to an R-rated film is still possible with a parent or guardian. What I like in the new system is that more of an onus is being put on the parent. The uniqueness of each child is being acknowledged, the reasons for a rating are being made more visible is parents can accept or dismiss causes for the ratings as ones that concern them when considering viewing options.

Now, the flawed criteria of the MPAA needs to be learned by parents. Themes aren’t counted as heavily as things that can be counted. That is to say that counting profanity is easy, and quantifying the pervasiveness of a theme isn’t. However, I’d dare say a film being ostensibly about something would matter more to a parent than how many bad words are in it. So “themes” is a word to look for.

And the fact that there will be PSAs geared towards instructing parents on how to read the new rating boxes and trailers is also good. However, the flaw is clearly that how films are rated hasn’t changed at all. It’s camouflage. Violence is still going to be rated easier than sexuality because no modification of the criterion was announced.

My biggest complaint, however, is not about the non-change change from the MPAA, but of reported “good news.” Granted, CinemaCon, where the announcements by the MPAA, exhibitors and studios are being made are mainly a self-congratulatory affair, and the gripe-fest is secondary, but I find it hilarious that we believe based on secret shoppers that underage ticket buyers are really being kept out of R-rated films 75% of the time.

Here’s a story of why I believe that to be so: My blog earns its name from when I was a teenager and I’d pay for a matinee and hang around for a second film and see that on the same admission – hence my friend and I would hang around the movies, we were movie rats. If I wanted to see an R-rated film I’d get a ticket to something else if I had to and just enter the theater where the film I wanted to see was playing. I don’t do these things anymore, but based frequenting my local theater a lot it can easily still be done. So I have a hard time believing as many kids are being kept out of R-rated films as the MPAA believes. If you don’t believe me just look at some of the recent Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Award Nominees where the performance or film is one that technically one kids shouldn’t have been allowed to see and where they likely didn’t get their parents permission.

In the end, the MPAA’s change is nearly non-existent but it is a minor benefit. However, at this rate of change they be in the right vicinity at some point in the next century, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.