Why I Hate the MPAA.

Read this first.

Got it?

If you agree with the MPAA’s decision, then this rant is not for you.

I’ve long had a problem with the MPAA. Even as a teenager, the ratings felt completely arbitrary. Why were some movies PG and some R? When Spielberg successfully lobbied the MPAA for a different rating to accommodate movies that fell in between, the field was even more muddied. Why was “Pretty in Pink” PG-13, but “St. Elmo’s Fire” R? This made no sense to me.

Then a few years ago I watched the documentary “This Film Is Not Yet Rated.” It’s NC-17, by the way, so I guess I’m one of those people who watch those kinds of movies. It earned that rating, by the way, by showing why different movies were given different ratings. And by showing the content in question, it got the Scarlet Letter of movie ratings. And here’s what I learned about the MPAA rating system.

It’s completely arbitrary.

Sure, there are some hard and fast rules. Example: if the “F” word is uttered more than 3 times, automatic R. So, as Eric Snider pointed out on Twitter this week (and I’m paraphrasing, because I can’t find the tweet): Your movie where 24 kids try to kill each other–does it have any F words? No? Here’s your PG-13 then.

(That’s a Hunger Games reference, by the way.)

I saw “The Hunger Games” today, and it was horribly violent. And disturbing. And foreboding. And I wouldn’t want my 13 year-old nephew seeing it yet.

But a film like “Bully”–if the MPAA is giving it an R because of language, then guess what?


Because on any given day, I hear the F word in the hallways 20 times. And on any given day, I see–and stop–various forms of bullying. It is a problem. It’s a problem at school, and it’s a problem online. When I was in high school, back in olden times, and was bullied or ostracized, home was a haven. A place of safety an escape. But with cell phones and Facebook, that is no longer a reality for our kids.

So here is my modest proposal: movie theatre owners–don’t be the ratings police when you choose to screen “Bully.” If a 13 year-old buys a ticket to watch on the big screen what he saw four hours earlier at school in real life, let him. Or her. What is the MPAA gonna do to you? How much power do they have over your business? To be honest, I don’t know the answer, but in all good revolutions, one side realizes they outnumber the other.

The MPAA, according to “This Film Is Not Yet Rated,” consists of about 20 people. How many movie theatre owners are there in the U.S.?

More than 20, I’m guessing.

If this film’s hype is at all true, and can motivate even ONE kid to stop bullying, or motivate even ONE kid to report bullying, it’s worth the risk of any sanctions the MPAA might apply.

Should kids see this movie with their parents? Of course that’s the ideal. But for the kids whose parents either are absent, or would feel uncomfortable seeing this film? Those kids should still be able to see it too.

2 thoughts on “Why I Hate the MPAA.

  1. I want to post this on my Facebook page! And I'm so glad you called said nephew…he didn't want to see it in the first place. In fact he decided on his own not to finish the series because “mom, it's so dark and violent”. There is a big difference in kids' brains between wastching alien invasions or robot takeovers and human kids trying to kill each other.

    I can add this to my list of blockbusters I have not and will probably never see. Along with Twilight, Titanic, Avatar, etc. I have found the bigger the hype around a movie, the less I like it. It's my non-conformist tendencies.


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