The head of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), Jack Valenti, said in November the 1st of 1968 that the film industry plans to set up a voluntary rating system, designed to keep youngsters from seeing undesirable films. The film industry stopped censoring and started a rating system.
Kirby Dick‘s This Film Is Not Yet Rated documentary is a deep examination of the MPAA, the organisation responsible for America’s film rating system.
MPAA movie ratings aren’t a legal requirement, but in practice it is almost impossible for an unrated film to attract advertising or theatrical distribution. On video, unrated titles are not distributed by the largest chain stores, Blockbuster and Wal-Mart, as a matter of policy. So an MPAA rating is a commercial necessity.
The system has since been praised, but also condemned. For 30 years, the MPAA has been helping parents decide what movies they should let their children see.
Inside the headquarters of the MPAA, Encino, California, an anonymous group of parents|gathers to rate films G, PG, PG-13, R and NC-17, formerly X.
But the MPAA won’t let anyone inside to see who these people are, or how they make their decisions. And among their most controversial decisions are the films they rate NC-17.
What do movie ratings mean?
“G” means “General audiences”. No nudity, no sex, and no drugs. Violence must be cartoonish and minimal. And there may be language that goes beyond polite conversation.
“PG” means “Parental guidance”. There may be strong language like “shit” or “ass” and brief nudity like showing off an ass. Or like violence like “being kicked in the ass”.
“PG-13″. “Parents are strongly cautioned”, as in “Look out, mum, here come more shits!” “Bullshit, dumbshit, little shit, “shitfaced, and shithead”. “Fuck” is also allowed, but usually just once. So filmmakers’re urged to choose their “fuck” carefully. A simple “Fuck you!” is okay. But referring to the sexual act, as in “May I please fuck you?” or “I enjoy getting fucked!”, is totally unacceptable.
If a character says that, especially while abusing illegal narcotic, the film is rated “R”. “R” means “Restricted”. Nobody 17 or under without parent or guardian. There may be sexual themes, franc sex talk, sexualized nudity, tough language and tough violence like 100 handicapped orphans decimated by hell of a gunfire.
But if the film depicts realistic baby-making in a position other than missionary, acts involving oral sex with females, anal sex, fetishes, more than 2 humans or what the MPAA bills “aberrational behavior”, this film could get slapped with an “NC-17″. “NC-17″ means “No children 17 or under”. Period! An NC-17 may range from a senior citizen gang-bang to a foreign Pedro Almadovar film. But art films make people feel funny, especially the ones with “aberrational behavior”.
We have censorship board called the MPAA that looks at your movie and says: “This is the rating we’re gonna give you”.
The language in “Virginia Woolf” was really shocking and new. And I think it’s really what inspired Jack Valenti to come up with the MPAA rating systems. No film can ever survive the blaze and hiss of public scorn. When Jack Valenti became president of the MPAA, back in 1966, he came from Washington,|he came from the President’s office, where he’d been Lyndon Johnson’s man. And he became the man of Lew Wasserman and of the other owners of Hollywood. He came to serve their interest. He came as their lobbyist.
The fact that he did come out of Washington, I think was, you know… Hollywood felt comfortable that he could protect them from the people that he knew back there. Because he was a Washington insider. And in Hollywood, when you ask what their economic interest had to do with ratings… If there weren’t ratings and there was censorship, there would be 50 different censor boards. In my opinion, the MPAA uses the fear of government’s censorship to keep power in control in the… motion picture industry.
Matt Stone, co-creator of South Park, relates his involvement with the MPAA both outside and inside the studio system. He submitted the independent film Team America and received an ‘NC-17′, and when he asked why, he was told that specific details could not be provided. However, when he later submitted South Park as a studio production, and again received an ‘NC-17′, he was given a specific list of cuts required to achieve an ‘R’. This kind of preferential treatment for studio films has always been (unconvincingly) denied by the MPAA.
Watch This Film is Not Yet Rated (playlist 1 hour 38 min) – Turn off the lights
This Film is Not Yet Rated,