Monday, June 23, 2014

Let's Talk: Rated "M" For Mature

I'm going to preface this article by stating that I believe the current movie rating system in America is rather broken.  In fact, the way movies are currently rated might be one of the most broken systems we have, considering that the MPAA is run by the heads of major film industries, so any independent film that wants a chance to be in the theaters and be rated has to let the "big boys" determine their fate.

Ever wonder why any small, independent movie that involves kids being bullied, young people discovering their sexual orientation, or dealing with family issues usually comes out rated "R" thus killing their target demographic?  That's why.

However, I think the MPAA also has a responsibility to hold films to certain standards.  That's the whole point of having a rating system.  If they let the masses determine what was okay for people to see, you'd have a lot more swearing in PG movies based on how young people act on the Internet and in online games.

So, what prompted my consideration of this issue?

This shirt.

Let me explain.

At the mall recently I encountered a family heading towards the exit.  You had a mother, a father, and a son, probably in the 8 to 9 years old range.  The kid was wearing the above-mentioned shirt, and for a brief moment my brain broke.  Here's the explanations I can think of:

1)  The family let their kid watch Ted, a movie rated "R" for "crude and sexual content, pervasive language, and some drug use."  The kid enjoyed it so much he wanted a shirt from it and his parents obliged him.

2)  The parents saw the movie, and loved it so much they felt the need to dress their child (who probably has access to the Internet in this day and age) in a shirt from it.  The child, having probably seen commercials for the movie on television, might be interested enough in what his parents dressed him up in to attempt to watch it.

3)  The kid managed to see it with a friend (or snuck into a theater) and loved it so much he asked his clueless parents to get him the shirt, and they obliged.

4)  The parents and kid have no idea what the shirt means or where it comes from, and just thought "Thunder Buddies For Life!" sounded like something a kid would like.

There isn't really an answer there I like.

But here's the thing that gets me: I know for a fact parents let their kids watch ultra-violent and/or crude and/or sexual movies.  And I can't understand why.  Do they not understand that movies have ratings for a reason?  If a theater is legally obligated to NOT let your kid in alone to see the movie because of the film's content, perhaps you really should rethink whether or not you should toss the DVD in to keep your kid entertained while you do something else.

Now, I know that not all rated "R" movies are created equal.  Some should probably be PG-13.  I can think of a few right off the top of my head, in fact:

Lost In Translation
Six Degrees of Separation
The Thomas Crown Affair

Now, to be fair, in at least one of those you can see a woman without her top on for a short time.  However, consider movies that got a PG-13 rating.

Aliens vs. Predator
Live Free Or Die Hard
The Dark Knight
Taken 2

Someone please explain to me how Liam Neeson attaching electrode's to a man's genitals is fine, but a woman walking around without a top isn't.  Please.

But my main point isn't about teenagers seeing films.  My main point is about children seeing rated "R" films.  Children are still getting an idea of how the world works.  Their minds are still being shaped by everything they see.  The things they see on television can easily direct who the child will be growing up.  Let them watch negative behavior be shown in a positive or entertaining light, and they might get the idea rooted in their mind that they want to do something like that.

After all, The Hangover was just a fun-filled romp!  Everybody laughed!

And yes, I overheard someone say they let their eleven year old watch it.  Several times.

When I was still just going into middle school, I heard kids on the bus talk about how their parents dropped them off at the theater to watch Total Recall, a film not only with a triple-breasted hooker, but quite a significant amount of violence.

I know that people don't like the government telling them what they can and cannot do, can or cannot watch, or anything else that gets viewed as intruding in their private lives, but I can't help but think that someone needs to do something about the system.  Find a way to make "MA" less stigmatized (films regularly cut films down to make them "R" because they know nobody will see them if they're rated "MA") so you can put films that children and teenagers really have no business watching in that category.  Find a way to spread education about why ratings are important.  They're managing to do that with exercise, healthy eating, and safety while being on the Internet, so why not this topic as well?

Also, while you're at it, fix the sexuality/violence standard contradiction, and someone force the MPAA to be nicer to independent films.  There's really no reason why Before Sunrise was rated "R" but Battle: Los Angeles was PG-13.

No comments: