"This Film Not Yet Rated" or How to Miss an Easy Target (spoilers?)

Warning! I’m deliberately tryint to NOT put in anything to spoil the flick, but I’ve been known to have errors in judgement. Caveat Lector!

So, last night I went and saw This Film Not Yet Rated. I was really excited to see it; I thought it was going to be really good. It wasn’t. The fact that the film maker had such an easy target, and yet all he could state, in nearly two hours, was the painfully obvious: the film rating system is soft on violence while hard on sex (no pun intended), misogynistic, and homophobic. Duh. There’s a big Bonus Duh as well, because if the rating system is supposed to represent the so-called average American parent, then of course it’ll favor violence over sex, by a bit misogynistic, and homophobic.

In order to establish these very obvious points, several film makers are interviewed. Most dissapointing of the interveiws was with Matt Stone, since he’s a math major and I expected a lot from him. :smiley: Heh, seriously, he had one good point about the surveys of parents regarding the MPAA rating system; however, he didn’t establish a premise of his complaint, that an alternative might be better.

I think the three key problems were the lack of focus, the failure to identify and go after the real culprits, and the failure to establish the harms being done.

Some spoiler type things. John Waters:

Thinks it’s better to show people fucking food rather than each other, so that teens who do what they see will be having safe sex.

That is a fair point, indeed, but what he doesn’t establish is that showing the former is something that shouldn’t be rated in the first place.

Kevin Smith:

Feels that things like violence against women should be rated heavily against because it is so over used as a plot device!

What the hell kind of system will that ethic leave us?

Marry Harron: Apart from directing the film adaption of the worst book ever,

speaks about how the egregious violence in her flick isn’t censored, but her egregious sex is censored.

I mean, if the one is bad enough to be given as an example of something worthy of censoring, that doesn’t really speak against the MPAA so much as their focus. But, again, that focus is already obvious.

A documentary film maker tells us that reality shouldn’t be rated or censored. Yeah, right. Budd Dwyer’s suicide should be on Saturday morning kids programming. :rolleyes:

The flick has a lot of time devoted to finding out who the ratings people are, but never seems to try to contact them, instead the film only gives us their license plate numbers (spoken aloud, but blurred on the screen), their names, and their kids’ ages. That whole bit was really pointless.

Time is also given to the secrecy of the whole thing, which certainly doesn’t stand up to the arguments being made is said secrecy’s defense; however, because the significance of the alleged harms being done is never established, it really comes off as a lot of handwringing over nothing. We’re never shown why the, in all honesty, so-called censorship is something to be concerned about. And that leads to the real issue.

The MPAA has no power whatsoever. We’re told right off the bat that a NC-17 rating will kill a movie, not because people won’t want to see it, but because the studios won’t back it! In a nut shell, that’s the problem; the MPAA doesn’t kill movies, the studios do, and because the studios pander to this group, the problems are allowed to continue or even obtain in the first place. So really, the whole thing was more-or-less off target.

So, is the MPAA arbitrary, cloistered, and fascist? Yeah, it sure sounds like it. But it appears the attitude of the studios is what really allows those problems to continue.

A lot of theaters won’t show NC-17 films. The fact that a lot of theaters won’t show them means that a lot of people will assume they are softcore porn disguised as art, so they won’t see it where it is playing. Of course, an NC-17 film can make a good amount of money, but not the kind of money the studios are interested in. Ironically, adding NC-17 didn’t put more sex in movies. It made movies less sexual by giving the ratings board something other than the nuclear option (an X rating) to use on a film they thought was objectionable.

I’ve seen that run up the flagpole, but I ain’t gonna salute. As noted in the flick: “Since the very beginning, Hollywood has been a vertically integrated monopoly.” The exact phrasing ain’t quite there, but that’s essentially one of the points made. When you see who is on the MPAA appeals board, you’ll understand that the argument — that NC-17=porn, therefore no audience — is completely specious. :wink: It just doesn’t hold water because it’s completely circular.

The appeals board was the only part of the movie where the film maker got close to the real culprit, and let it go rather than latch on and make a real point of it.

I guess it’s time to link to this article again: Separate And Unequal? How the MPAA Rates Independent Films.

Things worth highlighting for those who won’t read the linked article: the ratings system is largely arbitrary and unfair to independent films, which don’t have the muscle behind them that major studio films have. Although the original intent was that the ratings should be “advisory” in nature, the MPAA has become a de facto censorship board. The problem lies not wholly with theaters, but also with newspapers; even if a theater decides to run an NC-17 movie, newspapers almost invariably refuse to advertise them.

And if the MPAA ratings board is supposed to represent a cross-section of American parents, how come there are (or at least were) two priests on the board?

I don’t want to spoil the film.

I saw this film tonight, and I agree with some of the things that you said, this isn’t entirely correct at all. When MTV was still worth watching, they had a program hosted by Sandra Bernhardt on censorship. Henry and June had just been released (it being the first film to get an NC-17) and they interviewed the leader of a nutter religious group who’d gotten a theater to pull the film because of the NC-17 rating (there was a law which prohibited the showing of X rated films and since Henry and June was originally rated X, they had to pull it) who was quite proud of what he’d done.

I’m not going to bother with spoiler boxes, since this is a documentary and not a film like, say, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington where knowing the outcome will ruin it for you.

One’s Catholic and the other is Episcopal and they’re there to communicate to the religious community the goings on of the MPAA.

The film does go to show the absolutely absurd nature of the MPAA and how it operates. Kevin Smith’s commentary about what the MPAA didn’t like in Jersey Girl, namely Liv Tyler talking about masturbation, was hysterical. He said that one of the MPAA’rs complained about it and said she had a 16 year old daughter she didn’t want to see such things, to which Kevin Smith responded, “You think that your daughter doesn’t masturbate?” (There’s more, but I forget the details because I was laughing so hard.)

js_africanus, you misunderstood John Waters. He thought that they were going to complain about the use of the word “felching:” in the movie, instead they got their panties in a wad because he showed someone being aroused by pouring food down their dress, and he pointed out that that really shouldn’t bother them, since it was safe sex.

One thing that the director did was to submit the documentary (before it was finished) to the MPAA for a rating, and they gave it an NC-17, so he filed an appeal. He points out that the MPAA was so paranoid about the goings on in the film, that they brought the appeals board in by use of a black rental van that had it’s windows tinted, so the director couldn’t get them on film. Then he points out that they’d captured the appeals board on film before this, and proceeds to show them arriving in their private cars, flashes their names on the screen, and has photos of a couple. It would have been nice if at some point, they’d done ambush interviews with the members of the MPAA (who are supposed to be secret). Another thing that they never mentioned in the film is how the raters get hired in to begin with. Did they answer an ad in the Sunday paper? (It pays $30K/yr.)

I thought that they did a good job of making Valenti out to be a sleazy TV preacher type (which is what I’ve always thought of him). It’s pretty obvious that the man has some issues, and the film shows that fairly well.

One thing that I don’t get, since some of the best Hollywood directors have had problems with the MPAA, is why the hell don’t they start their own, alternative to the MPAA? Yeah, I know, there’s the issue of the studios being tied in with the MPAA, but if high powered directors like Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Ridley Scott, and George Lucas (all of whom have made billions for their respective studios), say they want an alternative to the MPAA, they’re probably going to get it.

I also wish that they’d touched on some of the blatent (IMHO) racism that seems to infect the MPAA. I first noticed it when I saw the horrid Wide Sargasso Sea, which was, IIRC, the second film to be cursed with an NC-17 rating. The MPAA said they gave the film that rating because for like a billionth of a second, there’s a shot of man tackle on the screen. Even if you went frame by frame, you’d be hard pressed to notice it, but the interracial sex scene goes on for much, much longer, and I can’t help but think that was the real reason they gave it the kiss of death.

Sorry for the double post, but in looking over the film’s website, I discovered this little nugget.

Amazing, there’s not any on camera sex that I can recall, no real violence, and yet the 'tards at the MPAA wanted to give it an NC-17.

My understanding is that the “Ratings” given by the MPAA are completely non-binding, right?

So what’s stopping people from telling them to go stick their heads in a pig and just not submitting a film for classification?

Most of the major movie theater chains won’t carry a picture if it doesn’t have an MPAA rating. However, AFAIK, none of the major directors like Spielberg have ever said, “Screw it! I’m releasing this film unrated!” Were that to happen, and the film to make boatloads of cash, the MPAA’s days would probably be numbered.

The function of the MPAA is to ghettoize sex. Yeah, you can make a film with any kind of sexual content you like, but if you want it played in major theaters chains, you’re gonna have to submit it to the MPAA and get it rated, and it better not have too much sex in it or it’ll get an NC 17 or an X, and the theater chains won’t show it.

So you have the pron industry and a few independent films on the one hand, and the mainstream film industry on the other hand. And of course, the lack of ability to market films keeps the quality way down in porn films, because there’s no way to tell audiences what’s a quality porn film and what isn’t. So most porn films in the US are just a couple of people humping in a hotel room while being videotaped. Because what’s the point of doing any more when about the only means porn producers have of telling viewers about their film is the DVD/video box cover?

Contrast this with Japanese hentai, adult animation. They are accepted in Japanese mainstream culture to a much greater extent than porn is accepted in US mainstream culture. As a result, hentai producers can market their stuff and differentiate it as to quality. As a result some hentai have topnotch animation, as good as any mainstream anime and better than many, plotting and characterization to match or exceed many mainstream anime, etc.

Of course, part of this is the level playing field that hentai makers have with regard to budgeting … it costs just the same to draw a spaceship or a luxury resort on a tropical island as it does to draw a dingy hotel room, so hentai makers can have the same sets and locations as maisntream anime creators. But if hentai creators were as limited in marketing their products as mainstream anime creators are, they would have no incentive to create interesting stories or characters either, and they wouldn’t. There would be the same singleminded focus on sex that you find in US porn.

Right now the Japanese are eating America’s lunch in terms of comics and animated cartoons. Sooner or later, some foreign film industry is going to figure that the US porn industry – a billion dollar industry, we are repeatedly told – is vulnerable, too. Can’t happen soon enough to suit me.

Cite? I know manga is pretty big, but American comics still sell much better issue-to-issue, and are catching up in terms of the collecting trades. And of course, even the more obscure non-superhero American comics are increasingly influence in Hollywood.

And I know you’re wrong regarding animation. If Japanese animation is so popular, then how come I have to watch late-night Cartoon Network to see any? Where’s their competition for The Simpsons, Spongebob Squarepants, or The Incredibles? Hell, where’s their Venture Brothers?

It was the language. Kevin Smith even said at the time in interviews (“bragged” or “whined”, depending on the writer) that Clerks was the first movie to get and NC-17 rated solely due to foul language.

And…c’mon. It’s not exactly the kind of thing I want my 7 year old watching. "Mommy, what’s “suck a dick”? “Mommy, what’s a jizz mopper?” “Mommy, what’s Cum Gargling Naked Sluts?” “Mommy, what’s Navy Seals?” :smiley: It’s pretty unending. Funny as all hell, but absotively posolutely not appropriate for kids. Do I think NC-17 was inappropriate? Yeah, while there were some inventive words and concepts, I don’t think they’d be damaging for a 17 year old. R? Just right.

We’ve already had this discussion over on this thread which I offer as my cite. Now, what I mean by ‘the Japanese are eating America’s lunch in terms of comics and animated cartoons’ is this: in most cases, American media hold uncontested sway over the US marketplace and invade other countrie’s marketplaces and displace local products. Look at the way France and other countries have tried to make American movies and TV shows compete at a disadvantage by legislative fiat, for example. Americans are eating THEIR lunch.

But in the case of manga and anime, the Japanese hold uncontested sway and are entering the American marketplace and challenging American comics and animation successfully in many cases. No, they haven’t wiped out American comics and American comics still dominate the market in most instances, but in notable, important venues, like bookshelf space at Borders and Barnes and Noble, manga are growing and comics are not doing so well. Comics should OWN Borders and Barnes and Noble. They should own the animation market, too, but they don’t. Far from it.

That’s what I meant. And it’s true.

But it’s also a side note in the general discussion here, though definitely relevant.

That’s one example, as opposed to what you wrote in a later post:

They made a pretty big point of talking about the incestual relationship between studios, theaters, and distributors; the membership of the appeals board is pretty much prima facie evidence of that. Yeah, some nuts will go ape; however, the evidence the movie presents is contrary to the effect of the protesting nuts.

No, it wasn’t the comparison of felching vs. edible erotica, the question is that Waters took it for granted that safety is what separates sex that it’s okay to censor from sex that shouldn’t be censored. The Kevin Smith example you’ve given falls into a similar fallacy: a sex act being safe or common does not imply in any way shape or form that it should (or should not) be censored.

The flick may have been entertaining; however, I couldn’t enjoy it because it was so poorly argued.