May 10, 2007

MPAA: Yes to Violence, No to Smoking

Posted in Movies at 7:32 pm by Calico Jack

I guess Casablanca will now receive an R rating…that is, if this article from the Hollywood Reporter is any indication:

The MPAA says that for the first time film depictions of cigarette smoking will number among criteria used by its ratings board to determine how a movie is rated.

Anti-tobacco lobbyists have been pressing for an automatic “R” rating for films with smoking scenes, but MPAA chairman-CEO Dan Glickman on Thursday rejected that proposal and said a more nuanced policy will be implemented…

Glickman described the move as an extension of the MPAA’s current practice of factoring under-age smoking into the rating of films. He said the ratings board will ask three questions:

Is the smoking pervasive?

Does the film glamorize smoking?

Is there an historic or other mitigating context?

Now that lobbyists have managed to safely keep the kiddies away from seeing harmful scenes like Ingrid Bergman lighting up in Rick’s Cafe, what’s next? Will films be restricted for showing alcohol consumption, on the chance that some impressionable pre-teen might go home and filch a wine cooler from his parents’ refrigerator? Will the upcoming The Bourne Ultimatum be classified as age-inappropriate because Jason Bourne drives a car well over the speed limit? And what if he isn’t wearing his seat belt? Might the MPAA get a bit skittish if a film depicts an office worker typing at his desk without an ergonomically-friendly keyboard to help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome? Where does one draw the line?

We mustn’t forget that violence doesn’t matter at all to the MPAA. Hey, it’s okay for your kids to see someone graphically kill another person — just make sure he isn’t smoking while he pulls the trigger. Sexual jokes and humor are fine; feel free to mock and debase that all you would like. Just don’t treat the issue with respect and maturity; you’ll get a restricted rating for daring to show a husband and wife in bed together. The hypocrisy of the ratings board is mind-boggling, as I pointed out in a previous post. The MPAA needs to stop acting like a nanny state and start holding parents accountable for what they let their underage children watch.

Here’s an idea: eliminate the ratings system altogether. I’ve been pondering the idea for some time now, and it makes quite a bit of sense. Instead of issuing arbitrary ratings, simply post a detailed list of all possibly objectionable content found in a movie. If it raises a set number of objectionable flags, then restrict minors from viewing the film without parental permission. Then let the parents decide if their children should be allowed to see the film or not. This would create a bit more work for lazy parents who rely on a letter or two to tell them what their kids should be watching, but somehow I can’t be bothered to feel sorry for those people. Stop relinquishing parental responsibilities to corporations whose main goal is to take your kids’ money.

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