Though Under Fire, MPAA Refuses to Reform Ratings System

Written by PTC | Published January 9, 2014

One obvious proof of the need for Ratings Reform is the fact that the Motion Picture Association of America still refuses to consider changes to its movie ratings system – despite criticism from those inside and outside the entertainment industry.IFC Center NC-17 As stated in US News and World Report, the MPAA recently came under attack by two studies from the Annenberg Public Policy Center. One showed that R-rated levels of violence are increasingly appearing in PG-13 rated films. The other demonstrated that the violence in such films is frequently linked to other risky behaviors like sex, smoking, and drinking. Those inside the industry – like Harvey Weinstein, who has consistently tried to bully the MPAA into giving PG-13 ratings to his movies containing the f-bomb – criticize the MPAA for restrictions on profanity and sexual content, even though by parental standards, the agency is already too lenient. Regarding Weinstein’s 2010 film The King’s Speech (in which a character went on a lengthy rant spewing the f-word multiple times), Joan Graves, the head of the MPAA's Classification and Rating Administration, admitted that "We did some outreach to parents to find out if we were on the right track or if we were operating in an outmoded perception of what they thought. It overwhelmingly came back that they don't want even one F-word in PG-13." In spite of this, current MPAA policy is to allow one f-word in a PG-13 film, only imposing an R rating if the film features more. But while Harvey Weinstein and the rest of the entertainment industry shriek “censorship” and claim the MPAA is too harsh, most parents feel differently. Graves claims that when the MPAA talks to parents, “we find…that they think they're getting correct information from us." Yet in response to parents’ complaints that a simple “PG-13” or “R” rating did not provide enough information to make an informed decision for their children, the MPAA created its "Check the Box" campaign, allegedly a revamp of the ratings system. In fact, all “Check the Box” does is enlarge the type on the ratings, and offer a extremely brief list of problematic behaviors. However, most parents find that a “content description” consisting of “contains extreme violence and smoking” is little improvement. Graves may stand behind the current system; but as violence, sexual content, and profanity increase in entertainment, it is clear that only a system which is truly accurate, consistent, transparent, and publicly accountable will satisfy the parents who use it to protect their children.

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