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Will A New MPAA Leader Bring Changes to Movie Ratings?

After the late Jack Valenti headed the Motion Picture Association of America for over three decades his replacement, Dan Glickman, took over in 2004. Just last week (January 22, 2010), Glickman announced his resignation as CEO of the MPAA. In the interim Bob Pisano, President and COO, will take the helm until a permanent replacement for Glickman is found.

“Hopefully the next CEO of the MPAA will recognize who the movie ratings are for: Parents!”
I can't say I'm sorry to see Glickman leave. While the press release from the organization lauds his business accomplishments -- mainly working to secure copyright laws that thwarted people who were determined to bring cameras into theaters -- the release also mentions how he "worked to modernize the movie rating system." For those not aware, the MPAA is responsible for assigning movie ratings in the United States. And while these ratings only apply in the US, they have such an impact in that domestic market that they influence the types of movies that are made, and ultimately shown, in the rest of the world. Glickman's modernization began when he encouraged filmmakers at the Sundance Film Festival to make more NC-17 movies. He assured them that he would do whatever possible to encourage more theaters to show NC-17 movies. Historically this rating, the most restrictive one available, is shunned by theaters because many of them are located in shopping venues that won't allow NC-17 movies to be shown. Or theater chains simply have a policy of not exhibiting NC-17 movies. While Glickman didn't appear to make many inroads in this area, other unannounced changes to the rating system have quietly taken place. One, that I like to call the "trading game," has allowed much more violence within the PG-13 rating. To accomplish this trick, you must keep sexuality at a minimum and not go overboard with language. Keep those aspects in check, and you can include violence in a film that used to only be found in an R-rated movie. Probably the most noted example of this tactic is The Dark Knight. Glickman's ratings shift also edged into PG territory. In the fall of 2008, we suddenly saw a new type of film that included sexual content that wasn't seen in the PG rating since the 1970s. Admittedly, the PG rating from those earlier years would include such things as full frontal female nudity, but since the addition of the PG-13 rating in the 1980s, PG has indicated a more benign movie. A few mild profanities, violence within a comedic context, and vague sexual innuendo were the hallmarks of a PG-rated movie over the past couple of decades. However, shortly after Dan Glickman's tenure began, we saw PG movies like Marley & Me which included a couple of sexual scenes complete with a squeaky bed, along with a mature storyline about the difficulties of conception. The MPAA movie ratings have always drifted. But what is concerning to me, and I suspect the many parents who rely on the rating system, is that no one tells them when these quiet changes are going to happen. Many parents took their kids to Marley & Me expecting to see a cute little dog movie. They weren't expecting this much sex in a PG movie. And to make matters worse, the dog dies in the end! Marley & Me was a movie made for adults. The problem is parents have become conditioned to see the PG rating as indicated something a little more edgier than G, but not with a canoodling scene on loud bed springs. Hopefully the next CEO of the MPAA will recognize who the movie ratings are for: Parents! They are not a pawn to be used by directors and other industry insiders to carefully "position" a film within a desired market. In fact, the film industry's current obsession with ratings is artistically harming many movies by creating scripts that are obviously fashioned to obtain a desired rating with the hopes of targeting a particular audience. Instead they need to be a consistent tool that parents can use to make decisions about what movies are best for their children. Changing the ratings without any notice to the public undermines the trust that parents have in the system, and will ultimately make the voluntary rating system that now exists in the US useless.

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Dadof3&Husband; says: Jan. 31, 2010

The other big change in MPAA ratings has been the amount of sexual content and the flood of full frontal male nudity in R movies. While most movies with full female frontal nudity get an NC-17 rating now, it seems the only way to get an award in Hollywood is to show male genitals. If you were to take a movie like the reader, and reverse the 2 characters, A 30s female and a boy playing a 15 or 16 year old, and make that a 30s man and a 16 year old girl, the public would cry out how perverse it is. Instead, the movie was all over the awards nominations. This only encourages more of this type of movie. All the shows you see with IFC reviewers and such only want films where people “take chances” or are a little “edgy” when what they are pushing for is to drive sex and nudity heaver and heavier into the movies and in an incremental pace such that we don’t feel the impact until at some point we say “How did we get here?”. Put the NC-17 content back where it belongs, in NC-17 movies. Our teenagers are getting bombarded by enough “crap” on tv and advertising. We don’t need to continue eroding the societal moral norm such that Sexual content continues filtering down to PG-13, PG, etc.
I would love to go to a movie that the content in the trailer really does represent the content in the movie, not content that makes me want to leave the theater.
While I am on this topic, let me just add that I enjoyed the movie “The Blind Side”. It definitely had a female slant to it, but to finish with that stupid comment about emasculating the main character ruined the whole movie for me. Anytime I hear someone talk about it, that is the only thing I can think of and I won’t recommend it to anyone. Why do they do that? Ruin a perfectly good movie to make an emasculating comment, ridicule a man’s sexuality, or do the genital pain thing? Is it because they know the content will get through and not affect the ratings because most of the people rating the movies are women?

Rod Gustafson says: Feb. 01, 2010

Good point on “The Reader.” For all the supposed “progress” we have made with sexual equality, it’s interesting how gender roles are still very different from a Hollywood perspective.

Dadof3&Husband; says: Feb. 01, 2010

You even see it in the reviewers. When I read a review I can tell if a man or a woman did it. And the real review is definitely in between. We all have content we don’t “mind” or “notice”. An example, in the review on this website of “When in Rome” the reviewer comments a couple of times that a female character was showing cleavage. That is definitely from a female reviewer. Then she comments on the painting showing female full frontal nudity when all you really see is a scant amount of pubic hair, on a piece of art. Nowhere is there a mention of the nude male statues showing full male frontal nudity, on a piece of art.
It’s the way we are being programmed by Hollywood and somehow it needs to get back to a sensible, equal normalcy.

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