Let’s try a thought experiment: Imagine a world in which violence of the most brutal and depraved variety is somewhat commonplace, and can include multiple acts of torture and sadism against perfectly innocent human beings.
Additionally, there are acts of violence which are somewhat less brutal (for example, shootings and beatings) and are even more prevalent to the point of being nearly ubiquitous, and for some reason, none of the victims of this violence bleed or take a long time to die.
Imagine a world in which raunchy sexuality can be the topic of crude jokes told by teenagers, and men regularly masturbate, engage in missionary sex with their girlfriends and orgasm.
But serious adult discussions of sexuality are taboo, as is any acknowledgment of female sexuality or allowing women to orgasm. And no matter how frank talk or innuendo is, for some reason, very rarely do men ever get naked. Sex in this world is both a forbidden subject and an everyday topic of conversation, so long as the conversation is restricted to a single arbitrary view.
Welcome to the world of the movie ratings system of the Motion Picture Association of America.
Most people, especially if they’re not parents, probably don’t give much thought to those letters that show up on movie trailers and posters telling us how ‘adult’ a movie is, from G for General Admission up to NC-17 for No Children Under 17. But if we did, we might notice that the lines between what is acceptable for a teenager to see and what an adult can see don’t seem to make much sense.
This is the subject of an excellent new documentary by filmmaker Kirby Dick, ‘This Film Is Not Yet Rated,’ currently playing at Edwards University Center. The film examines the secretive nature of the MPAA ratings board and the enigmatic process by which movies are submitted for and receive ratings. In attempting to ascertain just who these people are who hold so much sway over the marketing and success of almost all major American films, Dick went so far as to hire a private investigator to find out the names and identities of the raters, a mission which has some surprising revelations.
But ultimately, the film is about how the ratings board essentially acts as de facto censors by wielding the mysterious and rarely-seen NC-17 rating