Friday, January 31, 2014

The MPAA Bias: The Impossible vs. Tidal Wave, and Margin Call

Have you ever asked yourself: why is this movie Rated PG-13 with so and so, while this movie is Rated R with less of so and so? Of course, you can replace that so and so with violence, sex, drug use, language, and so on. I'm saying, why are some films Rated R for the silliest things like language, while others are often PG-13 for content that pushes the boundaries?

How about we start with two disaster movies with similar premises as examples -- two films that I've seen and reviewed: Tidal Wave and The Impossible. Tidal Wave is Rated R for "some disturbing disaster images and language" while The Impossible squeezes by with a PG-13 rating for "intense realistic disaster sequences, including disturbing injury images and brief nudity." Honestly, which one sounds worse simply by these descriptions? And, I've seen both films, The Impossible is graphically violent compared to the melodramatic sequences, without gore if I may add, in Tidal Wave. It's ridiculous to believe The Impossible is more suitable for a teenage audience than a popcorn disaster film like Tidal Wave.

Why did The Impossible receive a PG-13 rating? Was it because it's based on a real event? Was it because it was destined for the Academy Awards? Does the studio behind The Impossible have some moles planted in the MPAA? Or, is it really suitable for teenagers? But, then, why isn't Tidal Wave suitable for the same audience, especially considering it's less violent and less realistic? It's quite clear there is a strong bias in the MPAA, or a strange inconsistency that should be fixed. I know some people completely ignore the MPAA ratings, but many actually follow these guidelines, and when they're inconsistent, they're dishonest.

Another thing that makes me question the rating system is a film titled Margin Call. Now, Margin Call, for those that don't know, is a film that follows an investment bank during the financial crisis of 2008. Here's the kicker: Margin Call is Rated R for language. That's it -- language. Not necessarily obscene, excessive, or offensive, either. Now, is it Rated R because the MPAA believes the language would be too complicated for teenage audiences, or do they actually believe it is that offensive? More offensive than the graphic violence and nudity in The Impossible? Either they're making one large assumption on the intelligence of the audience, or they have no idea on how much weight they should place on certain elements.

In the end, the MPAA serves a purpose, but when it's as inconsistent as I've shown in this quickly but thoughtfully written editorial, that purpose is almost pointless. If you can't consistently stick by your values, or when your values are so misguided, what's the point of having a rating system. Personally, I don't use a rating system like the MPAA in my Parental Guides (those at the bottom of my reviews). I tell you what to expect in the film, including violence, gore, sex, nudity, language, drug use and so on, but I don't tell you who it's best for -- I don't tell you if it's good for teenagers or if it should be restricted. That should be your responsibility. If people were to judge the content of the film on their own, the MPAA wouldn't be responsible for forced censorship of films or hindering the releases of said films. Anyway, I digress, I seem to be going in another direction now.

What do you think about the MPAA? What do you think about the examples I have set up? Have you noticed any other examples? I'd love to hear your opinion on this, so please leave a comment below. Let's get a discussion rolling.

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