Monday, February 28, 2011

This film is not yet rated

So, I've been sitting on my tail for the last 48 hours and watching lots and lots of Netflix due to this "pharyngitis." I've been watching The Office (BBC version), Scrubs, King of the Hill, and an assortment of lovely documentaries, one of which was This Film is Not Yet Rated. This was definitely an interesting look at the MPAA's twisted, contradictory rating guidelines.

In many ways, the film victimizes the directors, writers and all of those behind the scenes in the film industry. It explains the Board's process of ratings and implies that the board has the power to censor everything that hits American theaters. In some ways that's true, but it's also amazing to know the sorts of things that these filmmakers were outraged over-be it language, violence, sexuality, etc.

I do agree with the director, Kirby Dick, in many regards. He shows multiple examples of scenes that were equally graphic, yet one received an R rating and the other an NC-17. Dick even goes on to explain the so-called reasons a movie gets pushed into the various rating classes, many of which are ludicrous. He has multiple directors and others from the industry making their pleas about how mistreated they felt because of the "contradictory" rating they received and the editing guidelines they were given in order to reclassify, and how it's all a censorship, anti freedom of speech conspiracy.

It's funny to me, though, because while I do agree that the actual ratings system is completely contradictory, they should all be thankful I'm not on that Board. I agree with all of those interviewed who complained that violence is, for some reason, more tolerated and easily permitted in movies than sexuality. However, as a parent, I'm far more restrictive about what my child watches than they could even imagine. It's crazy to me what slowly sneaks its way into so-called family movies and then eventually into our children's minds and personas.

For example, I can remember years ago when Shrek was released. Sure, it's a "cute" family film that has maintained tons of popularity through the years. I was a childcare teacher and a kid from my class brought it from home for us to watch. The kids were so excited because they loved Shrek. We were only a few minutes into it when the wrestling scene started. Within moments, I became the bad guy because I turned it off. Joan Jett's Bad Reputation was playing in the background of that scene. Seems innocent enough, but music is catchy and I couldn't allow them to be slowly sucked into bad language on my time.

In case you're not familiar with it, the song repeats this line over and over again: "I don't give a damn about my reputation." I had a personal problem with feeding those lyrics into the minds of my vulnerable class. First of all, "damn" may not be the mother of all curse words, but it's still a curse word and there would have been consequences for any of those kids if they had used it in my classroom. Secondly, I feel like you should care about your reputation. I know that some folks are just ridiculous and you can't please everyone, but as followers of Christ, our reputations go hand in hand with our witnesses and testimonies. You should care about what others think. That challenges you to truly be the same person whether you're with fellow believers or not.

Anyway, the point is that Shrek received a PG rating, which clearly suggests that parental guidance is recommended. Well, obviously that child's parents were a lot more lenient that I, because I wouldn't let my elementary age kids watch it (nor would I let my own 4 year-old watch it now). It is a constant struggle to find truly child-appropriate programming for my son. It's amazing what producers and writers are trying to pass off on our kids today. Whether it's the subtle message in a song from Shrek or the simple insertion of "GD" in a child's Spiderman DVD, it's clear that my standards are different from most.

I can assure that Kirby Dick and all of those in his documentary would be very thankful that I'm not a member of that Board. Sure, I would rally for more clarity and less contradiction, but I can pretty much guarantee you that my rating for most current PG-13 movies would be an R and that the current R movies would be NC-17. They can call it censorship all they want, but they also are denying that they have incredible power of dictating the moral direction of society. They made many references to morals and how folks are out there living these lives depicted in their films regardless of whether or not it's on the screen. That may be true for some, but the more you show, the more our society makes that the norm.

I've worked with teenagers since I was 20; that was only 10 years ago. Over the last 10 years, MTV has taught our kids that life isn't normal without drama and that's why this generation of teenagers is so eager to stir it up. That's a classic example of the media dictating society. Kirby Dick and the rest of the crew were blind to that point.

To sum it all up, this is just another reason that we are called to be in the world, not of it. Be careful what you're watching out there folks; it is a part of who you are, whether you like it or not. You may not see it publicly manifested, but it's still there; the media doesn't care how sinful and selfish it's telling you to be.

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