For the past 40 years, one man has had more influence over
popular culture than all the Tipper Gores and Michael Powells
combined. He has decided what you see and what you do not see when
you pay $9 to see a movie at your local theater.
He heads the Motion Picture Association of America, which
oversees the ratings system that has become ingrained in our social
psyche. When you go into a PG-13 film, you know what you can expect
to see and you know what you can expect not to see. In a PG-13
film, you can hear the “f-word” twice but not three times. You can
see acts of drug use but you won’t see underage drinking.
Jack Valenti has used the MPAA and the rating system to create
his own filter of what America moviegoers see and don’t see. He has
more say and more power over what children and young people see in
film than parents. Interesting tidbit – Valenti was in the infamous
motorcade when President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.
There is a discrepancy between how the MPAA – and by extension
society – views and regards sex and violence. And I am going to be
the first columnist to talk about sex and violence in the media
without bringing up the Janet Jackson debacle – d’oh!
Like a million of Americans, I sat through the 127 minutes of
“The Passion of the Christ.” I sat in my movie seat as Christ got,
well, beaten within an inch of his life and then crucified. And as
I sat through the movie, I looked to see if Christians eat popcorn
with their crucifixion – and they do.
Being by far the most violent movie I have ever sat through –
and trust me, I have sat through my fair share of bloodbath movies:
“Evil Dead,” “Kill Bill,” “Saving Private Ryan” – I was appalled by
the number of children I saw in the theater.
Our society views sex completely different from violence.
“The criteria that go into the mix which becomes a Ratings Board
judgment are theme, violence, language, nudity, sensuality, drug
abuse and other elements. Part of the rating flows from how each of
these elements is treated on-screen by the filmmaker. In making
their evaluation, the members of the Ratings Board do not look at
snippets of film in isolation but consider the film in its
entirety. The Ratings Board can make its decisions only by what is
seen on the screen, not by what is imagined or thought…” This is
taken from the MPAA’s policy on rating films. Valenti and his MPAA
have always argued that they would not hesitate giving a violent
film an NC-17 rating based on violence. Since the creation of the
NC-17 rating, the films that have been cursed with the rating have
been given so because of sexuality, not violence.
Because the “Passion” was not rated NC-17, it shows the
hypocrisy of the rating system and of the MPAA and its owner, Jack
This is only one example of the flaws in the MPAA and the rating
According to MPAA.com, “On July 1, 1984, (MPAA) made another
adjustment (to the rating system). We split the PG category into
two groupings, PG and PG-13. PG-13 meant a higher level of
intensity than was to be found in a film rated PG. Over the past
years, parents have approved of this amplifying revision in the
That year, Steven Spielberg made his film, “Indiana Jones and
the Temple of Doom.” When the MPAA returned with an “R” rating for
the film that included a man’s beating heart being ripped out,
Spielberg forced the MPAA to change its rating system to make sure
his film escaped a deathtrap “R” rating. And the MPAA did.
“No one in the movie industry has the authority or the power to
push the Board in any direction or otherwise influence it…” the
MPAA’s policy on its rating system continues to read. Apparently,
that is not true.
Does a film have to be rated to be released? No. Well yes, if it
wants to make money. The National Association of Theater Owners,
which is comprised of more than 80 percent of theaters in America,
have an agreement with the MPAA to only release films that have
Valenti has decided to step down as president of the MPAA,
finally. Hopefully with his departure, the departure of the
corrupted rating system follows him.
Chris is a senior majoring in history and journalism. He is the
opinion editor for the Collegian.