Kirkwood High School student newspaper

Celia Bergman

Call Ed: What’s wrong with ratings?

April 16, 2018

*This issue, TKC staff decided to look at if the current movie rating system should change to better suit the diverse maturity levels at different age groups, 86 percent 60/70 of the staff believes the current rating system is too strict.


Withholding entertainment from the public has always been a controversial topic in America. Nobody wants anything hidden from them. And for kids, the rating system does just that. Ratings only apply to minors, because once you pass the 17-year-old barrier, it becomes a matter of personal preference. The movie rating system serves as a parental advisory and currently is a lot like swiss cheese: full of holes.

The Motion Picture Association of America, (MPAA) is not only responsible for the rating system, but also an interest group that represents the “big-six” studios: 20th Century Fox, Disney, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner Brothers. These are the guys responsible for giving movies their G, PG, PG-13, R and NC-17 ratings (NC-17 means an ID needs to be present for them to let you into the theater, while R allows you to bring an adult for entry). However, because it’s an interest group, and not overseen by the federal government, their rules carry no legal weight at all. This means, currently, there is no standing law in America that restricts any form of entertainment from minors. It’s only the MPAA. So the system can and is extremely subject for change. However the issue stands in the fact the MPAA has total control over movie ratings, so without their approval or even rating, a movie is seldom played on the big screen, or sold in Walmart.

European countries seem to have an opposite approach compared to America when it comes to rating movies. Not only are the rating systems run by the government, they are also less sensitive to suggestive themes, like sex, profanity and violence. In America, the MPAA will slap an NC-17 rating on a movie with graphic sexual scenes, which effectively destroys the projected revenue for the movie. Without a solid promise for money, a producer will seldom produce it.  However, shooting someone in the head and killing them will only sometimes land a movie with a PG-13 rating. Though in other countries, any graphic sexual scenes are almost disregarded. Leos Carax’s Pola X contained a love scene with dim lighting but unmistakable view of a man’s genitals, yet it received a U, for universal, in France, the equivalent of our G rating.

The solution to this problem could come in one very simple change. The MPAA could change their token rating system to one where instead of focusing on the age limits and a simple ballpark letter, they focus on rating three separate categories. These categories being sex and nudity, violence and profanity. They could each have a one to 10 rating with, at the end, a full description of all the given suggestive themes, including the cliff notes of somewhat smaller categories like substance abuse present in the movie or even innuendos. If the parental guardian does not wish to read more on it, they would not have to, but would still have a general idea of how the movie stands. If a movie scored above a nine in any one of these categories, it could be under the 17+ rating, where either an ID or an adult would be necessary for entry into the movie. For example, if a movie had a nine for sex and nudity, five for violence, and a seven for profanity, it would be 17+ because one of the ratings is higher than nine

The MPAA rates for every movie theater chain in America, but if they made the decision not to change their rating system, there could be other possible actions taken. Instead of traditional movie theaters, new movie theaters run by Netflix or HBO could spring up. These theaters would not only be able to debut their own original series but would also have the strength and independence needed to attract people to their theaters without having to conform to the MPAA’s standards of rating to stay afloat because of their independent success.

Either way, this new system would allow the parent or guardian of the minor involved to make an independent decision for themselves on whether or not their child is mature enough to view the movie. This system would be much better than the current blanket statement that doesn’t even seem to have concrete criteria.

If society would really be open to it, every movie could be unrated, (like some already are on Netflix.) However, that has never happened in media before and would be a big step for society as a whole to except an entirely independent approach to deciding whether or not children are mature enough for any given material. If only there was some form of entertainment that’s unrated. Oh, wait, books.

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