This Film Is Not Yet Rated -- Directed by Kirby Dick
Dick presents a one-sided discussion (leftist assault) on the MPAA. Of the many arguments for reform, I found these three compelling:
- Statistically Invalid (not made directly by the film)
The MPAA claims they represent the average American parent with children. Kirby claims the MPAA has 9 reviewers. Assuming both the sample of 9 and that American parents' opinions on films distribute normally, this sample has too few opinions to generate a usable (at least 95% confidence) analysis. Given that the reviewers discuss films together, groupthink will also tend to reduce variation and further bias the sample. Since studios use stats routinely play-test multiple endings,
it seems highly improbable that I'm the first person to figure this out and mention it. As such, it seems quite likely that the MPAA maintains a policy of wilful ignorance of statistics; it would be interesting to discover why.
- Internally Inconsistent
Dick says films trying to appeal their rating cannot cite precedent. I.e. the MPAA disallows the rigorous enumeration the types of offenses (like we have in court), so that appellant can cite the corpus of previously rated films and determine the rating impact of a scene. Without an analytical check on the raters', raters' opinions of scenes contents may change depending on the depicted race, gender, sexuality, nationality, etc.. Using a small sample size just compounds these judgement errors.
- Studio films favored
Matt Stone claims that he received differential treatment from the MPAA between Orgazmo in 1997 and South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut in 1999. With Orgazmo the MPAA just said he had to edit it for it to clear an R rating. With South Park, he received a detailed list of what scenes needed to be edited and what the particular issues were. South Park was a studio film, Orgazmo was an independent. In the film, an MPAA whistleblower said that the reviewers hand information off to studios; the independents said they received no such information.
Dick presented many other arguments, which entertained me to no end (some sounded implausible and vitriolic, but that honestly can be really funny).
But in the end, the alleged cartel-enforcing actions of the MPAA need to be seriously addressed, preferably in a court of law. Although, I fear that both the ACLU and EFF have too many other high-priority items on their todo list to merit a case at the current time (otherwise, we would have seen a case). Hence, this film to raise awareness.
This all goes to show that a rating is no substitute for parental thought and research in deciding whether to let a child go see a particular movie. I don't care more many elements often found in R rated films so I usually read a couple of short reviews or a lengthier one such as the Movie Mom's review found on Yahoo. I run the risk of spoilers when doing that though. I can usually tell by the preview whether or not I'd be willing to see it or not.
I have also noticed ratings inflation (or maybe it's deflation) over the years. Midnight Cowboy was rated X in 1969, but today it probably would be PG-13.