This Article Not Yet Rated

D.J. Fullmer

Movies have been prevalent in America since their conception in the early 1900s. The only main changing factor of movies, excluding the equipment to make them, is the movie rating system. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is a national rating system for every movie released in the United States of America, and the ratings go from acceptable for kids to only adults are allowed to view them. This association has been the only force rating these movies, and now problems are starting to arise as movies are being rated inaccurately. The Motion Picture Association of America is the one source for movie ratings but it seems to be growing increasingly biased as in recent years movies are becoming falsely reviewed because of controversial issues. For example the depiction of bullying in the 2012 movie Bully or showing homosexual teens like in the 2014 movie G.B.F.

The Motion Picture Association of America is an interest group that represents six major movie producing companies: 20th Century Fox, Disney, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros. The MPAA creates ratings for all movies produced, not just for those companies and at the end of the day the ratings essentially don’t mean anything. It is not illegal to sell a 13-year old a ticket to an ‘R’ rated movie, and there is no legal backing behind the ratings. All the ratings do is sell the movie. The movie rating scale is General Audience (G), Parental Guidance (PG), Parental Guidance up to age 13 (PG-13), and anyone below 17 must have a parent or guardian with them to see a Restricted film (R). Each rating attracts a particular audience and helps parents determine if it is a suitable film for their children to see. So with limited legal restrictions, the 10 member board of the MPAA does have full right to start banning controversial topics like bullying and homosexuality and give them worse ratings so less people can see it.

When one talks about bullying, the major issues seems to be the blind aspect of it. No one truly knows the harms of bullying because they can never actually feel how the victim feels when being bullied. In the movie Bully, the filmmakers attempted to fix this by showing the audience bullying as it was occurring. Bully is a documentary that centered around five different teenagers in five different states. The five teens all had one thing in common, they were bullied and were constantly facing thoughts of suicide. The cameramen got many of these depictions caught on camera to physically show the negatives effects of bullying, but also how school officials do little to nothing to stop it in most cases. This movie was originally given an ‘R’ rating for language, but the production company, Weinstein, wanted the rating to be appealed. The Weinstein Company wanted everyone to be able to watch this movie to truly show the negative effects of bullying. However, the ‘R’ rating deters a lot of parents and many teenagers would not be able to go see the movie. The MPAA responded saying they just want to make sure that parents are informed about the contents of films, but ultimately the film did receive its PG-13 rating. However, as more movies come out, it seems to be the controversial subject matter that is causing the rating not the actual content.

In 2014, director Darrell Stein released a movie called G.B.F (Gay Best Friend). The movie centers around three cliques in high school and their need to find a gay best friend to put them on a higher social status. The synopsis is clearly a campy PG-13 movie, but the MPAA slammed down an ‘R’ rating seemingly because of the homosexual affection shown in the film. According to the MPAA, violence, like in the PG-13 rated Hunger Games, is more appropriate than homosexuality. It should be a complete reversal, because in today’s culture, prejudices against homosexuality and bullying in general are becoming more and more pertinent in the mainstream. Both of these issues could potentially be more quickly resolved if censorship was not such an issue in America, and it’s all centered around the MPAA.

The Motion Picture Association of America may have many faults, but they are just trying to appease a faceless crowd. The MPAA does not want to make parents mad by allowing them to mistakenly walk into a film that could scare their children. They are trying to appease 300 million people at once when they rate every single movie. However, trying to push out controversial topics like bullying and homosexuality to appeal to parents will only cause more issues later on. A lot of hate comes from lack of knowledge, and instead of trying to censor these topics, they should be more widely promoted to ensure there’s no confusion. The MPAA should be an advocate of clarity when approaching controversial topics rather than an opponent.