How the MPAA Controls What We Think

written by Mike Shea on 17 October 2003

Kill Bill Part 1 is the most violent movie I have ever seen. Blood soaks the walls, the floor, even the camera at every opportunity. Kill Bill is rated R. Amadeus was recently re-released on DVD and had one scene where a main character bares her breasts. This new cut changed its rating to R. According to the MPAA, the sight of a woman's breast is just as dangerous to young kids as seeing a seventeen year old girl disembowel a Japanese business man. The Motion Picture Association of America rating system is broken.

Though violent, Kill Bill is an excellent movie and one that redefines Hollywood. While I wouldn't recommend it for anyone under the age of 15, it is a movie that made our world a better place and definitely needed to be made. If they had had their way, the MPAA would have removed it from our culture, thrown it into Orwell's "memory hole", never to be ever seen or ever heard of.

The MPAA is an organization who tells you what you are allowed to see. They invented an NC-17 rating, a rating more appropriate to Kill Bill than R, but because no theater in the country will show NC-17 rated movies, no movie is ever released until it receives an R rating. Material is cut out of the movie until it receives an R. In an interview with Brian De Palma, he described the rating of Scarface. One where it was cut and recut to take out the amount of bullets that hit the clown in the nightclub shoot out. Eventually De Palma threatened the MPAA with lawyers and the movie was shown as-is. The MPAA's rating scheme can be manipulated with money and power, just as anything else can.

The Motion Picture Association of America controls what you see. Controlling what you see ends up controlling what you say which ends up controlling what you think. Violence and sex are removed from movies because they are dangerous to children. What determines what violence is too extreme? What exactly is the danger? Is Fight Club a dangerous movie because it shows fist fights or is it is a dangerous movie because it speaks an anti-social message that the removal of violence from our society removes a piece of what we are? Is this not an important message? If it is dangerous, perhaps it is something that needs to be said.

Violence and the method it is show in cannot be simply categorized into neat boxes of G, PG, PG-13, and R. Movies like "The Pianist" are far more disturbing than anything you will find in the comic book like "Kill Bill". Perhaps it is far more important for us to be disturbed over something as horrific as the holocaust, but the loss of innocence is just as damaging.

Good movies cannot be easily categorized as "action", "drama", or "comedy". The best movies simply are what they are. Ratings are the same way. Trying to affix such a simple one letter rating to an art form that is as wide as life is impossible. Just because a movie says the word "fuck" or shows a bare breasted woman does not determine how disturbing the movie is or what audience it is intended for.

Parents are responsible for what their children see. A responsible parent will watch or read up on any movie they plan to take their kids to see. Taking a 13 year old to see Kill Bill probably isn't wise, but in an age where the R rating is almost completely irrelevant, the rating alone cannot tell a parent what the content is.

Far more dangerous is when the rating system is used to censor what we are allowed to see. When a beaurocrat from the MPAA decides that too much blood will give a movie like Desperado an NC-17 rating, they are controlling the content of the movie and controlling who is allowed to see it. Taking this idea to its next logical step would assign ratings to books and cutting out any violent or sexy books from our bookstores. Of course, who determines what amount of sex or violence or language is too "disturbing" for the public?

Censorship is the abolishment of the freedom of speech and worse, the freedom to hear. I want to hear what people want to say. I want to see the films that people want to make. No middle man should stand between me and the material I want to experience. The Motion Pictures Association of America should abolish their worthless rating program and stick to simple reviews of the content of the movie. Movie theaters should show any movie they wish to show regardless of the content of the movie.

No one should control what you see, what you say, or what you think. The Motion Picture Association of America is doing just that.

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