Ok. Guys get ready for a little bit of a soapbox…
In the Mormon culture I grew up in it is commonly discouraged to see Rated R movies. I am not sure where that designation got started but it is a stupid way to evaluate content in a movie. What! You say! How can that be?
Here’s what’s going on…
If a movie has more that 3 f words it is immediately tagged with an R rating. It does not matter scenario (war time, under attack, bullying, documentary, more than 3 you are out).
There is no limit that I can see on the number of swears that can be said to make something NC17. As far as I can tell NC17 is used only for sexually explicit erotic movies like Showgirls. We saw a great example this week of the lack of limits when Martin Scorsese’s movie Wolf of Wall Street had 508 f words. A record! How exciting…
The most swears I have ever seen in a movie is 146 in Goodwill Hunting, which if you read this blog you know is a movie I hate and wouldn’t watch again without being bolted to the chair.
One I liked called Silver Linings Playbook had 76 but a lot of that was background and it did feel natural to the setting and place (see I’m not a total prude).
Last summer the movie Bully, a documentary about bullying and trying to STOP VIOLENCE was made R for 4 audible f words from the bullies beating up a kid on a buss. This is a documentary! It’s not glorifying that behavior it’s trying to stop it. Shouldn’t that count for something.
But no. It’s an R. So if someone has a rule about no R rated movies they miss out on one movie with 4 swears and are kept rightfully away from one with 508. Should that really be the same rating? It doesn’t make sense!
The next reason why the ratings system is stupid is how they judge violence. If your scene has blood it is considered an R but if it is a bloodless death it can be PG13. That’s how movies like the Hunger Games get away with murdering children for sport at a PG-13. I remind you Bully is an R that is trying to reduce child on child violence…ironic.
Take a look at this graphic it contains all the violent content of the Dark Knight, a PG-13 film. This is so long that I had to make it super small font to fit on one page. It includes shooting a cop, an explosion in a jail, a man’s face is burned off in chunks and a pencil is stuffed through another man’s head. I mean what does a movie have to do to make R for violence? Evidently be Saving Private Ryan and actually show a real invasion that actually happened with blood…but you can have pencils through heads no problem. Sigh…
Sensuality is another issue that the ratings are bonkers about. You can only show certain things, make certain sounds or kisses to be PG-13. It’s all ridiculous and kind of insulting. We get what’s going on even if there’s a convenient white sheet in places. Please! Plus, sensuality depends so much on situation as far as offense. Is it a real relationship? Are the characters married? Is it a prostitute? The same scene could be wildly different in offensiveness depending on the story. That’s why a flat rating for a list of objectionable scenes/words doesn’t make sense.
Here’s the thing I want to watch adult movies about adult topics. I love children’s movies but I also like films about adult characters struggling with life and its challenges. I am also willing to admit that some movies are not made for me and my moral and that’s ok. I’m perfectly fine with that but we should at least be given a rating system that makes sense or have none at all like they do at Sundance. This would force patrons to use a site like Screenit.com to find out the actual content of the movie and if it is something they feel comfortable seeing whether it is PG, PG-13, R or whatever.
The ratings are STUPID!!! The only good they might be is to stop kids from seeing R’s in the theater..maybe. Although I snuck in once when I was in high school. (secret…)
I think we should all look at criticism out there, read the screenit summary or detail and decide on our own terms if it is a movie we want to see. That’s what I do with live theater. No rating system required.
If a rating system couldn’t steer me away from seeing a pencil through a man’s face than it is of no use. I’m on my own for determining movies to watch and I recommend the same to you. Also share with your friends so they can use your experience to make their informed movie-going decisions.
I give the Rating system an F
11 thoughts on “508 Swears- Hollywood Ratings are Ridiculous”
Great post. I have long argued that the ratings system is largely worthless.
Of course, we should expect no more because it represents the efforts of the film industry trying to “police” itself in order to prevent a governmental rating system… or even censorship. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that I would be adamantly against censorship, but I still believe that any self-imposed ratings system should at least attempt to be useful.
Even worse than the R rating, I believe, is the PG-13. This is a rating that was essentially enacted because a high-profile filmmaker wanted to push the limits of the PG rating. Since this was a common concern, the industry made a catch all rating that includes everything from nearly innocuous family films to movies that initially received an R and cut just enough sex or violence to avoid the rating they truly deserve.
Better than the ratings themselves — G, PG, PG-13, etc. — are the MPAA’s descriptions of why a film received a certain rating. I always read these.
Another peeve of mine is that — in the eyes of the MPAA — sexuality is far more frightening than violence. The ratings board has loosened up on this a bit, but — in general — it takes less sexual content to push a film into an R rating than it does violence. I have always been baffled by this because — under the right circumstances, of course. — sexual activity is perfectly natural and it is up to individuals to determine what is acceptable within their own moral code. Violence, on the other hand, is nearly always regrettable and — in most cases — criminal. Plus, we live in one of the more violent societies in the First World.
Look even further into the issue and you see that blockbusters are far more likely to receive the rating they want than indie films with tiny budgets. It’s a political process and there is no place for politics in a legitimate ratings system.
I agree with you too, Forrest.
You are so right. Asking the film industry to police itself is like asking the mob to keep itself in check…Everyone knew that no matter what was in The Hunger Games it would be PG-13. Even if that required cutting the picture in a way that is so labored it drove me crazy. We all know what was happening! They did it the way they did it just for the rating but it made no substantial difference to the actual violent content of the movie.
And the idea that blood makes something R is crazy. Everyone knows that if you shoot someone they bleed but yet somehow that is more offensive to the MPAA than the shooting itself! Nuts
You are right on PG-13. That’s why if you watch some PG’s from the 80s they are definitely not family friendly. Learned that the hard way. It is very difficult for parents to figure out if a movie is appropriate for their children based on the ratings. It could be scary (Harry Potter 5-8) or have suggestive humor (Shrek…).. The only way for parents to go is screenit.com.
What I wish they had is an R and maybe a M for mature. That would be for a movie like Slumdog Millionaire. It isn’t gratuitous but contains mature topics or language. Something in between what’s appropriate for a 13 year old and 30 year old. Also, a film could be Mature rating if it is about war or loss, an adult topic.
The summaries are the most helpful part of the rating.
I also learned it the hard way. Or, by watching season 2 episode 2 of the X-files. Or was it from the 70’s or 60’s? What the heck, I still learned it the hard way.
Interesting article http://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/nov/11/pg13-movies-more-gun-violence-ratings
There’s no rating system for books, but a similar content problem exists with fiction. Portrayal of contemporary realism is usually too heavy-handed, resulting in an excess of expletives that lose their emphasis value, and a surfeit of sexual encounters that lose their sensual potential, by the sheer weight of repetition. It doesn’t take long before the reader’s eyes glaze over: the four-letter words begin to blur, like overlapping graffiti on a ghetto wall, and there’s a point beyond which graphic groping and explicit eroticism morph into a mundane catalogue of body parts. Sure, swearing and sex may be “part of life,” but writers need to use them judiciously.
That’s an interesting point about books. I think the rating system gives people a fake assurance that the content is ok for them when if it was a book or play they would look into it more. That’s my problem with the rating system.
Honestly, I’m also a kid, and I’m lucky to see PG-13 movies, because in my opinion, PG sucks.