Monday, August 06, 2007

The Pursuit of PG-rated Hapiness

I would like to denounce here the FCC, the MPAA and their stupid rules. As everybody knows, movies are rated here in the US by a panel of a few secret members, the Motion Picture Association of America. They decide who should or should not watch such and such movie. The same goes on TV. Even though ratings are not very famous on the small screen, the FCC fines frequently TV Networks (or, to be correct, their affiliates) for airing inappropriate material.

What infuriates me is, precisely, what they consider to be proper or not.
There are two obvious categories: violence and sex. There are also two different scales of "appropriateness".
A movie (or tv program) with repeated violence, such as fighting, stabbing, and minimal blood (including people shooting each other) will probably be rated PG-13. If there is one or several on-screen violent death, involving an extra portion of blood, burnt skin, or even torture (the Saw series comes to mind), it will be rated R. Which means really, any teenager can watch it.
But when it comes to sex, it's an entirely different ball-game (pardon the pun)! Let there be only one nipple, and it will be rated R. Anything more, and it's the much feared NC-17, a promise that the movie will be seen by none, and forever forgotten.

One has to ask himself: "what's the usual purpose of ratings?"
- The most obvious answer is that we should protect the kids from what can shock them.
- The second answer is that we have to make sure we don't portray some actions as "normal" or acceptable.

The difference is important, since a teenager introduced to R movies will probably go through 2 different phases. First, he will get used to it, and will stop closing his eyes when someone is tortured or breast are shown on screen. Then, and only then, he might, if not raised properly, try to emulate those scenes in real life.

This is why the system is so wrong. According to the FCC and MPAA ratings, it's OK for a teenager to emulate a crime, but not to have sex? Their action certainly lead us to believe so. Lots of people, I'm sure, would argue that this is historical, that the US have always been the home of puritanism. Well, stop me if I'm wrong, but I believe puritanism condemns violent behavior just as much as sexual conduct. So much for the historical argument.

"You can't imagine PG-13 movies with topless woman, surely?" you ask. Well, yes I can. Go to europe. In France, shampoo commercials with topless (and beautiful) woman air all day long, including during the "Dora the explorer" commercial breaks. And why not? What in the name of God is shocking in a pair of boobs? If anything else, it should be reassuring, and help us recall memories of our infant childhood. "Taboo", answer some. Then pardon my french, but a cop shooting another in the head should be taboo, too.

So what do I want? Explicit sex in PG movies? Not at all. Because there's another concept we need to take a look at, here: the relation between violence, sex, and entertainment.
A violent movie can be entertaining. In fact, violence itself can be entertaining, as has been proven countless times, with horror genre movies, stupid stunts of the "Jackass" kind, or even classics like "Marathon Man".
Sex can be entertaining, too. Because, just like violence, it appeals to our inner instincts. I'm not ashamed to say a great sex scene can add a lot to a movie, when it's carefully plotted. For example, "Match Point" by Woody Allen, has a few of them (with the beautiful Scarlett Johansonn and Jonathan Rhys Meyer, nonetheless). "Ghost" starts with another, now cult, lovemaking one.

Then the question we have to ask ourselves is a question of limit, and of prevention from entering a degrading circle. Movies with explicit sex need to be stamped with a porn label, but just as much as movies with explicit and free violence need to be stamped with a new, still- to-determine label. They're called more and more "torture porn" but I don't think this will stick.
Example: a movie like Saw, with countless torture scenes, is a thousand time more shocking and disturbing than a porno with explicit sex scenes. Because porn movies are scenes of our everyday lives and hopefully, horror scenes are not.

I have to admit here I watched, and enjoyed Saw. Why? Because I've been raised watching horror movies, and I've been used to it. I've passed the first step, the "getting used to". And this is where we have to intervene. It's still time to change our view on this, and make sure such movies are properly labeled. We have to make sure 13-year old kids today will never get used to watching explicit violence, will never pass the first step.
On the other side, lots of people enjoy porn as well. I'd love if you guys tell me your take on this. Do you enjoy watching horror or porn movies? Have you ever compared the two? The comments section awaits you! And so, I think porn movies should be as available as horror movie - as long as they have the right rating.

So, to summerize, here's what I would do if I were head of the MPAA or FCC (in another 20 or 40 years):
- Lower the standard ratings for movies involving sex: I would rate PG-13 films involving fighting or topless women.
- Raise the standard ratings for movies involving violence: I would rate R films involving any death (like a gunshot), and non-explicit sex (but explicit nudity would be fine here).
- I believe people above 18 can do whatever they want with their lives, so I would rate NC-18 any movie with explicit violence or sex.

Now you tell me: what do you think? If we change all of this now, are gangs going to disappear, and will we start seeing explicit sex in the streets of the Bronx and South central instead?

1 comment:

christophe said...

"Because porn movies are scenes of our everyday lives"
Ben tu t'amuses bien aux States.