Essay: Film Is Not Yet Rated an Uncensored

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¶ … Film Is Not Yet Rated

An Uncensored Review: "This Film is Not Yet Rated"

Film ratings have been present on the top of marquees for so long, movie-goers are likely to take them for granted and assume they 'have' to be there. However, the 2005 documentary directed by Kirby Dick entitled "This Film is Not Yet Rated" questions the ubiquity of the modern film rating system. Even Dick's documentary was not so engaging and entertaining, it would still be a 'must see documentary' for that reason alone. It demonstrates the subjective nature of film rating. Film ratings have become part of the cultural landscape but they are, at heart, arbitrary, subjective, and contextual. The variety of standards that have existed to rate a film's relative appropriateness or lack thereof have varied widely since the beginning of filmmaking, and the film takes the viewer from the beginnings of cinema, to the Hays decency standards of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, up to today.

The film asks: what makes a film potentially indecent, and essentially answers that it is in the 'mind of the beholder.' (One famous Supreme Court decision about obscenity even caused a Justice to remark that he couldn't define obscenity, but he 'knew it when he saw it'). The presence of nudity and sexually explicit scenes might seem like the obvious answer as to what constitutes indecency. But if that is the case, why is ordinary nudity considered 'for adults only' while violence is considered 'okay,' or at very least only PG-13? And why do standards of obscenity vary so much, country by country, even state by state in the nation? Obscenity is a personal issue, and touches upon many highly subjective concepts like when children should be exposed to sex.

The first film rating system was created by movie studios. Instead of being pressured by government regulation, the studios hoped that by regulating themselves, they could avoid such scrutiny. They hired former U.S. Postmaster Will Hays to set decency standards. This highlights the lack of qualifications needed for anyone to decide what is obscene. There is no real pre-set formula. The Hays Commission reviewed Hollywood scripts and determined whether they satisfied the dictates of what became the dreaded Hays Code, which could be quite restrictive -- for example, the code might not permit two married people to be in a bedroom together, if their feet were not on the floor. The cultural changes of the 1960s caused the Hayes Code to be abandoned, but it did not mark the end of movie censorship. It was replaced by the Motion Picture Association of America, which many argue is little better. The MPAA was run by Jack Valenti, a former staff member in Lyndon B. Johnson's White House.

Of course, one obvious query might be: why are movie ratings such a bad thing? Can't people exercise discretion, and if they feel a film is appropriate for their child, can't they take that child to see the film, rating systems be damned? The problem is that films with NC-17 (no child under seventeen) ratings are often tarred as 'adult' films in a negative fashion, driving away people who feel that the film must be highly sexualized and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Film Is Not Yet Rated an Uncensored.  (2008, October 24).  Retrieved May 25, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/film-rated-uncensored/89840

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"Film Is Not Yet Rated an Uncensored."  Essaytown.com.  October 24, 2008.  Accessed May 25, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/film-rated-uncensored/89840.