WTF: Ratings Shenanigans

I imagine that pretty much anyone who frequents this site has a chip on their shoulder about the MPAA. I think that with the exception of only a few lazy parents out there, most people think the MPAA makes some pretty lame rulings.

Take, for example, last week’s release of Zack and Miri Make a Porno. It was “slapped” with an NC-17 rating, but won an R rating on appeal. (Ironically, it was director Kevin Smith who once pointed out in This Film Is Not Yet Rated that movies are always “slapped” with an NC-17 rating, rather than simply being given one. If you haven’t seen this documentary, you should rent it to discover the real nuttiness that goes on behind closed doors at the MPAA.)

For those of you who’ve seen Zack & Miri Make a Porno (which, if you check the box office numbers, isn’t as many as some of us would have hoped), you understand why it received a hard rating. Zack and Miri delivered on the nudity, sex and shock moments, unlike Kevin Smith’s debut film Clerks, which originally was rated NC-17 because of language alone. And we have Jason Mewes and Katie Morgan to thank for this one.

People are so afraid of the NC-17 rating because supposedly it harms your ability to advertise in some markets, and you also face the danger of some theaters refusing to show your film. Apparently, having the word “Porno” in the title has the same effect on a film with an R rating, as we saw with Zack and Miri in Utah and various other markets.

It’s too bad Smith didn’t cling to the NC-17 rating and release his movie that way. I can’t imagine there were too many parents escorting their under-17 children to this film. Most of the audience probably comprised adults anyway. And this makes sense. It was an adult’s movie, but it was already suffering at the box office due to overly moralistic newspaper publishers and theater owners.

Still, it could be worse. The movie could be as bad as Little House on the Prairie, whose video release has been slapped with an adults-only rating by the Finnish government.

Little House on the Prairie? That torrid, sex-filled, drug-induced romp through the open west?

What the Finland?

There is a logical explanation… Producers must pay the Finnish ratings board two euros (approximately $2.57 US) for every minute to assess the rating of their film. For a television series on DVD that encompasses nine seasons and more than 200 episodes, this can be rather pricey. In short, it would have cost more than $23,000 to rate what some consider to be the most wholesome show that ever aired on American television.

What makes things even sillier is the fact that Finland broadcasts the show every Sunday morning on a government-owned television network.

So, the bottom line is that the MPAA is a gang of idiots that makes some really stupid decisions. But at least in America, the common “Unrated” DVD can be readily sold to anyone and everyone. And when the MPAA does “slap” a movie with a harsh rating, it gives the film a little street cred.

I may not like the MPAA that much, but it’s a necessary evil. At least the industry is policing itself. Do we really want the government stepping in to make these decisions (and most likely charge an arm and a leg to do so)?

If this happens, quite simply, we’d be Finnished.

Kevin Carr crawled from the primordial ooze in the early 1970s. He grew up watching movies to the point of irritation for his friends and was a font of useless movie knowledge until he decided to put that knowledge to good use. Now, Kevin is a nationally syndicated critic, heard on dozens of radio stations around the country, and his reviews appear in a variety of online outlets. Kevin is also a proud member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA).

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