Movie theatres have always been strict on who gets into movies. If you look young, and do not have an ID to prove your age, you are not allowed in. If you attempt to purchase a movie that is clearly 'more mature for your age' then you are not going to be able to buy it. Despite these attempts, however, to keep the youth from watching films that contain pornography, extreme violence, or outrageous scenes like an old people orgy - if these kids want their hands on the movie, they are going to.
Why are filmmakers and credible critics not rating these films instead of parents? The MPAA rating system is not only biased, due to anonymous volunteer parents coming in to rate such films, but also unfair due to improper people determining what a film is rated.
On June 19, 1905, around 450 people went to the very first motion picture theatre in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. The charge was a nickel, five cents, to see a film at the theatre. At the time, movies were short, silent films that were usually deemed acceptable to watch by any audience, but this might just be because the MPPDA did not exist yet. Currently, however, movie theatres are now enforcing the age policy more so than ever before.
Movie theatres located in malls are enforcing that on a certain day at a certain time, people under a certain age are not allowed to go see a movie or even be in the mall without an adult to accompany them. Not only does this restrict younger audiences to go see a movie with their friends, but be in the mall as well. While this is a problem for younger audiences wanting to see a movie, it is not the only one.
Many theatres are now asking to see identification if you look younger than a certain age. For people that are on the shorter side or just simply look younger, this is extremely unfair because not everyone is able to obtain an ID around the age of 16.
Movie theatres need to understand that limiting audience members based on looks and age is only hurting them more because they are losing money. Not only is this extremely unfair, but it continues to have the movie industry favor in the side of MPPA raters and the extremely biased reality our innocent films are suffering from.
In 1922, the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, MPPDA for short, was founded with the main goal being to ensure viability of the American film industry. It was founded as a trade association of member motion picture companies. In 1930, the MPPDA introduced the Production Code, otherwise known as the Hays Code. Essentially, the Hays Code were rules that films needed to follow, as in what was and was not allowed to be shown and said films. The Hays Code prevented films from having,
…scenes of passion shall not be introduced when not essential to the plot. Sex
perversion or any inference of it is forbidden on the screen. That the sanctity of the
institution of marriage and the home shall be upheld. Adultery shall not be explicitly
treated or justified. Crimes against law shall never be presented in such a way as to throw
sympathy with the crime as against law or justice. Dances which emphasize indecent
movements are to be regarded as obscene. The subject of white slavery shall not be
treated on the screen (The Calgary Daily Herald, 1930).
While the code was endorsed by executive producers, during the Great Depression, studios would flat out ignore the code if it meant gathering the largest possible audience into the film. Studios were not afraid to have a sit down with the local censorship boards if it meant getting money from the people.
These codes, for the time at least, were a way of keeping the people happy and since back then sex and violence was not something seen as entertaining, these codes helped keep the people happy and if the studios were pumping out Hays Code approved content, more money from the people would end up in the hands of the studios.
The ratings we see determined fit for films has been around since the 1920s. Thus far, the films rated have majorly been accurate. If you walk into any James Bond movie, the rating is usually PG-13. According to IMDB, Casino Royale, had scenes of violent action, a torture scene, sexual content, and nudity.
Most James Bond fans can agree that the rating is suitable because the intense, and sometimes rather violent, action sequences are too mature for younger viewers. But you might be asking yourself - why does Marvel and DC movies have the same ratings when their actions scenes are not that violent? While in Captain America: Civil War the intense scenes are strongly there, as they are in many superhero films, the action sequences do not match up with a movie like Casino Royale.
With all superhero films, action is a main aspect to the film. The reason, however, that makes these films different from other PG-13 films with the same amount of action, is how they portray it. The amount of blood, gore, and swearing that go into the scenes do not match up. With many Marvel movies, excluding, of course, Deadpool and X-Men, is that there is a very small amount of blood that goes into the scenes. With the action sequences, you may find yourself watching the heroes throw a few punches at the villains, a bruised jaw or bloody nose here and there, but nothing to the extreme of people being blown to bloody and gory bits that leave parents mortified.
If parents deem it okay for children to 'play' superheroes, using their imagination to do the same thing our heroes on screen are doing, why can they not see it?
In 1945, the MPPDA hired Eric Johnston, four-time president of the United States Chamber of Commerce. During his first year, Johnston rebranded the company, changing it from the MPPDA to the Motion Picture Association of America, MPAA for short. 11 years later, Johnston oversaw the first major revision to the Production Code since its creation in 1930. "This revision allowed the treatment of some subjects which had previously been forbidden, including abortion and the use of narcotics, so long as they were 'within the limits of good taste'". However, new restrictions were made such as outlawing the depiction of blasphemy and mercy killings in films.
When Johnston died of a stroke, the company was left without a president for three years until the MPAA hired Jack Valenti to take over. In 1968, Valenti got rid of the Production Code with a new system of voluntary film ratings. This was used to limit censorship of Hollywood films and give parents information about the 'kid friendliness' of films.
In 1975, Valenti established the Film Security Office. This was an anti-piracy division of the MPAA that sought to retrieve illegal recordings of films to prevent duplication. Valenti fought piracy into the 1980s, going so far as to asking Congress to install chips in VCRs that would prevent illegal reproduction of VHS tapes.
In the 1990s, Valenti supported the law in efforts to stop bootlegs from being sold, while also continuing to fight for the government to act on pirated VHS tapes and DVDs (The Guardian).The major change that Valenti oversaw was the removal of the X rating, replacing it what we know now to be NC-17.
In the documentary, This Film is Not Yet Rated, we follow the investigation of MPPA raters and the exposure of this Hollywood secret. Throughout the film, we discover that many of the raters have children over the age of 18, or no children at all. This is a major problem because many films are given the rating they have solely because of the parent raters. If these raters do not even have children, or their children are no longer children, how is this a fair determination of what films are rated?
The excuse of 'they are parents, they know what is appropriate' is extremely false. Parents who raised children in the 30s compared to now would have different expectations and rules for their children because of the era they lived in. A parent back then would be fine letting their children stay out after dark, but a parent now would not have it.
The point is, times have changed and parents, and non-parents, are not credible for determining what movies should be rated. Another problem that the documentary talks about is the lack of – actually, non-existent, percentage of raters on the LGBTQ+ scale. The documentary goes into great detail about how films with homosexual sex scenes or just plots in general, tend to get slapped with the harsh NC-17 rating compared to heterosexual sex scenes that have the same aspects of nature.
The documentary exposes the MPPA rating system and shows just how unfair it really is. Raters who either have older children or no children at all, and no members that are homosexual, are deciding the future fate of movies. Having parents rating children movies are fine, yes, but why should they determine what is okay for everyone to watch? This is why film critics, or those who specialize in the field of film (i.e. directors, producers, etc.) should be the ones rating films, not parents.
Homosexual people exist, so why is their voice not being heard during these choices? The LGBTQ+ community is not going away anytime soon, so why should their films be shoved into the NC-17 section all because their films are not only bringing education to those in and not in the community, but entertainment as well.
Throughout years films have been deemed 'too mature' for audiences or completely tossed out all because of these anonymous parents claiming what is able to be shown and not shown. People who have no knowledge in the film industry are deeming what movies should be rated and that needs to stop.
Films should not be thrown away simply because they used the c-word a certain amount of times or a passionate scene of love is shown. Society needs to stop treating films that are directed towards a more mature audience as taboo, simply because of the parents who are rating these films.
What the film industry needs are trained professionals who know what a movie should be rated and why with special guidelines that prevent grey areas of films, loopholes, etc. If we continue down this path, great films will possibly always be locked away simply because of a rating deemed 'too explicit.'