Sunday, April 4, 2010

This Movie is Not Yet Rated

I watched This Movie is Not Yet Rated on Netflix.  It's a movie done by a Netflix and the Independent Film Channel about the Motion Picture Association of America's (MPAA) ratings board.  You see, the movie raters are kept secret, their names aren't public.  The goal of the movie was to expose the process by which the board rates movies.  The director talked with various directors of movies that received an NC-17 rating upon initial review and had to cut down the movies so that they would be picked up in theaters.  The director also hired a private investigator to help him find out who the raters were, we'll get to that in a moment.

The ratings board isn't supposed to be an attempt to censor movies.  However, nobody wants to receive an NC-17 rating, because people don't go to see NC-17 movies.  It seems to me that the ratings board knows that they have that level of control and therefore the DO have the power to censor movies.  When American Psycho was initially reviewed, it received an NC-17 rating because they objected to the general tone of the movie.  Boys Don't Cry received an NC-17 rating because Hilary Swank wiped lady cum off of her mouth, because of the rape scene, and because a woman's orgasm was too long (even though the camera was solely on her face).  In fact, several movies have had problems that seem to be because the female characters are being pleased too well.  A woman receiving oral sex usually gets an NC-17 rating whereas when a man receives oral sex, it doesn't.

When Trey Parker and Matt Stone submitted Team America: World Police they deliberately extended the puppet sex scene with ridiculously more gross stuff that they had no intention of including in the final film.  So when they had to remove stuff from the scene, they were able to keep the parts that they actually wanted.

As I mentioned before, the director hired a private investigator to find out who the reviewers were.  So how did they find out who they were?  The investigator waited outside the studios, collecting license plates to look up who the driver was.  That, however wasn't good enough, they receive better information from when the security guard left his post and the investigator was able to walk up to the booth and take pictures of the list of extensions on the wall of the booth.  Oops.

She got final confirmation of the list of raters by calling the rating department of the MPAA and saying that she was going to be sending a gift package to the department and didn't want to leave any names out.  She then rattled off the list of suspected raters, the secretary confirming all of them, and then asking if she left any names out and the secretary happily filled her in on the rest.  Social hacking, FTW.  The movie then showed information on all of the senior raters.  All raters are supposed to have children, since the role of the ratings are to inform parents about what movies may be suitable for their children.  But many of the raters' children weren't children any more, there were in their 20's.  One of the raters didn't even have any children.

After rattling off all of this information, the director submitted the movie to the MPAA to be rated (he clearly had no intent of it being rated well, he just wanted to see inside the system).  It received an NC-17 rating due to all of the sexual material in the movie (a large portion of the beginning included sex scenes that had to be cut from aforementioned movies).  He, however, chose to appeal the rating.

There is a separate appeals board, which is kept even more secret.  Furthermore, during an appeal, you are not allowed to compare your movie to any other movie as support for why it should be rated lower.  It was also revealed by an anonymous interview that there are 2 members of the clergy on the appeals board, a Catholic priest and an Episcopalian priest.  According to an un-anonymous interview, the clergy are silent and have no vote.  According to the anonymous interview, they do have a vote.

When he went in for the appeal, the rating board director was so worried about the director exposing who the  appeal board member were that she drove them all there in a black van, to prevent their license plates from being run.  But, 3 months earlier, the private investigator was waiting outside of the appeal area, and ran the plates of all the cars and you'll never guess who's on the appeals board.

The appeals board consists mainly of movie buyers and executives from various theater companies, as well as the two clergy.

There is no other ratings board in the world that keeps its raters anonymous.