Monday, July 23, 2007

This Film Is Not Yet Rated (Censorship In Film)

I just finished watching This Film Is Not Yet Rated which is a documentary on the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) who are the ones that award film ratings in The Unighted States of America. These ratings are designed to protect children from seeing things that might disturb them or things that might be socially unacceptable.

In the UK there is little controversy surrounding film or video game ratings, as 18 is given to a lot films and shops don't mind carrying them although they are fined if they sell a rated film like Terminator (15), American Pie (15) or Alien (18) to anybody who is underage. Occasionally a film is refused a rating which means it won't be sold anywhere and is effectiverly banned. See This List to see what has been banned in the UK. The list certainly isn't a list of unappreciated classics. However the list of banned films from Malaysia does include such classics as Blade, South Park Bigger Longer & Uncut, Brokeback Mountain and Sideways.

In the US there are no fines for shops who sell to underage children. So if a 12 year old kid wants to buy Terminator (R), American Pie (R) or Alien (R) they can do so as it is solely the responsibility of their parents or guardian to censor what they are allowed or not allowed to watch (I see this as an iresponsable pro-freedom stance). Which is why a lot of companied that produce films won't promote any film with the highest rating (NC-17) as they see themselves as having a moral responsibility to protect children. This results in shops like WalMart making it policy to refuse to sell any and all NC-17 rated films. Which to a film maker getting an NC-17 rating on their film is going to mean a lot less money for their hard work.

This Film Is Not Yet Rated, takes the view that because of this situation where films won't be distributed unless they get a rating lower than an NC-17 means that Americans are all being classed as children to protect a portion of the population who are children, and this ammounts to indirect censorship. Which it clearly is censorship as films can be as bloody and as violent as they like as long as they don't show any female orgasms. As if female orgasms aren't normal or there is something more acceptable about cutting someone open then giving a woman head.

As a side note I think there is an issue with American war films where film makers will only get military support if they show a very favourable image of the US Army. So if you want to make a war film that shows US marines raping girls and killing friendlies you won't get any help from the army to make such a film. This means that there is a carrot being waved in the face of Hollywood for positive (propaganda) films. I don't think the US should offer thiskind help to filmmakers, which would result in less war films, but then the few war films that are be made would have a more balanced views on war instead of all being like TopGun.

Incidentally the rating for This Film Is Not Yet Rated was an NC-17, but this has since been suspended which to my mind is yet more censorship. The American people aren't all children, yet are only allowed to watch kiddie box films. Which is the same situation with video games as anything with an AO (adult only) rating receives the same treatment as an NC-17 film. This in turn creates taboo subjects in the medium.

A straight up solution to all this would be to fine shops for selling to children. I know this wouldn't be popular because shops like WalMart would all get together and start a campaign accusing the government of limiting the freedoms of the American people, but it would mean more freedom to the film makers and then ultimately more freedom to the American public. American adults could still show films where people get their genitals cut off to their children in the comfort of their own homes if they wanted to. Just that there would be a fine for shops to sell that kind of material directly to children. This wouldn't result in more violent films, but it would mean more graphic/real sexual content and less film re-editing.

This Film Is Not Yet Rated can currently be viewed from Google Video. Since the film is an hour and a half long I would suggest using this Direct Link to watch the film fullscreen instead of in the embedded video below or better still buy the film and support a filmmaker who was given an NC-17 rating.