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An Attempt at Figuring Out the Logic of the MPAA

By Jodi Smith | Miscellaneous | May 16, 2016 |

By Jodi Smith | Miscellaneous | May 16, 2016 |

I you have watched This Film Is Not Yet Rated, then you know how out of touch, arbitrary, and biased the MPAA is in assigning ratings. This has led to lots of films being given similar ratings for insane reasons, different ratings for crazier reasons, and lots of annoyance by directors.

This is proven time and time again, most recently by the director of the upcoming movie Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Nicolas Stoller:

I never had any issues with MPAA. If it’s R rated [targeted], you can basically do anything. You just can’t show erect penis. This is the thing with a penis (holds out hand with fingers curled, and slowly flattens his palm), it’s like R, R, R, R, NC-17. Including flopping. If you want to flop, you flop left to right, not up and down. That’s an actual thing. - from CinemaBlend

To further illustrate the randomness of the MPAA rating system, I’ve gathered several flicks of the PG-13, and R-Rating tiers for comparison. I’ve also included the reasoning given for the rating. I hope you like your logic the exact opposite of logic. The emphasis is my own.

Rated PG-13

Twister - 1996

“Rated PG-13 for intense depiction of very bad weather.”

I know I always keep my child in a sound-proof room without windows whenever storms roll through town, as she is under 13. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN WITH THESE VALUES.

The Ring - 2002

“Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, disturbing images, language and some drug references.”

Also, murder. What about the murder? Why can kids 14+ years of age watch murder and how does that equate to bad weather? Watching a tornado movie is the same cinematic experience and rating as a murdered girl that leaves a well to kill people? IS IT?

Philomena - 2013

“Rated PG-13 on appeal for some strong language, thematic elements and sexual references.”

Well, fuck. If there’s a thematic element, we gotta protect those kids.

AVP: Alien vs. Predator - 2004

“Rated PG-13 for violence, language, horror images, slime and gore.”

Violence: fine. Horror images: Fine. Slime? How does slime enter into the rating equation? Kids literally play with slime they make in school or at home. I’m not arguing the rating, I’m just saying slime??? Really???

Insidious - 2010

“Rated PG-13 for thematic material, violence, terror and frightening images, and brief strong language.”

A teenager can see James Wan’s film about a comatose child being pulled into The Other by a demon that enjoys Tiny Tim, but they can’t see a movie about growing up, without a parent’s permission (See Boyhood below.) This is because SPOILERS FOR INSIDIOUS teen drinking is much more damaging than watching a child being taken from his family by a demon for reasons, I believe, of inappropriate touching and eternal torment. END SPOILERS.

Rated R

Team America: World Police - 2004

Rated R for graphic crude and sexual humor, violent images and strong language - all involving puppets.

Seven - 1995

“Rated R for grisly afterviews of horrific and bizarre killings, and for strong language.”

I’m fairly certain afterviews isn’t a word (and spellcheck agrees with me), but let’s just attempt to find the logic in rating a film about a serial killer murdering people based on their perceived deadly sin the same as puppets killing other puppets and pooping on each other. Not that I really argue with the Team America rating, but it just seems so arbitrary to choose violent images to prove the R-rating while bizarre killings get the same treatment.

Boyhood - 2014

Rated R for language including sexual references, and for teen drug and alcohol use.

Teen drug and alcohol use is just as bad as serial murder, I guess? I mean, a film about a teenager — shouldn’t teens be able to see it? If you think teens can’t handle a movie about them, I would like to have a talk about your special kind of stupid.

So remember what the MPAA always says: Murder and puppet sex are the same.