[There is GIF spoiler for Game of Thrones below].
Few organizations elicit more eye rolls than entertainment watchdog groups who disseminate press releases every time a film or television show dares to showcase content unfit for anyone other than Amish schoolchildren. Neil Armstrong fought and died for my right to watch a hulking brute shatter a Spaniard’s melon
while masturbating with expired spicy mustard without being shamed by those who consider sweatpants risqué lingerie.
So it’s understandable why fart noises involuntarily flew from my mouth when I ran across this headline earlier today: “Morality in Media Criticizes R-Rating for Fifty Shades of Grey.” Huh, another Puritanical cult has a problem with women getting their ass motorboated while an Elie Goulding B-side blares in the background. Go figure. Then I actually read the group’s statement. Not only did they spell out their concerns in detail, they offered a solution:
“What the term ‘unusual’ does not account for is the coercion, sexual violence, female inequality, and BDSM themes from which the entire Fifty Shades plot is based. Such a vague evaluation puts viewers at risk, sending the message that humiliation is pleasurable and that torture should be sexually gratifying…We’d like to change the MPAA rating for Fifty Shades of Grey to read: ‘Promotes torture as sexually gratifying, graphic nudity, encourages stalking and abuse of power, promotes female inequality, glamorizes and legitimizes violence against women.’”
Well shit. These perennial pearl-clutchers may have stumbled across a salient point. Perhaps ratings don’t provide enough detail about potentially objectionable material. “Strong sexual content” typically indicates copious or realistic sex scenes, not sadomasochism, and “unusual behavior” could refer to anything from fisting to a character putting ketchup on pancakes. Reasonable adults can find Fifty Shades’ sexual content perfectly acceptable yet take issue with the film’s cavalier attitude toward violence against women. If Selma earns a “Disturbing thematic material including violence” tag, there’s no reason a softcore bondage film shouldn’t receive the same warning.
Morality in Media probably wasted bullets singling out Fifty Shades of Grey. No one who walks into a showing with nipple clamps and a Coach buttplug in their purse suffers from any illusions about the film’s content. Extending this level of specificity to all theatrical releases could help pop-culture averse parents make better choices when it comes to determining which borderline films are suitable for their kids. American Sniper: rated R for Excessive Jingoism and Plastic Infants. The Grand Budapest Hotel, rated PG-13 for Pretentiousness, Nauseating Whimsy, and Coma-inducing Boredom. The LEGO Movie, rated G for the Amount of Money You’ll Spend on Toys After Your Kids See This Film. How is this not beneficial?
Expanded ratings certainly have drawbacks. Who determines what’s objectionable? Where’s the line when additional information becomes too much information? Does this grease the slope toward censorship? All fair questions that deserve debate. Regardless of outcome, Morality in Media deserves a milligram of credit for proposing a reasonable alternative rather than screaming for a boycott. Maybe their more reactionary cousins will eventually wise up and follow suit rather than getting their chastity belts in a bunch every time a woman flashes ankle.