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Rating Systems for Films Essay

Movies have been around since the 1890’s for entertainment, artistic brilliance, enlightenment and historical record. During that time period parents would take their children to the movies they thought were rated PG but found content in the films to adult for their children’s eyes and were outraged. Then later on different religious groups started protesting cinemas due to their explicit content full of sex and violence. So avoid censorship picture producers had to form their own rating guidelines. Motion Picture Producers and Distributors Association of America In the early 1920’s filmmakers began to realize that the clean movies they were producing no longer interested America so they began adding more sex and violence into their movies.

In 1922, the presidents from major motion picture studios which were Samuel Goldwyn, Louis B. Mayer, Jesse Lasky and Joseph Schenck made the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors Association of America to stop censorship from the government, rating and safeguarding the movies that were made. The portrayal of sex and violence in cinema began to threaten the morality in America, in the 1930’s Motion Picture Producers and Distributors Association of America made a strict set of guidelines called the Production Code, which followed movie content for two decades (Doherty). “The Production Code stayed in place and was reasonably effective for the next 30 years or so until it was replaced by the rating system we have today”. (Censorship in Hollywood)

Moviemakers had to tailor their films to fit the requirements of the production code or have their movie banned from being played. Since the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors Association of America wanted to self-censor all movies that were made, they had to submit all movies made for approval before they were distributed. In 1945, the creator of The Production Code, William hays was succeeded from the role of president by Eric Johnson. During Johnson Presidency he “added to his mission the promotion of American films, which were gaining in popularity overseas in the post-World War II era.”(MPPA) Later Johnsons changed the organization to “The Motion Picture Association of America.” Then when Johnson died the MPPA’s presidency was empty for about three years. In the late 1960’s cinema started to change.

New types of filmmaking and filmmakers from different countries started to take place in America. Since America started expanding the society’s freedom and the way of life, the MPPA’s strict self-regulation censorship wouldn’t last. In 1966, Jack Valenti was named MPAA President and many revisions were made to the Hays Code since America was changing social mores. Jack Valenti “founded the voluntary film rating system giving creative and artistic freedoms to filmmakers while fulfilling its core purpose of informing parents about the content of films so they can determine what movies are appropriate for their kids.”(MPPA) Now the MPPA gets the help of multiple parents to see which content fits in each category. What each rating means

Each movie is rated and put into one of the five different categories depending on what content is being portrayed in each different film. Films are even sometimes labeled under the “Not yet Rated” category because the MPPA has yet to rate the film. “G- General Audiences. All Ages Admitted” means it contains no type of language, nudity, sex, violence or anything that would offend parents of young children. “PG — Parental Guidance Suggested. Some Material May Not Be Suitable for Children.” Means that it should be looked over and approved by parents before letting their children attend. There may be some content with brief profanity, violence and or nudity. There’s no drug use and minimal themes call for parent supervision. “PG-13 — Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13.” Means parents should determine whether or not their children under 13 should view this movie.

There may be violence but not realistic. Minimal language and drug use and there may be brief nudity but nothing sexual. “A PG-13 motion picture may go beyond the PG rating in theme, violence, nudity, sensuality, language, adult activities or other elements, but does not reach the restricted R category”(MPPA) “R — Restricted. Children Under 17 Require Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian.” Means it may include adult themes, language, intense violence, sexually-oriented nudity, drug abuse and other graphic content. Children under than 17 not allowed and parents are advised not to bring their children. “NC-17 — No One 17 and Under Admitted.” Means no one under 17 admitted. Parents consider this movie to adult like.

The content is only appropriate for adult audience. Studies from Harvard University of health show that the MPPA allows more violent and explicit content then they have before, saying that “movie raters have grown more lenient in their standards.” (Waxman) The study shows that MPPA ratings have vague and confusing descriptions on what content is actually showing. Some of the ratings depending on content still haven’t changed “a movie rated PG or PG-13 today has more sexual or violent content than a similarly rated movie in the past.” (Waxman) Movie ratings changed depending on what society views as acceptable content in each rating.

For example, “Disney’s 1994 movie ”The Santa Clause” was rated PG, while the 2002 sequel, ”The Santa Clause 2,” which had comparable content, was rated G. (Waxman) Rich Taylor, a spokesman from the MPPA says that “the standards for judging acceptable depictions of sex and violence in American society were constantly changing, and that it would not be surprising if that changed for movie ratings as well.”(Waxman) Overall the rating system was made to avoid censorship from the government and for the MPPA to have freedom to rate their movies. If it wasn’t for the outraged parents and all the protesting against cinema the rating system might not have been the same. Though the current rating system today allows more sex and violence into PG and PG-13 movies it’s only based on the judging system from society.

“Motion Pictures and Their Impact on Society in the Year 2001.” MIDCONTINENT PERSPECTIVES: Midwest Research Institute Kansas City, Missouri. April 25, 1978. Web. December 9th 2012 The Numbers Guy. “Let’s Rate the Ranking Systems of Film Reviews” Wall Street Journal. January (2009) Web. December 9th 2012

Tickle, Jennifer, etal. “Tobacco, Alcohol, and Other Risk Behaviors in Film: How Well Do MPAA Ratings Distinguish Content?” December, 1 2011. Web. December 10th 2012 Waxman, Sharon. “Study Finds Film Ratings Are Growing More Lenient” NY Times. Web July 14th 2004 December 9th 2012 Wilson, Barbara J. “What’s Wrong with the Ratings” 2002. Web. December 13th 2012


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