America has contributed a lot to the film industry. The majority of the biggest films comes from there, and the majority of the biggest stars. The Oscars, considered by many to be the most prestigious awards ceremony is American. The US is the biggest cinema going market in the world, and perhaps most importantly, when people world-wide (with a few exceptions) think about the film industry, they think Hollywood, which, not that this needs pointing out, is in America.
There is one thing, however, that I think they’ve got very wrong, and that’s their film rating system. In the US, film ratings are provided by the Motion Picture Association of America (or MPAA), and they have five ratings. G, which stands for general audiences (self-explanatory), PG, which stands for parental guidance (again, self-explanatory), then there’s PG-13, which much like the British rating 12A means that nobody under the age of 12 can watch the film without an adult accompanying them.
Next up is R, which stands for restricted, and this is what I wanted to talk about. Two films came out recently that both received an R rating in America, Fifty Shades of Grey, a film which features full frontal nudity in a highly sexualised way, as well as lots of colourful language, which is used in a multitude of ways (yes, including THAT way), and Mortdecai, a fun adventure with a little innuendo and some comic violence. The reason it was rated R? It had the F word in it twice. Well, having seen the film, it’s more like one and a half times.
In the UK, things are quite different. Mortdecai was rated 12A, and Fifty Shades of Grey was rated 18, in other words, you have to be 18 or over to see it. The MPAA has a similar rating, NC17, which means nobody under 17 can see it. That would, in theory, make R the American equivalent of the British rating of 15. Different countries are always going to rate films differently, France for example rated the aforementioned Fifty Shades their equivalent of 12A. So what’s my problem with the R rating?
While the British Board of Film Classification (or BBFC) allow adults to take children into films that are rated 12A, in America, you can take any person of any age to see any film, providing it isn’t rated NC-17. So, if you’re looking after a four-year old and you just can’t wait to see Fifty Shades, that child’s getting an intro to sadomasochism. Fancy a family trip to see a religious film? Little Timmy is seeing The Passion of the Christ. Do your kids like films about animals in the big city? The twins can watch Leonardo Dicaprio snort cocaine out of a woman’s back side in The Wolf of Wall Street.
Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way saying that the BBFC has it completely right. Personally, I think they get a lot of film ratings wrong. For example, last year’s The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes were both rated 12A, which mean a lot of young children went to see them, and there were a lot of things in there that weren’t suitable for kids.
‘How would you fix the problem?’ I hear you ask. Well, I think things should be done on a film by film basis. I mean, more of a film by film basis. I would keep G, PG and NC17, because there’s really not much of an issue with those ratings, but for everything between, have an upper and a lower limit. It would be more like the BBFC ratings, but instead of a film simply being rated ’15’, it would be something along the lines of ’13-15′. This would mean that parents wanting to take younger children to a film would have some leeway, but if those children were coming on their own, the 15 rating would stand.
This is clearly never going to happen. And while I think it would be a better system, it still isn’t perfect. Really, no rating system is perfect, as every person is different, and there’s no saying what one child or teenager is ready to see, and what another is not. What do you think about my suggestion? Do you think it would be better the current rating system, or am I once again wrong? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
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