Tag Archives: MPAA

Motion picture group defends movie ratings system

Under increasing pressure over its threshold for violence in PG-13 films, the Motion Picture Association of America is defending its often-criticized rating system.

A study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center and the Ohio State University recently published in the medical journal Pediatrics found that gun violence in the most popular PG-13 releases since 1985 has tripled in frequency. The number of scenes featuring gun violence in PG-13 films, the study found, has come to rival or even surpass the rate of such sequences in R-rated movies.

The association’s ratings board is no stranger to criticism, but the study — seemingly lending evidence to a long-held claim that the board is softer on violence than sexuality or language — has set off calls for reform.

In the MPAA’s first response to the study, Joan Graves, head of the MPAA’s ratings board, told The Associated Press that the MPAA is in line with parents’ standards.

“We try to get it right,” Graves said. “The criticism of our system is not coming from the parents, who are the people we’re doing this for.”

The association has five ratings classifications, from G to NC-17, but the continental divide is between PG-13 (in which parents are “strongly cautioned” that some material may be inappropriate for children under the age of 13) and R (in which children under 17 are required to be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian).

In between, battle lines are drawn over violence, language and sexual content — a fraught distinction because it determines what kids can see on their own, thus heavily influencing a film’s potential audience. Critics claim that the MPAA is far more permissive of violence in PG-13 films than fleeting nudity or a handful of expletives.

“It may be time to rethink how violence is treated in movie ratings,” said Dan Romer of the Annenberg Center.

But Graves claims PG-13 “is not a namby-pamby rating,” but intended as a strong warning to parents.

The MPAA frequently points out that it doesn’t police films, but assigns warning labels for parents so that they can make their own choices about what their children see. The ratings system is a voluntary one for theatrical released films that the movie industry founded in the 1960s to replace the far more restrictive Hays Code.

But the current ratings system has persistently drawn criticism for its perceived prudishness, while yielding more easily to the violence in big studio releases, such as Christopher Nolan’s PG-13 rated “Dark Knight” trilogy. Kirby Dick’s 2006 documentary, “This Film Is Not Yet Rated,” leveled claims of censorship at the MPAA ratings board.

Harvey Weinstein was waging his latest battle with the MPAA over the R-rating of the upcoming Weinstein Co. release, “Philomena.” While one expletive is generally allowed for a PG-13 rating, the two in “Philomena” were enough to make it rated R. Weinstein has enlisted the film’s stars, Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, in a series of comedic online videos protesting the MPAA’s decision.

Graves said parents more frequently object to language or sex in movies, and that “they feel they’re getting the correct information about the violence.”

“We’re certainly listening on the sexuality and the language,” Graves said. “We’d be very interested in adjusting violence if in fact we were hearing from them we’re getting it wrong. They don’t seem to think that.”

But violence in film and video games has become an increasingly hot topic in the wake of numerous school shootings. Studies have shown conflicting results on whether watching violent movies has any effect on real-life violence. In January, President Barack Obama called for further research on the connection between media and violence.

Graves said the association is aware of school shootings and other violence and the debate on the possible connection to violence in movies. She said the association is open to making adjustments.

“Certainly, it’s always under consideration. It’s not a static thing, ever,” she said.

Victory for ‘Bully’ rating-change campaign

The Weinstein Company has announced that “Bully,” the award-winning documentary about the epidemic of school bullying in the United States, will open in theaters on March 30 as “unrated” after nearly 500,000 people signed a Change.org petition demanding that the Motion Picture Association of America remove the “R” rating given to the film.



“I am happy ‘Bully’ will maintain its authenticity and will be an accurate portrayal of what thousands of kids experience every day,” said Katy Butler, a bullied high school student from Michigan who launched the petition drive.

Butler, who had her finger broken by bullies in middle school, urged the MPAA to remove the “R” rating from “Bully” so that middle school and high school students would have a chance to see a movie that could potentially save their lives.



“The MPAA might not recognize the reality that thousands of bullied kids face each day in school, but nearly 500,000 people around the country, from celebrities to politicians to bullied kids themselves, stepped up to speak out about bullying by signing my petition,” said Butler. “The brief use of vulgar language in this film reflects what so many kids hear each day in school when they’re being bullied. The MPAA said they wouldn’t drop the ‘R’ rating unless this language was removed, but nothing can remove it from the halls and playgrounds of schools where bullied students hear it each day, except education and exposure.”



Lee Hirsch, director of “Bully,” said that the “unrated” designation for the film will allow the film to portray the real trauma and torment that bullied students experience each day in school.



“The small amount of language in the film that’s responsible for the ‘R’ rating is there because it’s real. It’s what the children who are victims of bullying face on most days,” Hirsch said in a statement put out by The Weinstein Company announcing the “unrated” designation.

“All of our supporters see that, and we’re grateful for the support we’ve received across the board. I know the kids will come, so it’s up to the theaters to let them in.”



Gerry Lopez, the CEO of AMC Theaters, one of the largest movie theater chains in the world, signed Katy Butler’s Change.org petition.

He said previously in a statement that he will make sure “Bully” plays at AMC Theaters even with an “unrated” rating.



“AMC will show this movie, and we invite our guests to engage in the dialogue its relevant message will inevitably provoke,” Lopez said.



He is just one of several high profile individuals who signed Butler’s petition. Ellen DeGeneres signed the petition, inviting Butler to appear on her show, and Anderson Cooper, Kelly Ripa, Justin Bieber, Johnny Depp, Meryl Streep, Michael Jordan, Demi Lovato, Randy Jackson, and Drew Brees all encouraged their fans to show support to “Bully,” objecting to the “R” rating it received.

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Campaign waged to change ‘R’ rating for anti-bullying movie

When Katy Butler was 12 years old, four boys came up behind her, called her names, shoved her into a wall, slammed a locker on her hand and broke her finger.

“I held back tears while I watched them run away laughing,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do so I stood there, alone and afraid.”

Katy is now in high school in Ann Arbor, Mich., where she had hoped that she and classmates might see a screening of a documentary due out later this month called “Bully.”

The film’s distributor, the Weinstein Company, wants to show the movie in middle and high schools across America.

But the Motion Picture Association of America gave an “R” rating to “Bully,” meaning no one under the age of 17 should see the movie without an accompanying parent or adult guardian.

The MPAA says of an “R” rating: “Restricted. Children Under 17 Require Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian. An R-rated motion picture, in the view of the Rating Board, contains some adult material. An R-rated motion picture may include adult themes, adult activity, hard language, intense or persistent violence, sexually-oriented nudity, drug abuse or other elements, so that parents are counseled to take this rating very seriously. Children under 17 are not allowed to attend R-rated motion pictures unaccompanied by a parent or adult guardian. Parents are strongly urged to find out more about R-rated motion pictures in determining their suitability for their children. Generally, it is not appropriate for parents to bring their young children with them to R-rated motion pictures.”

The rating for “Bully” raises questions about whether educators will be allowed to show students the film, which explores an epidemic of harassment and violence among young in the United States. The “R” apparently stems from course language – there are at least six statements of “fuck.”

The filmmakers are urging the MPAA to change the rating to PG-13, but they already have lost one appeal.

Weighing in on the issue in late February, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, a longtime civil rights advocate, urged the MPAA to reconsider: “‘Bully’ is a movie that depicts the nightmare that some kids face every day in schools across America. This harsh reality must not be edited especially considering how bullying has become a horrible form of violence. It drives individuals to suicide and even retaliation. Children are afraid to go to school and therefore their educational productivity decreases. It creates violent reactions in our children and they must be allowed to see the movie as it was intended to help raise awareness, increase empathy and change minds.”

Butler, for her part, has launched a Change.org campaign and has found tens of thousands of supporters.

“I can’t believe the MPAA is blocking millions of teenagers from seeing a movie that could change – and, in some cases, save – their lives,” she said. “According to the film’s Website, over 13 million kids will be bullied this year alone. Think of how many of these kids could benefit from seeing this film, especially if it is shown in schools?”

That 13 million statistic came from the U.S. Department of Education Office for Safe and Drug-Free Schools, which says bullying is the most common form of violence experienced by young people in the United States. Filmed during the 2009-10 school year, “Bully” explores how the violence transcends geographic, racial, ethnic and economic borders.

Campaign waged to change MPAA’s ‘R’ rating for ‘Bully’

Katy Butler knows how it feels to be bullied.

When she was 12, four boys came up behind her, called her names, shoved her into a wall, slammed a locker on her hand and broke her finger. “I held back tears while I watched them run away laughing,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do so I stood there, alone and afraid.”

Katy Butler of Ann Arbor, Mich., is now in high school, where she had hoped that she and classmates might see a screening of a documentary due out in late March called “Bully.” The film’s distributor, the Weinstein Company, wants to screen the film in middle and high schools across America.

But the Motion Picture Association of America gave an “R” rating to “Bully,” meaning no one under the age of 17 should see the movie without an accompanying parent or adult guardian.

The MPAA says of an “R” rating: “Restricted. Children Under 17 Require Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian. An R-rated motion picture, in the view of the Rating Board, contains some adult material. An R-rated motion picture may include adult themes, adult activity, hard language, intense or persistent violence, sexually-oriented nudity, drug abuse or other elements, so that parents are counseled to take this rating very seriously. Children under 17 are not allowed to attend R-rated motion pictures unaccompanied by a parent or adult guardian. Parents are strongly urged to find out more about R-rated motion pictures in determining their suitability for their children. Generally, it is not appropriate for parents to bring their young children with them to R-rated motion pictures.”

The rating of “Bully” raises questions about whether schools will be allowed to screen the film, which explores an epidemic of harassment and violence among the young in the United States. The “R” apparently stems from course language in the documentary.

The filmmakers are lobbying the MPAA to change the rating to PG-13, but have lost one appeal.

Butler, for her part, has launched a Change.org campaign.

“I can’t believe the MPAA is blocking millions of teenagers from seeing a movie that could change – and, in some cases, save – their lives,” she said. “According to the film’s Website, over 13 million kids will be bullied this year alone. Think of how many of these kids could benefit from seeing this film, especially if it is shown in schools?”

Her petition, as of early Feb. 29, had more than 129,000 signatures.

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