Comment: The American movie rating system is lagging behind

Originally implemented as a precaution for children, it may be more harmful than it first appears

By CLARA FISCHER — [email protected]

One of the defining moments in the transition from adolescence to adulthood is the first time you see a movie that doesn’t meet age-approved guidelines – the big leap from PG to PG-13 and the even bigger leap from PG-13 to R. However, I have always harbored a certain suspicion of these seemingly arbitrary ratings.

Turns out these Hollywood moral guidelines are determined “via a council made up of an independent group of parents” which are meant to represent how the average American parent would judge a movie. In trying to find further information on the exact logistics of this board, I was effectively driven in circles on the Motion Picture Association websitewhich did not serve to stop my daydreams.

My curiosity was further heightened when I went to see “Don’t Worry Darling” last week. I absolutely can’t handle horror, and so I was a little nervous about diving into an R-rated thriller right away. Reading the note beforehand, I was a little soothed by what I saw – yes, it was rated R, but it appeared that the actual violence and gore was going to be marginal to the level of suggestive content and foul language – all categories were rated “moderate”, suggesting that there would be nothing too scary beyond the confines of a slightly revealing nightgown.

What I found, however, was that I had to peek behind my hands for most of the movie because of the violent images that were happening on screen. Without going into too much detail about this specific film, there are multiple instances of upsetting physical violence, suicide attempts, electroshock therapy, and more that I personally wouldn’t consider suitable for all audiences.

What really surprised me, however, was the sheer imbalance between sexual and violent content where both were deemed “moderate” by the parent board. Sure, there’s a sex scene and a few steamy kisses, but the amount of truly graphic imagery far exceeds those scenes and doesn’t seem equivalent enough to put them on the same playing field.

“Don’t Worry Darling” is just one example of this somewhat common phenomenon. Having a skewed ranking system like this impacts how American society consumes media; it has become commonplace for all movies that want a chance at commercial success volunteer for reviews. By representing such a huge and diverse group of people, those who determine these rankings place themselves in a position of almost unchecked power.

Movies have the power to have a massive impact on the economy, social norms, and almost everything that makes our society what it is. Have a system that is dictated by what seems to be almost puritanical ideals degrading sex-positivity and promoting conservative values does not accurately represent the diverse zeitgeist of the United States satisfactorily (even though the country still sees many of these values ​​influence other aspects of culture.)

There have been a lot of talk on the potentially harmful effects of the culture of purity, including in conversations about sexual assault and patriarchy. While the issue of a movie rating system isn’t high on the list of importance for promoting these things, rethinking how we consume our entertainment could be a crucial step forward.

Written by: Clara Fischer — [email protected]

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