Over the weekend Variety posted an article about the MPAA reworking the current ratings system to more accurately reflect film content. It seems that the ‘R’ rating is too broad, and the NC-17 worthless. No mainstream theater will book an NC-17 rated movie, and Blockbuster won’t carry them. Films with a few swear words and brief nudity get the same ‘R’ rating as those with lots of the same, on top of explicit violence. A fix would seem to be in order.
I remember when the last ratings adjustment was about to take place, and Siskel & Ebert were lobbying almost weekly for an ‘A’ (for ‘Adult’) rating that would allow for more mature-themed films. This would replace the ‘X’ rating, which wasn’t copyrighted by the MPAA and was quickly adopted by the porn industry as their moniker in various forms.
When the change did happen, we ended up with two new ratings: the PG-13 and the NC-17 (which stood for ‘No Children under the age of 17 admitted’). The PG-13 soon became the most common rating every studio wanted. It was the one which would allow for the largest slice of filmgoers as well as a little edgy content. Some would argue this rating allows too much edgy stuff, and pushes the envelope too far. Others say it forces filmmakers to water down movies for mass consumption.
Kirby Dick’s This Film is Not Yet Rated is an expose on the whole MPAA and their methods (or lack thereof), and has garnered a lot of attention since its release last year. I haven’t seen it, but admit it’s a wonderful idea for a doc. Check out the trailer and you get the idea of where the movie is going as well as where rating the industry has gone.
I realize it’s much easier to sit back and criticize than it is to offer solutions. So, in an effort to help, I suggest we do away with all of the ratings in their various forms and replace them with one: the ‘F’ rating.
My system is based on the Fujita Scale (or F-Scale), which rates tornadoes using the damage they inflict as a measuring stick. A Category F0, for example, is light damage, while a Category F5 is incredible damage. Ratings for the movies would be similar, but would center on how many times an “F-bomb” is dropped during the course of a film. The exact number of “F-bombs” would be revealed in the rating, letting patrons know exactly what they were in for. It is my theory that the use of foul language would directly reflect the other content featured in the film such as violence, sex, and violent sex.
As a result, all movies would receive an ‘F’ rating. The breakdown would go something like this:
F0: No uses of said swear word, suitable for all ages. Disney films would fall into this category.
F1: One use of said swear word, not suitable for everybody, but most could handle it.
F2: Two uses of this word should alert parents they might want to be careful about letting their youngsters view such material.
F3-F5: Watch out! Things are getting a bit gritty and you may want to steer clear.
F6-F10: Definitely edgy, but not over the top.
F11 and above: Rough stuff, and only for those not offendable by such language and all things associated with it (anything by Quentin Tarantino, Oliver Stone, David Fincher).
So a film like Minority Report would be receive an ‘F1’ rating, while Pulp Fiction gets rated ‘F265’.
Of course, I’m totally kidding. My system would place a language-heavy drama (Good Will Hunting) in the same category as a gory horror flick (Hostel). That would be utterly ridiculous and would never work in today’s marketplace. Right?