When speaking of those who live in America and see movies, chances are fairly high that they have a general overview of the ratings system. There’s G, PG, PG-13, R, and NC-17. What most people do not know, or understand, is how the ratings system actually works. Who makes these choices? There is always that green screen before trailers that says something about the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), but who are they? The MPAA is made up of the major film studios in Hollywood. However, they do not make the ratings. The MPAA’s sub- board The Classification and Ratings Administration (CARA) does (This Film). CARA is made up of anonymous parents whose job is not to decide if a movie is good or bad, they just suggest what age group a film is appropriate for based on five general categories: theme, drug use, language, violence, and sex. The way I see movies and how they are rated is that as America has become more open-minded, The MPAA and CARA seem to have gotten more conservative. Sex is worse than extreme violence in their eyes, and the way a film uses the f-word on one occasion can move you from a modest PG-13 to an R. The ratings system needs to be reworked for the society of today and the families of the present, and the members of CARA need to modernize.
The original MPAA was founded in 1922 and consisted of the three major film studios at the time, Metro-Goldwyn, Famous Players-Lasky, and First National (MPAA). Because they
Simons 1 were the largest film distributors in the country, they set up a code that determined what could and could not be in a widely distributed movie. Among the things that could not be shown were “pointed profanity...any licentious or suggested nudity...the illegal traffic in drugs...any inference of sex perversion...white slavery...miscegenation...sex hygiene...and scenes of actual childbirth...” (Lewis 301). This code was the industry-wide standard for determining what movies would be deemed appropriate for public audiences and what movies would not (MPAA). In 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War and the continuing civil rights and women’s rights movements, the original MPAA code was deemed too conservative for that day in age, and the MPAA we know today was born, and along with their birth came the CARA sub board (MPAA).
Like any organization, the birth of The MPAA and CARA in came with numerous criticisms, from both people involved in the film industry and audiences. One of the main criticisms is that sexuality is judged on a more extreme level than any sort of violence (This Film). There is a certain amount of violence allowed in a G movie, but any sexual themes automatically make it a PG (This Film). Although it has been hard to determine whether violence or sex is more harmful for children, studies done by the Indiana University School of Medicine have shown that children are more likely to be aggressive in adulthood if they view more violent media, and that viewing violence at a young age alters brain activity in currently non-violent children (Mathis). Researchers involved in the experiment studied the effects of violence on the frontal cortex of the brain, which regulates self-control and attention. The study found that formerly nonaggressive children exposed to violent media developed a frontal cortex that was less active than their peers, meaning they were prone to less self-control and had more difficulty
Simons 2 paying attention.
With evidence existing that suggests violence has negative effects on children, why are
The MPAA and CARA so lenient on instances of violence yet so harsh on scenes of sexuality? The movie “Blue Valentine” starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams was originally given an NC-17 rating. The reasoning behind this rating was not that there was too much sex or that the scenes were too ‘extreme’, it was because the sex was too real (Susman). There was no violence in the film; it