Written by Kirby Dick & Eddie Schmidt and Matt Patterson
Directed by Kirby Dick
Running Time: 1:37
for some graphic sexual content.
This Film Is Not Yet Rated had a chance to be a really strong, in depth
documentary on the film ratings system, but instead seemed to be more about showing nudity than anything else.
The film had an interesting premise, namely, how does the MPAA ratings board come up with their decisions? Why do some of them seem so random and arbitrary? The filmmaker comes up with a couple of hypothesis. One, that the ratings board favors studio produced films, so independent films are more likely to get an NC-17 rating than a studio film. Two... actually, there is no two. There really wasn't any other reason given why films get rated the way they do. Instead, the filmmaker decides he doesn't like the fact that the people who rate films are anonymous, and he sets out to find out who they are. But why?
As I was watching the film, I got caught up in the spying and trying to uncover the names of this secret society. It was like watching a real thriller. But then I started to think. Who cares? Yes it would be nice to know who is rating your film, but in the end, what difference does it make? If the ratings board gives my film an NC-17 rating and I don't know who these people are, I feel like I'm being judged by the unknown. On the other hand, if I know their names, then I feel... like I'm being judged by the unknown. It's not like the ratings board members are famous or anything. They're run-of-the-mill people like you an me. What good does it do me to know who they are? Will I stalk them and scare them into changing their minds? Will I try and bribe them? The filmmakers show that according to its rules, the members of the ratings board change every few years, and that they'll have kids in the 5-17 range. And then they show that certain members have kids that are older and certain members have been on longer than they should have. Again, what difference does that make?
And that was the biggest problem I had with the film. It told me all of the problems, but never offered up any solutions. There were interviews with a couple of former ratings board members who said that things were bad and some people would bully others, and the president of the board would get the final say. There were critics and filmmakers who said that it's a form of censorship and that board members would tell them specifically what things needed to be cut to get a better rating. But at no time did anyone tell me what a better solution is. All the filmmaker said was, let's make the whole thing transparent and it'll be better. But how? What would people do to change the system?
I fully agree the ratings can seem completely random. In one section they compared I believe the indie film But I'm a Cheerleader with American Pie. Cheerleader initially got an NC-17 rating because it showed a girl, clothed, masturbating over her underwear. And yet, in the trailers of American Pie you see a guy having sex with a pie. The difference? American Pie was a studio comedy, while Cheerleader was an indie film about sexual conversion camps. The film did make a good point that most of the time it's not about specific scenes, but the overall feel of a film that garners specific ratings. Seeing films side by side and how one might get an R while another gets an NC-17 was interesting and it certainly gets you in a huff over how films are rated, but it does little else. Even when the filmmaker used this film as bait, at no point did I ever feel like there was an answer to the problem. Only questions.
And where was the discussion on violence? It took the film an hour to even bring up the topic. It seems to me if you're going to discuss the entire problem with the ratings system, it shouldn't be how much sex you can show before you get an NC-17 rating, but more about why is sex bad but violence not? The idea that if you don't show blood you can kill as many people as you want and still only get a PG-13 rating is ridiculous to me. But if you show puppets having sex - puppets! - it's an R? And if someone says the word 'fuck' twice in a movie it's an automatic R? The movie spent way too much time comparing sex in films rather than opening the discussion into other aspects of ratings. While it still wouldn't have gone towards answering any questions, it would have helped make the film feel more complete.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I was really looking forward to This Film Is Not Yet Rated, but the film didn't give me anything worthwhile. It asked a lot of questions but never served up any answers.
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