This Film Is Not Yet Rated

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That’s the title of a new documentary by director Kirby Dick, whose latest project exposes the irrational, incompetent, secretive, and downright bizarre goings-on at the Motion Picture Association of America‘s ratings board.

Dick, who was interviewed by Terry Gross on the NPR show, Fresh Air, said that the names of the board members are kept secret, so he hired a private detective to find out who they were. Once he knew their identities, he said that some of the facts about them did not match the demographics publicized by the MPAA. He also said that none of the rating board members is given any training, and that no one on the board has any expertise in film or child development. In fact, during his tenure as president of the MPAA, Jack Valenti went out of his way to exclude such experts as child psychologists from being part of the process.

Dick studied various films that had been given restricted ratings because of sexual content, and discovered that, though two films may show exactly the same sex scenes, the ones with homosexual characters receive more restrictive ratings. Not surprisingly, there is also evidence that violent scenes are not scrutinized nearly as carefully as scenes containing sex.

In order to understand the secretive ratings system, Dick submitted his documentary for a rating, then took the rating to the secretive appeals board, whose members are all highly ranked motion picture industry executives. At the meeting, everyone wore a number or her or his lapel–including Dick–and when he tried to introduce himself, each appeals board member turned and walked away.

This Film Is Not Yet Rated is being released, as you may imagine, without a rating.

P.S.: It’s also reviewed in the current issue of Mother Jones.

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