July 4, 2006

A higher parental guidance

Something is mighty fishy about this story. Supposedly the MPAA has given a PG rating to a mild film because of its Christian message. Terry Mattingly -- an evangelical writer who has an excellent religion and journalism blog -- writes that "the scene that caught the MPAA's attention may have been" a conversation in which the football coach witnesses to his star player.

May have been? How could anyone know. The MPAA is notoriously unforthcoming about the reasons for its decisions, and also notoriously harder on indie films (which this is). I don't have time to do the research now, but I suspect plenty of evangelical films have gotten G ratings. Somebody is talking out of their ass here and I wouldn't be at all surprised if it's the filmmakers looking for a little publicity.

Which they got in spades. Now Congress is involved (shouldn't they be protecting the flag or something). Blowhards are blowing hard about "ratings creep," by which they mean that movies that would have gotten harder ratings in the past are getting looser ones now. If you watch any teen comedy from the 80s, you know the opposite is true. But ironically, Congress may be the only ones who can crack open the secret society of the MPAA and bring down this corrupt system. Sure, they'll replace it with something worse, but I won't exactly mourn for it.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


Hell, even "Casablanca" and "Citizen Kane" were given PGs when submitted to the ratings board in the '90s.

It's actually pretty hard to get a G these days.

(Have you seen the orignal "Planet of the Apes" lately? That got a G despite swearing, violence, and Charlton Heston's bare ass. Times have changed.)

Indeed, among the heavily-religion-themed movies that have received "G" ratings are: "Jesus", "Jesus Christ Superstar", "In Search of Historical Jesus", "Ben-Hur", "The Greatest Story Ever Told", and "Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie". Mightn't the football element have some sort of role in making the movie PG?

Actually, on rereading the story, it seems pretty clear that the proselytizing element of the movie *was* what set the MPAA off -- there's the bit where the filmmaker recounts being told that the problem was that the movie "was heavily laden with messages from one religion and that this might offend people from other religions". Granted, the filmmaker is anything but a disinterested source, and I'd be interested in hearing some independent confirmation of that. But -- as Trey Parker and Matt Stone revealed in their back-and-forth with the MPAA over the "South Park" movie -- when it's dealing with a studio, the MPAA can be pretty unsubtle about what cuts it wants. And since Sony is releasing this movie, I'm guessing the filmmakers got some fairly blunt feedback.

That wasn't the impression I got from reading the Stone/Parker interview in Playboy a long time ago. Their version was that they bitched and bitched about the MPAA's NC-17 rating and finally got their studio to lean on the MPAA, which caved.

I guess I can see Christians being offended here, but does anyone honestly believe a movie that had a character who said 'I don't believe in God' and didn't change their mind wouldn't get a PG just for that fact? I don't think we'd be hearing even crocodile tears if it was about a football team's conversion to Islam.

The bottom line is that people love rules ... until those rules are used against them. Then suddenly, the rules are problem that need to be solved.

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