The Subject of Ratings – By Josh Samford

 Although my opinion on this subject isn’t the most popular, I find the majority of other writers and generally most film snobs like myself tend to approach the subject of the MPAA from a completely different perspective than the way I tend to see it. I think the old saying "you don’t know what you have until it’s gone" is as relevant in the situation as any in terms of Americans and their own understanding of their liberty. Mind you I’m not trying to approach this situation from a political perspective – but for what it is, consider this an open minded opinion piece. As a film fan, occasionally I stumble across web forums where others are discussing their dislike of the MPAA and their disappointment with one fan favorite director or another having to cut his film down in order to make a bigger gross at the box office. I’m not so mean that seeing that disgusts me or anything like that, but I often interject that these filmmakers wouldn’t have to worry about anything needing to be cut down from their film if they simply wouldn’t accept it. Within the American film community and dealing with our ratings board – the only person who will "censor" your movie in the end is you yourself. Unfortunately so few seem to realize this.

Every state has the right to do with they want here in the states, but as cinema is protected under the first ammendment in the constitution, films cannot be banned here and since the MPAA is not a federally operated orginization – you do NOT have to take your film to it. In the past decades the only time films have been "banned" in one form or another is due to their use of copyrighted materials, be it clips or the music played. Using other copyrighted material without permission is a quick way to become a martyr for the "movement" though, it’s also a way to waste a lot of time on a film you can’t show to the public. I have also heard rumors about the man Marco Fiorito, who was responsible for giving us the internet sensation 2 Girls, 1 Cup – and his scatological porn videos (that’s people rubbing feces on themselves, eating it, having sex with it, etc. to put it in laymen terms) being confiscated and then banned when he came to this country; however I have not heard enough about this issue to warrant a decent opinion. It’s hard to argue for a guy like that, and it is a terribly unsafe thing to be doing so I’ll have to say I need to see both sides of the argument. I lean towards labeling it as free speech however, no matter what you do you’ll never have to worry about that sort of stuff ever being mainstream.

The real travesty and tragedy right now in my opinion, are the countries where the government owns the right to censor media. We saw how this could go in the 1980’s with the Video Nasties list, where many films from across the globe were outright banned within the UK. Films like The Evil Dead, Driller Killer, Maniac and many others were not permitted for any release until only recently with the turn of the century and the film board lightening up. There are still a few to my knowledge that have not been released, possibly due to their simply not being re-submitted to the board for distribution, but all of the more popular titles are now regularly available. However, the UK isn’t the only country that has been made to suffer through actual bans of media. Much of Europe follows similar systems, with only a select number of films actually being banned. However, if they are passed for distribution it is usually with cuts made to the film. Such is the case with Cannibal Holocaust, which has been edited down throughout much of Europe to appease the government systems therein. Australia also has a very active censorship board and the middle east and many Asian countries have some simply outrageous laws against what can and cannot be shown on film. These countries, range from democratic to authotarian dictatorships where you would expect such a thing. Many films from those who show the said dictators in a negative light, to those that depict another religion other than theirs – are shot down and banned before ever making an appearance within their country.

Every country has their own shame as far as this subject goes, but hopefully we can all just avoid it as time goes by. I personally think either the film community should simply embrace the NC-17 rating more here, or more filmmakers need to be ready to deal with their films going direct to DVD with no rating. To do so would require a much smaller budget in order to make up some profit for the film but it can be done and maybe it would encourage more creativity amongst filmmakers. Currently Kevin Smith is having trouble with getting his film down to an R rating, and for a director who has had so much trouble in the past with his films not finding their audience until they hit DVD/VHS, maybe skipping the awkward movie theater stage isn’t such a bad thing. However, I am but a simple fanboy and to me it isn’t all about money. However, I think that if the filmmaker is concerned primarily with their financial gain over the integrity of their film; maybe there’s more at stake than simply a ratings board raining on their parade.