3.4137931034493 (1566)
Posted by motoman 03/05/2009 @ 08:07

Tags : mpaa, cinema, entertainment

News headlines
RealNetworks accuses MPAA of anti-competitive practices -
RealNetworks has asked a Federal judge for permission to add an antitrust complaint against the MPAA to their existing lawsuit against the the DVD Copy Control Association (DVD-CCA). The suit began as a preemptive strike to establish that their DVD...
MPAA vs. RealNetworks: Five reasons why Hollywood will win - CNET News
What might be most important about this case, a courtroom victory for the MPAA could put the kibosh on Facet, the device Real hopes is representative of the next-generation DVD player. Facet, which relies on the RealDVD software to make copies,...
Real sues MPAA, DVD CCA for antitrust abuse - Electronista
RealNetworks today fought back against Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) claims that it was aiding piracy by filing counterclaims against both six studios in the MPAA and the DVD Copy Control Association. Sent through a Northern District of...
Documentarians, DVDs and the MPAA - Los Angeles Times
The MPAA opposed the request, along with a broader one by the Electronic Frontier Foundation that sought permission to take short clips from DVDs for any noncommercial, non-infringing video. "These proposals fail to establish that content desired for...
MPAA Wants to 'Automatically' Eliminate Piracy - Zeropaid
There's a new lobbying paper posted on that shows that the MPAA isn't slowing down on dreaming big while lobbying the US government. The document (PDF) shows what appears to be a wish list from the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of...
'Big Man Japan' deftly sends up 1950s monster movies - Los Angeles Times
MPAA rating: R for language and a brief war image. Running time: 1 hour, 49 minutes. AMC's Loews Broadway 4, 1441 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica, (310) 458-6232. Christian Petzold's engrossing "Jerichow" plays like an inspired contemporary...
MPAA: RealNetworks could strip DVD copy limits - CNET News
Robert Schumann, an expert on securing DVDs who was called to testify by the MPAA, told Patel that RealDVD introduces a set of copy protection schemes for the copies made by RealDVD. The software's copy controls can be altered or removed all together...
MPAA - Camming Movies is an Acceptable Practice (for Teachers) - Zeropaid
The fair use community of the United States is abuzz over a video clip that shows how the MPAA feels that educational exception should operate. A number of people are already absolutely stunned not just the method the MPAA proposed,...
RealNetworks continues work on DVD-copying device despite MPAA ... - FierceCIO
Despite facing a lawsuit from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), RealNetworks continues to hire engineers to work on Facet, a DVD player that will copy and store up to 70 films. Both Real and the MPAA are due to make their closing...
Five Reasons Real Will Lose RealDVD Case - Hard OCP
While most of us are hoping Real prevails in its case against the MPAA, C|Net has posted a list of 5 reasons Real will lose. Let's just keep our fingers crossed on this one. Real attorneys argued in court that the company operated within the law and...

Motion Picture Association of America film rating system

G rating symbol

The Motion Picture Association of America's film-rating system is used in the U.S. and its territories to rate a film's thematic and content suitability for certain audiences. It is one of various motion picture rating systems used to help patrons decide what movies are appropriate for children, for adolescents, and for adults.

In the U.S., the MPAA's rating system is the most recognized classification system for determining potentially offensive content, but usually is not used outside the film industry, because the MPAA has trademarked each rating. Its system has been criticised for the secrecy of its decisions, and for censorship being stricter for sexual than for violent content.

The United States began rating its movies relatively late, having depended upon the United States Motion Picture Production Code of 1930 to control the content of films; most other countries began classifying their films decades earlier, such as the United Kingdom with the BBFC rating organization. The MPAA's film ratings were instituted on November 1, 1968, in response to religiously-motivated complaints about the sexual, violent, profane, and impudent content of American cinema, after the MPAA's 1966 revision of the Production Code. The revision, prompted by imports and the first US studio releases lacking MPAA approval, created the "SMA" (Suggested for Mature Audiences) advisory, identifying violent movies and movies with mature themes, along with the MPAA Code seal. (see Green Sheet about an internal precursor to the ratings system).

The cultural erosion of the film production code had several effects: it allowed violently artistic films such as Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960), and an increase in low-budget exploitation films that were more sexually and violently explicit.

The Non-MPAA member film producers were unaffected; the ratings system was legally unenforceable because of the free speech guarantee, inherent to the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, as interpreted regarding the sexual, violent, profane, and impudent content in communications media dating from the 1952 Joseph Burstyn, Inc v. Wilson decision. However, two important 1968 Supreme Court cases, Ginsberg v. New York and Interstate Circuit, Inc. v. Dallas, led to the MPAA's creation of its movie rating system.

This content classification system originally was to have three ratings, ending with the Restricted rating (like the system then used in most of Canada); however, business pressure from cinema owners forced the MPAA's creation of an exclusively adult "X" film rating to protect them from local church-instigated complaints and lawsuits. Initially, the "X" rating was not an MPAA trademark: any producer not submitting a movie for MPAA rating could self-apply the "X" rating (or any other symbol or description that was not an MPAA trademark).

Parents were confused as to whether or not M-rated films had more mature content than R-rated films. This was especially true in the pre-rating years 1965 to 1968 when the earlier, ambiguous "Suggested for Mature Audiences" advisory allowed explicit violence and adult subjects in a movie. Their confusion led to its replacement, in January 1970, by the GP rating. Also, the R rating's age was increased by one year, to 17.

In the GP-rating, the "G" meant the film was not age-restricted (like the G rating, "All Ages Admitted"), while the "P" told audiences that, despite the lack of age restriction, parental discretion was expected. However, many misunderstood GP as an abbreviation for "General Patronage". The change from "M" to "GP" took effect on March 1, 1970; again, "GP" confusion caused its revision to the "PG" rating, an abbreviation for Parental Guidance.

Simultaneously, in 1970, as the M rating changed to GP, the ages of viewers admitted to R- and X-rated movies was raised from 16 to 17. However, the age on the X rating varied per the jurisdiction, until the MPAA officially changed it to the NC-17 rating. Some newspaper advertisements clearly altered ages for R- and X-rated films to 17 years of age instead of 16 or 18.

By 1972, problems with the GP rating emerged; parents perceived it as too permissive, unindicative of a film's true content. In 1971, the MPAA had experimented with including a content advisory warning to GP-rated movies; the wording varied, but typically read: Contains material not generally suitable for pre-teenagers. It was essentially an early form of the PG-13 rating; the warning was often indicated with an asterisk next to the GP letters. This short-lived rating can be called GP*; however, the number of such films quickly outnumbered GP films (without the warning), and the MPAA, in February 1972 (standardizing rating symbols used in movie advertising), announced that both the GP and the GP* ratings would be replaced with the new PG rating. It has been used since.

By then, the rating box contained the rating in boldface, the MPAA logo, and the content advisory warning. From the adoption of the system through the mid-1970s, mildly adult mainstream films such as Airport, Planet of the Apes, The Green Berets, The Odd Couple, Tora! Tora! Tora!, and 2001: A Space Odyssey were commonly released with G ratings. However, by 1978, the G rating became over-associated with children's films, while the PG rating became the norm for "family" films. Most G-rated films from the system's early years are today perceived as having PG and PG-13 content. So, most G-rated movies from the 1960s and 1970s have often been re-rated PG in later years.

In retrospect, some ratings of this era seem rather odd, though it must be remembered that the rating standards then were more liberal; violence, sexually suggestive speech and action, naked men, and mild cursing were acceptable in the lower ratings, while sexual intercourse (either implicit or explicit) and naked women were not. A movie's rating depended on the personal mores and opinion of the individual censors. For example, the G-rated Battle of Britain (1967) had mild British cursing and explicit killings of RAF and Luftwaffe aircrew. True Grit was G-rated after being edited down in tone; however, it still contained American cursing and strong cowboy violence. Larry Cohen's cult horror film It's Alive (1974), about a killer mutant infant, re-released in 1977, was rated PG despite being bloody per the standards of the time. On the other hand, both its sequels, It Lives Again (1978) and It's Alive III: Island of the Alive (1987) (released direct-to-video), were rated R. Nevertheless, Finland banned all three films per its film rating system. Also, the film The Graduate was rated PG in 1967, despite the fact that the theme of the film, an adulterous affair between a graduate student and an older woman, is definitely mature; the film also has scenes in a strip club with nudity.

Moreover, The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) was rated R instead of M (despite its violence being no more explicit than, say, the James Bond films of the time), because of a chess-game-as-sexual-foreplay between the protagonist and antagonist. The scene would most likely give the film a PG-13 rating today, however (though the 1999 remake of the movie was also rated R).

In 1975, the phrase May Be Too Intense For Younger Children accompanied the PG rating featured in the advertising for Jaws (1975).

In the late 1970s, the PG rating was reworded, the word pre-teenagers replaced with children. An analysis of the proportion of films rated G and PG at that time (corresponding with a cultural shift to stricter rating standards) shows that fewer G ratings were issued, while more family films were rated PG with the less restrictive "children" label. By the early 1980s, the phrase "pre-teenagers" was almost unused, and, in 1984, the PG-13 rating (see below) was established, restoring the clear distinction (see GP and GP* above) between films of lighter and heavier content.

By the end of the 1970s, Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) was the last commercially successful mainstream film that was rated G. (The re-edited director's cut became PG for sci-fi action violence and some cursing, although the ratings-related content was effectively unchanged, thus showing that the standards for the G rating had narrowed significantly between its use in the 1960s and 1970s and in later decades.) Since then, such movies would be released with a PG rating. That transition was when live-action Disney movies, such as The Black Hole, The Watcher in the Woods, and The Devil and Max Devlin were rated PG.

Before July 1, 1984, there was a minor trend of cinema straddling the PG and R ratings (per MPAA records of appeals to its decisions in the early 1980s), suggesting a needed middle ground. One such movie was Watership Down, released in early 1978. Although animated, there was very explicit violence, but what made the film alarming was that the targets of the violence were rabbits. This led to a preconceived notion among the public that this film was for kids; however, it certainly was too violent (but it was given the equivalent of a G rating by the BBFC). Also, Disney's PG-rated Dragonslayer (1981, distributed by Paramount Pictures in the USA) alarmed parents with explicit fantasy violence and blood-letting. In summer of 1982, Poltergeist (1982) was re-rated PG on appeal, although originally rated R for strong supernatural violence and marijuana-smoking parents.

Because of such successful appeals, based upon artistic intent, many mild, mainstream movies were rated PG instead of R because of only some thematically necessary strong cursing, e.g. Tootsie, Terms of Endearment, Sixteen Candles, and Footloose. These censorship reversals were consequence, in large measure, of the 1970s precedent established by All the President's Men. Had these movies been released after 1984, they likely would have been rated PG-13 because of their content.

In 1984, explicit violence in the PG-rated films Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Gremlins were "the straws that broke the parents' backs". Their complaints led Hollywood figure Steven Spielberg, director of Temple of Doom and producer of Gremlins, to suggest a new rating, PG-14, to MPAA president Jack Valenti. Instead, on conferring with cinema owners, Mr Valenti and the MPAA on July 1, 1984, introduced the PG-13 rating, allowing in children under 13 years of age without a parent or an adult guardian, but warning parents about potentially shocking violence, cursing, and mature subject matter that may be inappropriate for children under 13; though weaker than an R rating, PG-13 is the strongest unrestricted rating. The first widely distributed PG-13 movie was Red Dawn (1984), followed by Dreamscape (1984), and The Flamingo Kid (1984), although The Flamingo Kid was the first film so rated by the board.

It took a year for the PG-13 logotype to metamorphose to its current form, as noted below.

With the PG rating still being used unchanged, and with the wordiness of the original PG-13 rating text, it remained unclear to some parents, at first, which rating of PG or PG-13 films was considered more restrictive. A year later, revised language on the PG-13 rating logo clarified this issue (as seen on advertising for the film "Silverado," for example). Until 1990, some of the same content that prompted the creation of the PG-13 rating was in some PG films. For example, Big, Spies Like Us, Spaceballs, Uncle Buck and Nothing in Common were five late-1980s PG releases containing PG-13-level innuendo. Additionally, four films in this period — Spaceballs, Big, Beetlejuice, and Eight Men Out— were able to use the word "fuck" at least once and get a PG rating.

The socially and culturally conservative ratings board quickly reacted to protesting parents, and PG-13 films outnumbered PG films; content standards were narrowed for PG classification. At decade's turn, PG-13 rating standards also were narrowed, at least for violence, as the censors became more likely to issue R ratings to violent films showing explicit blood-letting and the killing of policemen. Except for a brief reversal in 1994, the number of PG-13 films outnumbered the PG films since, and the proportion of R-rated films (beginning with the boom of privately-viewed home video in the late 1980s) has generally increased at the expense of unrestricted films. Only within the last two years has there been an indication that the proportion of restricted films has slightly decreased as a cultural trend.

Some films from before the addition of PG-13 retain their original ratings; however modern standards would give them a higher rating. For example, The Brave Little Toaster, though initially rated G, is dark enough that by today's standards would receive at least a PG rating. Because the ratings of older films go unchanged, people may be misled into associating their ratings with modern ratings.

In the rating system's early years, X-rated movies, such as Midnight Cowboy (1969), A Clockwork Orange (1971), and Fritz the Cat (1972), could earn Oscar nominations and win awards, yet film makers continue disputing the true effects of an X rating.

Although Deep Throat (1972), Behind the Green Door, and The Devil in Miss Jones were rated X, the rating was not made a copyrighted trademark of the MPAA. Pornographers often self-applied it for business reasons, to the degree that it became acceptable in their advertising, and then the eponym for pornography in American mainstream culture; not the rating's original intent. Ironically, its overuse led pornographers to rate their films XXX to increase the success of their marketing efforts.

The MPAA stresses the voluntary nature of their film rating system, denying that it could inhibit a film's commercial distribution and so deny the businessman-filmmaker the right to earn a profit and make a living. Horror films, such as the sequel Day of the Dead (1985) and Re-Animator (1985) were so marketed. Some, such as the horror parody Evil Dead 2 did earn an adult rating, while others, such as Guardian of Hell and Zombie, used such violent content warnings along with their R ratings (sometimes deliberately surrendered) as profitable marketing ploys.

In 1989, two critically-acclaimed mainstream art films, The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer were released featuring very strong sexual and violent content. Neither was approved for an R rating, hence had limited commercial distribution and so were claimed to suffer commercially as unrated films. Again, in answer to such dilemmas between art and commerce, David Lynch (writer and director of Blue Velvet) suggested establishing an RR rating for such mainstream adult drama films.

On September 27, 1990, the MPAA introduced the rating NC-17 ("No Children Under 17 Admitted") as its official, standardized rating allowing the commercial distribution of adult-oriented cinema bearing the MPAA seal. This rating, as opposed to no rating, would in practice be an indication that the film is not pornography. (Pornographers tend not to submit their films for rating, since pornography is either independently distributed to cinemas or directly to video distributors). Thus, for the first time, people could differentiate between MPAA-rated adult mainstream cinema and pornography, leaving the definition of "obscene" to the viewer.

In practice, however, communications media that refused to advertise pornography and X-rated films also refused to advertise NC-17 movies as equally unsuitable for family consumption through their venues, effectively transferring censorship authority to cinema landlords' decisions to permit or deny the exhibition of such movies. In addition, socially conservative and religious groups pressured video distribution businesses (e.g. Blockbuster Video and Hollywood Video), to not rent or sell NC-17 movies, citing "family values." Nevertheless, the stores do rent and sell the movies, provided they are not explicitly labeled as such, i.e. are in a plain wrapper. In 1995, the NC-17 rating age limit was subtly increased by one year, by rewording it from "No Children Under 17 Admitted" to "No One 17 And Under Admitted".

Starting with Henry & June (1990), few NC-17 movies have proved profitable, but United Artists, boldly attempting to broaden public acceptance of such films, marketed the big budget drama Showgirls with clever, colourful television and print advertising. To date, it was the only widely distributed NC-17 movie—to 1,388 cinemas simultaneously. It also was critically savaged, earned little money for the studio, and for a time, established the NC-17 rating as commercially untenable: "box office poison" in journalese. Also, Showgirls was a factor in the ultimate failure of Carolco Pictures, the co-distributor/international distributor of the film. It was in that same year that "Showgirls" was released, 1996, that a subtle wording change in the NC-17 rating effectively lifted the age restriction to age 18 instead of 17. Previously, the rating meant "no children under 17 admitted" but the revised logo from 1996 onward now reads "no one 17 and under admitted," with the interesting effect that NC-17 no longer serves as a true abbreviation for the descriptive text.

The makers of the critically-successful anti-drug film Requiem for a Dream (2000) released it unrated, rather than endanger any commercial success with an NC-17 rating. The MPAA had threatened using that rating because of an orgy depicted in the movie's climax. Despite artistic intent, the MPAA rejected the filmmakers' appeal for an R rating. Today, the NC-17 rating tends to cinema appealing to the art house patrons who do not interpret the rating as either a positive or a negative reflection upon a film's content.

Most NC-17 films are released in cinemas, either in an edited, R-rated version or in its original version. Most films that were rated NC-17 would be re-edited to get R ratings for United States theatrical release, and later get released as both the original, unrated "uncut" version and the censored R-rated version on the home video market (e.g. Basic Instinct). Only the viewers can determine whether or not that was a marketing strategy to make more money, or if it is censorship. American film studios release NC-17 movies abroad uncensored and artistically intact, adding controversy to the subject of the MPAA's movie ratings system in the United States.

Still, there are some exceptions: for example, the studio Fox Searchlight Pictures released the original NC-17-rated American edition of the European movie The Dreamers (2003) in theaters in the United States, and later released both the original NC-17-rated "Director's Cut" and the censored R-rated version on DVD. A Fox Searchlight spokesman said the NC-17 rating did not give them much trouble in releasing this film (they had no problem booking it, and only a Mormon-owned newspaper in Salt Lake City refused to take the film's ad), and Fox Searchlight was satisfied with this film's United States box office result.

The most recent major-studio film rated NC-17 is Focus Features' Lust, Caution (2007), about an assassination conspiracy in Shanghai during World War II, on account of its eroticism, not its violence; director Ang Lee did not alter his film for distribution in the U.S.A. Even with the NC-17 rating, major theater circuits like Regal and AMC had no concerns about booking this film, and most newspapers accepted the film's ads (except for Salt Lake City); it grossed $4.6 million in the United States theatrically, and Focus was very satisfied with this film's theatrical release. National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) even gave a Freedom of Expression Award to Lust, Caution for its NC-17 rating.

Even though NC-17 films did not become big box office hits in the United States, they tended to make much more money on the home video/DVD market. For example, Showgirls became one of MGM's top 20 all-time bestsellers, and Lust, Caution has generated more than $24 million from its DVD sales and rentals in the United States.

However, there are still many motion picture companies that are reluctant to release movies with, or with the potential of receiving, an NC-17 rating. Many motion picture groups either release their movies unrated or rated R rather than release the films under the NC-17 rating labels marked on them by the MPAA.

In March 2007, according to Variety, MPAA chairman Dan Glickman has been trying to create a new rating called "Hard R" for films that contain too much violence, sexual content, language, and impudence; the suggested rating would also forbid people under the age of 18 to watch the films, much like NC-17. The move is apparently motivated by parents, who have been pressuring Glickman and the MPAA to create a new rating to solve the problem because they think the R rating is too "wide-ranged". The other problem is that if Hard R horror films were rated NC-17, they would lose a large amount of the teen audience.

Film studios have also pressured the MPAA to retire the NC-17 rating, because it can make their film worthless (e.g. most Blockbuster stores refuse to carry DVDs rated NC-17 and many daily newspapers also refuse ads for NC-17 films).

The colors refer to the background colors of the cards. As long as the trailer meets the MPAA guidelines for a green band rating, the rating for the film it is advertising is irrelevant, although many title cards indicate not only the trailer's rating but the rating of the film being advertised as well. In theory, a green band trailer for an R-rated movie could play before a G-rated film, although most theaters will not do this in practice.

Members of the MPAA's Classification and Rating Administration, which the MPAA claims consists of a demographically balanced panel of parents, view the movie, discuss it, and vote on the film's rating. In fact, many of the "children" of the "parent" members are adults. Further information about members is difficult to obtain, as they operate in secret. The only publicly known member is chair Joan Graves. If the movie's producer is unhappy with this rating, he or she can re-edit the film and resubmit it, or can appeal to an Appeals Board. Appeals generally involve a film which was rated R for which the producer is seeking to have the rating changed to PG-13, or a film rated NC-17 for which the producer is seeking to have the rating changed to R.

Legally, the rating system is entirely voluntary. However, signatory members of the MPAA (major studios) have agreed to submit all of their theatrical releases for rating, and few mainstream producers are willing to bypass the rating system due to potential effects on revenues. Most films released unrated nowadays are either relatively obscure independent films, pornographic films, foreign films, direct-to-video films, made-for-TV films, documentaries not expected to play outside the arthouse market, or large format (IMAX) films, which typically contain minimal offensive content and generally receive a G or PG rating when they are submitted for a rating.

Since the 1970s, G ratings have been commonly associated with children's movies and could limit a movie's audience. It is sometimes said that the makers of the original Star Wars movie purposely added scenes in order to trigger a PG rating to find a broader range of audience. Since about the beginning of the 21st Century, PG ratings have also been associated with children's films, and are widely considered to be commercially bad for films targeted at teenagers and adults. For example, the 2004 action/adventure film Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, which was not targeted at children, received a PG rating, which some believe caused it to underperform at the box office as preteens and teenagers—both huge movie-going demographics—may have brushed it off as a "kiddie flick". In 2001, in response to the poorer performance of R-rated material, the film industry began to shift focus toward PG-13-rated films. None of the X or NC-17 films have been commercially successful, not even Showgirls which was a widespread release in 1995. Another example was the uproar among Harry Potter fans when it was revealed that the highly anticipated Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince would receive a PG rating. A large portion of fans said that a PG rating would dumb down the dark, grim tone of the book, mentioning scenes that would be too violent or scary for a PG rating.

While some may debate the degree to which any such things are truly unintended, since the ratings now have a clearly established use as part of the marketing strategy for a film, the whole question of children tending to scorn "tame" G or PG fare in favor of whatever they can get away with seeing is a legitimate criticism of an age-based rating system. Some R-rated films are not aimed at older adults, but at a high school and college-age market eager to engage in what they perceive as mature activities. Thus, the pretense that offensive content can be considered "adult" serves as a misleading marketing strategy to attract a youthful audience, often for purely sensational or provocative content for its own sake.

The minimum age for unaccompanied patrons at R-rated films, and all patrons at X-rated films, was originally set at 16. By 1970 it was raised to 17 (in some areas the age may be higher still—often 18—and in rare cases as high as 21). Theater owners could still allow anyone into R-rated films without being accompanied by an adult since the rating system is technically voluntary and in most jurisdictions does not have the force of law behind it. Attendance at films with strong enough content to merit an NC-17 rating could be restricted by law due to the possibility of being considered indecent.

In the 1970s the East Coast based Century theater chain used its own rating system, with only three categories instead of four: For All Ages, For Mature Audiences, and No One Under 17 Admitted, with most, but not all, R-rated films receiving the middle designation, under which no age limits were enforced. In 2000, due to issues raised by Senator Joseph Lieberman, the National Association of Theatre Owners, the major trade association in the U.S., announced it would start strict enforcement of identification checks for R- and NC-17-rated movies.

Many retailers of videos, especially Wal-Mart, tend to prohibit the sale of R-rated movies to minors. POS systems are set up to prevent a transaction without a sales associate checking an ID.

The 2001 independent film L.I.E. disputed its NC-17 rating and waged a publicity campaign against the arbitrary nature of the ratings system. Lot 47, the film's distributor, lost its appeal, and released the film unrated (it was later cut for video and was given an R rating). With the recent success of another NC-17 film, The Dreamers, some film producers and directors hope that the rating may begin to lose some of its stigma and more movie theaters will consider playing such films. The Dreamers also had an R-rated version released on DVD and VHS. NC-17 films often have R-rated versions when released on DVD. Another film to successfully challenge its NC-17 rating was the cult classic 1994 comedy Clerks., which eventually garnered an R rating. Director Kevin Smith announced he was prepared to release the sequel, Clerks 2, without a rating, but was surprised and relieved when the MPAA passed it uncut with an R rating. Gunner Palace appealed to the MPAA and overthrew its R rating in favour of a PG-13 rating, even though it contains 42 instances of the word fuck, some used sexually. black people complained that rating criteria were too heavily biased against inner-city conditions and dialects. For his 1971 film Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, director Melvin Van Peebles came up with a winning ad slogan ("Rated X by an All-White Jury") that proved successful with the urban market. The revision of the ages upward corresponded with a slackening of standards that generally allowed most such product to receive an R rating thereafter.

Since the rapid expansion of the home video market in the late 1990s, studios have been known to skirt the rating system and release unrated versions of films on videocassette and DVD. Sometimes these versions would have earned an NC-17 if submitted for rating, but often their unrated status is merely for marketing purposes. Films that have been rated PG-13 in their theatrical run are sometimes extended with footage equivalent to an R (but not NC-17) rating and marketed as "unrated" with the implication that the added unrated material is racier than an R rating would permit. For example, one DVD release of American Pie, rated R in its theatrical release, exclaims on the box, "UNRATED! The Version You Couldn't See In Theaters". Sometimes the difference between an R-rated feature and its unrated home video counterpart is as little as a few seconds, while other unrated video editions add scenes that have no sexual or violent content whatsoever, making them "unrated" in the technical sense even though they contain no more provocative material than the theatrical version (one example of this would be Unleashed). A number of filmmakers have also taken to filming additional footage specifically for video or DVD release, with no intention of submitting this material to the MPAA.

Some foreign and independent films do not bother to submit to the rating system, reasoning that they will not be distributed widely beyond their arthouse audience, so the expense is unnecessary.

The movie rating system has had a number of high profile critics. Film critic Roger Ebert argues that the system places too much emphasis on not showing sex while allowing the portrayal of massive amounts of gruesome violence. The uneven emphasis on sex versus violence is echoed by other critics, including David Ansen, as well as many filmmakers. Moreover, Ebert argues that the rating system is geared toward looking at trivial aspects of the movie (such as the number of times a profane word is used) rather than at the general theme of the movie (for example, if the movie realistically depicts the consequences of sex and violence). He has called for an A (adults only) rating, to indicate films high in violence or mature content that should not be marketed to teenagers, but do not have NC-17 levels of sex. He has also called for the NC-17 rating to be removed and have the X rating revived. He felt that everyone understood what X-rated means while fewer people understood what NC-17 meant. He called for ratings A and X to identify whether an adult film is pornographic or not. Roger Ebert came up with this idea when he felt that The Passion of the Christ did not get the NC-17 rating it deserved.

MPAA chairman Dan Glickman has rebutted these claims, stating that far more films are initially rated NC-17 for violence than for sex but that these are later edited by studios to receive an R rating.

Perhaps with these objections in mind, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Office for Film and Broadcasting (a descendant of the formerly influential National Legion of Decency) maintains its own film classification system, which takes the overall "moral tone" of a film into account, rather than focusing on content alone.

Many critics of the MPAA system, especially independent distributors, have charged that major studios' releases often receive more lenient treatment than independent films. They allege that Saving Private Ryan, with its intense depiction of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, would have earned an NC-17 had it not been a Steven Spielberg film. The independent film Saints and Soldiers, which contains no sex, very little profanity, and a minimum of violence, was said to have been rated R for a single clip where a main character is shot and killed, and required modification of just that one scene to receive a PG-13 rating. The comedy Scary Movie, released by a division of The Walt Disney Company's Miramax Films, contained "strong crude sexual humor, language, drug use and violence" but was rated R, to the surprise of many reviewers and audiences; by comparison, the comparatively tame porn spoof Orgazmo, an independent release by South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, contained "explicit sexual content and dialogue" and received an NC-17 in the U.S. and R-equivalent or (more often) lower ratings in other countries. Stone and Parker went on to say that when asking what could be toned down to receive an R rating, they were told by the MPAA that multiple cuts would be needed, but were not told any specifics, as the MPAA wanted to avoid being labeled a 'censorship group'. As Parker and Stone did not have the money and the time to edit the film, it retained its NC-17 rating. Stone and Parker said in an interview that their feature length South Park film, South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut, was previously given an NC-17 rating though Parker and Stone claim that what the MPAA explicitly wanted cut was replaced with much worse things.

Before Miramax Films was purchased by The Walt Disney Company, Miramax founders Bob and Harvey Weinstein often clashed with the MPAA, proclaimed the rating system unfair to independents, and released some films unrated to avoid an X or NC-17 rating. Orgazmo director Trey Parker's ratings battles later inspired the (R-rated) film South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, which directly criticized the MPAA and holds the Guinness world record for most profanity and violence in an animated feature (399 profane words, 128 offensive gestures and 221 acts of violence).

Another criticism of the ratings system is the apparent arbitrary nature in designating PG-13- and R-rated content. Many critics (professional, the general public and religious and moral groups) believe that the content of recent PG-13-rated films equals that of R-rated films from the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s. For example, depictions of sexual content, violence, profanity and other objectionable content in a PG-13-rated film from the late 1990s on may have been considered "R level" in the 1970s and 1980s. A Harvard study suggested that the rating system has allowed far more violence, sex, profanity, drug use and other mature content in 2003 than they have allowed in 1992 in PG- and PG-13 rated movies.

Although an actual content analysis of films shows that in recent years (since the Congressionally-inspired advertising crackdown in the early 2000s) there is indeed more content being allowed in PG-13 films than was the norm in the 1990s, this recent trend does not match the claims put forth in the Harvard study, which finds such a trend during a time period when the actual ratings criteria had become some of the most restrictive and conservative in most content categories except for strong language. Thus, the 1990s were the exception, in which the conservatism of the rating criteria caused the smallest percentage ever of unrestricted films to occur (about 70% of all films R-rated, compared with closer to 60% in recent years, and 50% or fewer in the very first years of the system). Even with recent expansion of permissiveness in some categories, such as violence, the ratings criteria is still not as permissive as it was in its early years in the 1960s and 1970s. One example to demonstrate this is that the 1960s film "Bonnie and Clyde," which was rated M (an unrestricted category equivalent to PG-13) in the late 1960s, was very recently rerated R for violence. There is even a case in which an early G-rated film ("Salt and Pepper") was re-rated PG-13, and a content analysis of early G-rated films will reveal that on many issues (nudity, violence) this trend is more broadly true: the vast majority of early G-rated films would be rated PG today, and even PG-13 and possibly R, due to primarily to violent content that could include gore, and occasionally due to nudity and drug-related elements. (Examples: "The Andromeda Strain," "Zeppelin," "Planet of the Apes," "Popi," "Dracula Has Risen from the Grave").

The MPAA has stated that, due to changing societal norms, it is appropriate for their standards to change over time - in some cases being more restrictive (e.g. films that portray even casual and brief cigarette smoking are now rated PG), and in other cases being more permissive (e.g. it was normal in the early years for most films using the word "fuck" to receive an R rating) than at other times.

Many critics of the system, both conservative and liberal, would like to see the MPAA ratings unveiled and the standards made public. The MPAA has consistently cited nationwide scientific polls (conducted each year by the Opinion Research Corporation of Princeton, New Jersey), which show that parents find the ratings useful. Critics respond this proves only that parents find the ratings more useful than nothing at all.

An internal critic of the early workings of the ratings system is film critic and writer Stephen Farber, who was a CARA intern for six months during 1969 and 1970. In The Movie Ratings Game (Public Affairs Press), he documents how, since its early days, the board has used the same censorship tactics it uses today: threatening an X rating to force a filmmaker to delete content offensive to the personal sensibilities of the board's members; the lopsided prejudice against sex in relation to violence; and the use of psychological jargon to justify restricting films because of their themes rather than their images, even when inexplicit; for example, the anti-war movie The Revolutionary first was rated PG, but later was re-rated R because it is anti-war.

Farber also documents how the ratings board used its power to punish creative filmmakers such as Stanley Kubrick (A Clockwork Orange) and John Schlesinger (Midnight Cowboy) while rewarding conservative, uncontroversial filmmakers and films with open-ended ratings; the hypocrisy about "protecting" in light of the fact that most of the severities imposed on certain films is borne less for impact on children than on parents' reactions; and annoyance at the board's R rating of the film of the Woodstock music festival (1970), given that the festival itself had no age restrictions, which arguably is less traumatic an experience than was the festival.

Another problem, he notes (and one cited in modern-day criticism), is the freely-wielded threat of a restrictive rating to force studios to tone down submitted films; he cites movies that were re-cut not only to be removed from the X category (sometimes as many as two brackets, to PG), but for re-rating from R to PG, and from PG to G. This censorship extends to screenplays submitted for analysis to determine a projected rating; for example, The Panic in Needle Park (1971). The script was rated X because of its vulgar, street junkie dialogue, cursing, and many references to using heroin; it was released with an R rating.

Farber suggests that the X rating either be abolished or re-labelled to A (adult) or AO (adults only), but recommends its abolition, arguing that an R rating ought to be an enlightened society's most restrictive film rating. He concludes The Movie Ratings Game by endorsing public pressure and economic activism as the best means of reform, because, as he puts it, "The rating system is certainly not going to be reformed from within".

To the top

Film Advisory Board

The Film Advisory Board, Inc. (FAB) is a member-supported organization founded in 1975 by Elayne Blythe (1919 - 2005). The FAB's "Award of Excelence" was developed to award quality family-oriented and children's entertainment in both print and electronic media.

The second division of FAB is the FAB Ratings System. Originally developed by Elayne Blythe in four categories ("L", "V", "N" and "S", for (respectively) Language, Violence, Nudity and Sex), the present system was developed in 1988 at the request of independent film makers and distributors as an alternative to the Motion Picture Association of America film rating system. The FAB ratings system is intended to be less costly and more informative than the MPAA's system. The ratings fee is based on the film's running time instead of negative cost, and the ratings are based on the level of maturity of the material's intended audience, rather than the film's content.

While the FAB ratings system is not as recognized or well-known as the MPAA's rating system, it is in use by a number of commercial video distributors for direct-to-video releases that would have been impractical to submit to the MPAA.

The Film Advisory Board has six ratings categories. Each includes a brief description as to the rating's explanation, such as "Violence in Battle Scenes", "Substance Abuse" or "Brief Nudity".

The Film Advisory Board has come under criticism as of late with the seemingly wide use of the FAB Seal of Excellence, with critics stating that while the seal denotes family-friendly entertainment, it does not always denote quality. When Gelf Magazine contacted Janet Stokes, current head of the FAB, about awarding the FAB Seal of Excellence to the box-office flop Deck the Halls, she admitted that the FAB does not review movies, but determines which are suitable for children.

To the top

Motion Picture Association of America

MPAA Logo.svg

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) was since 1922, originally the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA) (pre - 1942 and 1946 - 1948), is a non-profit business and trade association based in the United States, which was formed to advance the business interests of movie studios.

The MPAA administers the voluntary film rating system. MGM was an MPAA member until 2005, shortly after Sony Pictures Entertainment's failed attempt to buy that studio; it ended in a partly Sony-funded acquisition. Lions Gate also joined the film rating system, but was not in the big seven. Neither is The Weinstein Company.

As part of its campaign to stop copyright infringement the MPAA is fighting to stop the sharing of copyrighted works via peer-to-peer file-sharing networks. The MPAA's anti-piracy campaign has gained much publicity and criticism.

From 1966 to 2004, Jack Valenti was MPAA president, virtually becoming the association's eponym because of his long tenure and high public profile. Valenti retired on 1 September 2004. Dan Glickman, a former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, now serves as the MPAA Chairman and chief executive officer.

Kori Bernards is the MPAA's corporate-communications vice-president and principal spokeswoman.

You Wouldn't Steal a Car is a 2004 advertisement by the MPAA that is put before the actual content on many DVDs. It is sometimes made impossible to skip, so the viewer must watch it, but sometimes it can be skipped by pressing the skip button or the menu button.

The voiceover (and text) of the ad says "You wouldn’t steal a car. You wouldn’t steal a handbag. You wouldn’t steal a mobile phone. You wouldn’t steal a DVD. Buying pirated films is stealing…Stealing...Is Against...The Law...Piracy: It’s a crime." The ad has been parodied several times and ironically, was known to appear in many copies of pirated DVDs.

The MPAA has taken legal actions against a number of peer-to-peer file-sharing sites (or BitTorrent trackers) that are used to upload and download copyrighted material (such as movies). Widely publicised examples include Razorback2 and The Pirate Bay.

On 21 February 2006, the servers located in a Belgian datacenter were confiscated by the Belgian police, and their operator, who lives in Switzerland, was arrested. This was done after a local judge authorized the confiscation at the datacenter in Zaventem near Brussels, after initiation by the MPAA.

On 31 May 2006, Swedish police raided The Pirate Bay, a Sweden based BitTorrent tracker, prompted by allegations of copyright violations. Some 65 police officers participated in the raid, shutting down the site and confiscating its servers, as well as all other servers hosted by The Pirate Bay's ISP, PRQ Inet. Three people, Gottfrid Svartholm, Mikael Viborg, and Fredrik Neij, were held by the police for questioning. Four days later, The Pirate Bay was fully functional again.

The raid became controversial in Sweden when the Swedish public broadcast network, Sveriges Television cited unnamed sources claiming that the raid was prompted by political pressure from the United States, which the Swedish government denies. Specifically, the claim is that the Swedish government was threatened with WTO trade sanctions unless action was taken against The Pirate Bay. There have been claims of ministerstyre (lit. "minister rule", when a politician pressures another government agency to take action, which is unconstitutional in Sweden) in connection with this allegation. A letter titled "Re: The Pirate Bay" from the MPAA to Dan Eliasson, the Swedish State Secretary, was dated two months before the raid and hinted at trade reprisals ("It is certainly not in Sweden's best interests to earn a reputation as a place where utter lawlessness is tolerated") and urged him to "exercise your influence to urge law enforcement officers in Sweden to take much needed action against The Pirate Bay".

In the 2007 documentary Good Copy Bad Copy, as well as the film Steal This Film II, Glickman is interviewed in connection with the 2006 raid on The Pirate Bay by the Swedish police, conceding that piracy will never be stopped, but stating that they will try to make it as difficult and tedious as possible.

One example is the film rating system. Many believe that the intent of the various ratings has been subverted. For example, there is widespread access to R-rated movies even for those under 17, while the NC-17 rating spells commercial death for a film, undermining its purpose.

Film critic Roger Ebert has called for an entirely new system of ratings designed to address these issues. Some people criticize film-makers for editing their works to conform to the various ratings. For example, they might excise some extreme violence or sex to avoid an NC-17, or even "spice up" a children's movie so as to move from G to PG and appeal to older children. The ratings system itself is attacked as de facto censorship by free-speech activists, and conversely as too lenient in its content standards by some conservative critics, religious leaders, lawyers, and parental review sites. In This Film is Not Yet Rated, Kirby Dick argues that the MPAA tends to be considered more complacent with violent content than sexual, and that there is more bias against homosexual sexual content than heterosexual.

The rise of the Internet has further emphasized the MPAA’s role in controlling content. However, the Internet allows some users to access content they otherwise could not, such as viewing NC-17 movies that are not shown in theatres. The MPAA has responded legally by seeking to shut down piracy websites.

The MPAA has forced some well known fanfiction sites such as to cease using the MPAA Rating System to rate fanfictions on the site due to copyright infringement on the rating system. Although the MPAA has won several victories against online piracy such as the Razorback2 raid and a series of successful lawsuits against public torrent websites, online piracy is still growing steadily with modern studies showing more and more participants.

The effect MPAA raids have had on overall online pirating traffic is, to date, limited — the day Razorback2 (a major server on the Edonkey2000 network) was shut down, Edonkey2000 network traffic stayed the same, showing negligible change. However the MPAA has had a very successful history shutting down networks of pirated material and torrent sites, bolstering a record of approximately 75 during 2006.

Sociologists would identify the MPAA’s new war on anti-piracy as an attempt to reincorporate their control of how people consume media. Although the MPAA has sued numerous websites that distribute pirated material, they have never sought financial retribution. Some argue that the manner in which the MPAA has so vigorously pursued these websites is an example of their apprehension to relinquish power over media productions and their control on establishing and maintaining moral standards in media. This battle between the MPAA and cultural consumers is a typical example of excorporation and reincorporation, as defined by sociologist John Fiske.

In the MPAA press release from May 31, 2006 on The Pirate Bay raid the MPAA stated that they lost $6.1 billion dollars nationwide to piracy in 2005, and that internet piracy alone had cost the studios $2.3 billion. This is especially so as over 20 percent, $1.4 billion, of the $6.1 billion figure represents what is essentially making a non-commercial backups, either virtually on a device or physically on another disc, which is protected under United States law. These numbers are further suspicious due to the private nature of the study, which cannot be publicly checked for methodology or validity.

On January 22, 2008, it was revealed that the MPAA numbers on piracy in colleges was grossly inflated by up to 300%. This came at a time when the MPAA were trying to push a bill through which would compel universities to crack down on piracy.

In 2007, English software developer Patrick Robin reported that the MPAA was illegally using his blogging platform, Forest Blog. Forest Blog is distributed for free under a linkware license; anyone who uses it must link back to his site where Forest Blog is offered for download. To remove the links back to his site, they must purchase a license. The MPAA had removed the links, without paying for a license.

On November 23, 2007, Matthew Garret notified the MPAA that it was in violation of the GNU General Public License (GPL) for distributing a software toolkit designed to help universities detect instances of potentially illegal file-sharing on school networks. This tool kit was based on the Xubuntu operating system, which is licensed under the GPL. The violation was distributing a derived work without making the source code available. On December 1, 2007, Garrett notified the Internet service provider for the MPAA that, in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, he was requesting them to disable the offending distribution web site. It is not clear if this request was ever honored. However, the MPAA did change the site so as not to offer the toolkit for distribution.

In the DVD extras to the film This Film Is Not Yet Rated director Kirby Dick accuses the MPAA of making an illegal copy of his film during the process of reviewing the film for its rating.

Since the MPAA members are the Motion Picture industry's most powerful studios, representing some of the world's largest media corporations, allegations of monopoly are often brought up by critics. Critics also point to the MPAA's support for closed standards that hinder competition. Other critics have suggested that films released by major studios (members of the MPAA) are given more deference in terms of ratings than films released by independents. The movie This Film Is Not Yet Rated revolves around this idea.

To the top

This Film Is Not Yet Rated

TFINYR poster.jpg

This Film Is Not Yet Rated is an independent documentary film about the Motion Picture Association of America's rating system and its effect on American culture, directed by Kirby Dick and produced by Eddie Schmidt. It premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival and was released limited on September 1, 2006. The Independent Film Channel, the film's producer, aired the film later that year.

The MPAA gave the original cut of the film an NC-17 rating for "some graphic sexual content" – scenes that illustrated the content a film could include to garner an NC-17 rating. Kirby Dick appealed, and descriptions of the ratings deliberations and appeal were included in the documentary. The new version of the film is not rated.

The film discusses disparities the filmmaker sees in ratings and feedback: between Hollywood and independent films, between homosexual and heterosexual sexual situations, between male and female sexual depictions, and between violence and sexual content.

Much of the film's press coverage was devoted to Dick and his crew's use of a private investigator, Becky Altringer to unmask the identities of the ratings and appeals board members.

Other revelations in the film include: the discovery that many ratings board members either have children 18 and over or have no children at all (typically, the MPAA has suggested it hires only parents with children between the ages of 5 and 17); that the board seems to treat homosexual material much more harshly than heterosexual material (this assertion is supported by an MPAA spokesperson’s statement in USA Today that "We don't create standards; we just follow them"); that the board's raters receive no training and are deliberately chosen because of their lack of expertise in media literacy or child development; that senior raters have direct contact in the form of required meetings with studio personnel after movie screenings; and that the MPAA's appeals board is just as secretive as the ratings board, its members being mostly movie theater chain and studio executives. Also included on the appeals board are two members of the clergy (one Catholic and one Episcopalian, who may or may not have voting power).

Prior to Sundance, the film sparked initial press interest when it was handed an NC-17 rating by the MPAA for "some graphic sexual content." When it premiered at Sundance, the film's ratings deliberations, along with Kirby Dick’s appeal, were included in the documentary. Since the film had changed dramatically from the time of the NC-17 rating, the film cannot be released with an MPAA rating without the film being resubmitted for review.

The film went on to draw crowds at many other festivals, including South by Southwest and the Seattle International Film Festival, and was slated for theatrical release in fall 2006.

According to the investigation done within the film, the following people (as of 2006) have been named as members of the MPAA review board, also known as CARA. Included is their age, marital status, and the age of their children as of 2005 when the film was shot. These details play a huge part in the film, as the MPAA states (according to the film) that the board is composed of real, average American parents (with children between the ages of 5 and 17) who serve fewer than 5 years.

At Sundance, the film received a standing ovation amidst a wave of favorable coverage by major publications. The magazines Rolling Stone ("terrific...indispensable"), Entertainment Weekly ("irresistible") and USA Today ("rated R for raves"), as well as journalists such as Roger Ebert ("devastating") and Film Comment’s Gavin Smith ("incisive") praised the film for its novel techniques and unprecedented revelations that dispute longstanding MPAA statements about the ratings system.

On January 24, 2006, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) admitted to making duplicates of a digital copy of the film that was provided to them for the purpose of obtaining an MPAA rating. According to the film's director, Kirby Dick, he sought assurances that no copies would be made or distributed for any other purpose.

The MPAA admitted to making copies of the film contrary to Dick's wishes although they contend that doing so did not constitute copyright infringement or a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). They say that the privacy of the raters themselves might have been violated by Dick. Since no complaint has been filed against Dick, and since the DMCA addresses the act of subverting access control and not copying, it is unclear whether the MPAA's justification is legally sound.

Dick's lawyer, Michael Donaldson, has requested that the MPAA destroy all copies of the film in their possession and notify him of who has seen the film and received copies.

The DVD version of the film contains deleted scenes that showed both phone calls where Kirby Dick was assured that no copy would be made, and the last one, during which he found out that a copy had indeed been created.

To the top

Hays Code

Production Code cover.

The Production Code (popularly known as the Hays Code or the Breen Office) was the set of industry censorship guidelines, and the office enforcing them, which governed the production of United States motion pictures from 1930 to 1968. The Motion Pictures Producers and Distributors Association (MPPDA), which later became the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), adopted the code in 1930, began effectively enforcing it in 1934, and abandoned it in 1968 in favor of the subsequent MPAA film rating system. The Production Code spelled out what was morally acceptable and morally unacceptable content for motion pictures produced for a public audience in the United States.

City and state censorship ordinances are as old as the movies themselves. However, after the United States Supreme Court ruled in 1915 (Mutual Film Corporation v. Industrial Commission of Ohio) that motion pictures were merely a business and not an art form, and thus not covered by the First Amendment, such ordinances banning the public exhibition of "immoral" films proliferated. The movie studios feared that federal regulations were not far off.

In the early 1920s, three major scandals rocked Hollywood: the manslaughter trials of comedy star Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle, who was charged with being responsible for the death of actress Virginia Rappe at a wild party in San Francisco during Labor Day weekend of 1921; the murder of director William Desmond Taylor in February 1922 and the revelations regarding his bisexuality; and the drug-related death of popular actor Wallace Reid in January 1923.

Other allegedly drug-related deaths of stars Olive Thomas, Barbara La Marr, Jeanne Eagels, and Alma Rubens resulted in persistent calls for censorship and "cleaning up" of Hollywood all through the '20s. These stories were sensationalized in the press and grabbed headlines across the country. They appeared to confirm a widespread perception that many Americans had of Hollywood — that it was "Sin City".

Public outcry over perceived immorality in Hollywood and the movies, as well as the growing number of city and state censorship boards, led to the creation in 1922 of the Motion Pictures Producers and Distributors Association (which became the Motion Picture Association of America in 1945), an industry trade and lobby organization. The association was headed by Will H. Hays, a well-connected Republican lawyer who had previously been United States Postmaster General and the 1920 campaign manager for President Warren G. Harding. Hays immediately banned Fatty Arbuckle from the movies and instituted a morality clause to apply to anyone working in films. He also derailed attempts to institute federal censorship over the movies.

In 1927 Hays compiled a list of subjects, culled from his experience with the various U.S. censorship boards, which he felt Hollywood studios would be wise to avoid. He called this list "the formula" but it was popularly known as the "don'ts and be carefuls" list around town. In 1930 Hays created the Studio Relations Committee (SRC) to implement his censorship code, but the SRC lacked any real enforcement capability.

The advent of talking pictures in 1927 led to a perceived need for further enforcement. Martin J. Quigley, the publisher of a Chicago-based motion picture trade newspaper, began lobbying for a more extensive code that not only listed material that was inappropriate for the movies, but also contained a moral system that the movies could help to promote - specifically a system based on Catholic theology. He recruited Father Daniel Lord, a Jesuit priest and instructor at the Catholic St. Louis University, to write such a code and on March 31, 1930 the board of directors of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors Association adopted it formally. It has become known to posterity as the Hays Code.

However, Depression economics and changing social mores resulted in the studios producing racier fare that the Code, lacking an aggressive enforcement body, was unable to redress. This era of Hollywood filmmaking is therefore known as the "pre-Code era".

In response to such movies as Warner Brothers' Baby Face (starring Barbara Stanwyck) and Paramount Pictures' I'm No Angel (starring and written by Mae West), Quigley and Joseph I. Breen, Will Hays's Los Angeles–based assistant, enlisted the Catholic Church to exert pressure on the Hollywood studios. They helped spearhead the creation of the Catholic Legion of Decency as well as boycotts and blacklists of the movies throughout the country.

An amendment to the Code, adopted on June 13, 1934, established the Production Code Administration (PCA), and required all films released on or after July 1 1934 to obtain a certificate of approval before being released. For more than thirty years following, virtually all motion pictures produced in the United States adhered to the code. The Production Code was not created or enforced by federal, state, or city government. In fact, the Hollywood studios adopted the code in large part in the hopes of avoiding government censorship, preferring self-regulation to government regulation.

The enforcement of the Production Code led to the dissolution of many local censorship boards. Meanwhile, the U.S. Customs Department prohibited the importation of the Czech film Ecstasy (1933), starring an actress soon to be known as Hedy Lamarr, an action which was upheld on appeal.

In 1934, Joseph I. Breen (1888-1965) was appointed head of the new Production Code Administration (PCA). Under Breen's leadership of the PCA, which lasted until his retirement in 1954, enforcement of the Production Code became rigid and notorious. Breen's power to change scripts and scenes angered many writers, directors, and Hollywood moguls.

The first major instance of censorship under the Production Code involved the 1934 film Tarzan and His Mate, in which brief nude scenes involving a body double for actress Maureen O'Sullivan were edited out of the master negative of the film. Another famous case of enforcement involved the 1943 western The Outlaw, produced by Howard Hughes. The Outlaw was denied a certificate of approval and kept out of theaters for years because the film's advertising focused particular attention on Jane Russell's breasts. Hughes eventually persuaded Breen that the breasts did not violate the code and the film could be shown.

Some films produced outside the mainstream studio system during this time did flout the conventions of the code, such as Child Bride (1938), which featured a nude scene involving 12-year-old actress Shirley Mills. Even cartoon sex symbol Betty Boop had to change from being a flapper, and began to wear an old-fashioned housewife skirt.

Hollywood worked within the confines of the Production Code until the late 1950s, by which time the "Golden Age of Hollywood" had ended, and the movies were faced with very serious competitive threats. The first threat came from a new technology, television, which did not require Americans to leave their house to watch moving pictures. Hollywood needed to offer the public something it could not get on television, which itself was under an even more restrictive censorship code.

In addition to the threat of television, there was also increasing competition from foreign films, like Vittorio de Sica's Bicycle Thieves (1948), the Swedish film Hon dansade en sommar (English title: One Summer of Happiness) (1951), and Ingmar Bergman's Sommar med Monika (Summer with Monika) (1953). For De Sica's film, there was a censorship controversy when the MPAA demanded a scene where the lead characters talk to the prostitutes of a brothel be removed, regardless of the fact that there is no sexual or provocative activity. The Swedish films were the first to include nude love scenes, and made an international sensation.

Vertical integration in the movie industry had been found to violate anti-trust laws, and studios had been forced to give up ownership of theatres by the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc. (1948). The studios had no way to keep foreign films out, and foreign films weren't bound by the Production Code. The anti-trust rulings also helped pave the way for independent art houses that would show films created by people such as Andy Warhol and others working outside the studio system.

Finally, a boycott from the Legion of Decency no longer guaranteed a commercial failure, and thus the Code prohibitions began to vanish when Hollywood producers ignored the Code and were still able to earn profits.

The MPAA revised the code in 1951, not to make it more flexible, but to make it more rigid. The 1951 revisions spelled out more words and subjects that were prohibited, and no doubt increased the opposition of movie-makers to the code.

In 1952, in the case of Joseph Burstyn, Inc. v. Wilson, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously overruled its 1915 decision and held that motion pictures were entitled to First Amendment protection, so that the New York State Board of Regents could not ban "The Miracle", a short film that was part of L'Amore (1948), an anthology film directed by Roberto Rossellini. Film distributor Joseph Burstyn released the film in the U.S. in 1950, and the case became known as the "Miracle Decision" due to its connection to Rossellini's film. That in turn reduced the threat of government regulation that justified the Production Code, and the PCA's powers over the Hollywood industry were greatly reduced.

At the forefront of challenges to the code was director Otto Preminger, whose films violated the code repeatedly in the 1950s. His 1953 film The Moon is Blue, about a young woman who tries to play two suitors off against each other by claiming that she plans to keep her virginity until marriage, was the first film to use the words "virgin", "seduce" and "mistress", and it was released without a certificate of approval. He later made The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), which portrayed the prohibited subject of drug abuse, and Anatomy of a Murder (1959) which dealt with rape. Preminger's films were direct assaults on the authority of the Production Code and, since they were successful, hastened its abandonment.

In 1954, Joseph Breen retired and Geoffrey Shurlock was appointed as his successor. Variety noted "a decided tendency towards a broader, more casual approach" in the enforcement of the code.

Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot (1959) and Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) were also released without a certificate of approval due to their themes and became box office hits, and as a result further weakened the authority of the code.

In the early 1960s, British films such as Victim (1961), A Taste of Honey (1961), and The Leather Boys (1963) offered a daring social commentary about gender roles and homophobia that violated the Hollywood Production Code, yet the films were still released in America. The American gay rights, civil rights, and youth movements prompted a reevaluation of the depiction of themes of race, class, gender, and sexuality that had been restricted by the Code.

When Jack Valenti became President of the MPAA in 1966, he was immediately faced with a problem regarding language in the film version of Edward Albee's play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966). Valenti negotiated a compromise: The word "screw" was removed, but other language, including the phrase "hump the hostess," remained. The film received Production Code approval despite having language that was clearly prohibited.

The British-produced, but American financed film Blowup (1966) presented a different problem. After the film was denied Production Code approval, MGM released it anyway, the first instance of an MPAA member company distributing a film that didn't have an approval certificate. There was little the MPAA could do about it.

Enforcement had become impossible, and the Production Code was abandoned entirely. The MPAA began working on a rating system, under which there would be virtually no restriction on what could be in a film. The MPAA film rating system went into effect on November 1, 1968 with four ratings: G, M, R, and X. In 1969, the Swedish film I Am Curious (Yellow) directed by Vilgot Sjöman, was initially banned in the U.S. for its frank depiction of sexuality; however this was overturned by the Supreme Court.

The M rating was changed to GP in 1970 and to the current PG in 1972. In 1984, in response to public complaints regarding the severity of horror elements in PG-rated titles such as Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the PG-13 rating was created as a middle tier between PG and R. In 1990, the X rating was replaced by NC-17, in part because the X rating was not trademarked by the MPAA whereas porno bookstores and theatres were using their own trademark X and XXX symbols to market their products.

In the Film The Children's Hour there is quite obviously a lesbian character. The two main character's played by Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine, are accused by a vindictive child of being lovers and having had "sinful sexual knowledge of one another." Though falsely accused in the beginning of the film, by the end Shirley MacLaine's character Martha Dobie confesses to loving Audrey Hepburn. She cries out, "I'm guilty!" and tells Hepburn, "I feel so damn sick and dirty." This is how the film makers were able to get around the production codes for the films. Yes, there was a lesbian in the film, but it was ok because she was so disgusted with herself and she recognized her own guilt. The film also portrays Hepburn character, Karen, as a straight woman in a heterosexual relationship. There is no real indication that Karen is a lesbian, which only furthers the depressing tale of Martha Dobie. Martha loved a woman who was about to get married to a man and leave her. She felt so much self loathing and guilt that she took her own life. When Martha tells Karen that she loves her, she says, "You're afraid to hear it, but I'm more afraid than you." This goes to show that, though it was bad to associate with condemned people, it was even worse to be one. Martha was terrified to face the world knowing what she was. She thought she'd ruined Karen's life and that was worse than ruining her own. So, it was acceptable for a film to have a lesbian, as long as her story ended terribly and did not promote the lifestyle.

This film can be interpreted many different ways. There is no clear protagonist or antagonist. But if you look at it from the perspective of Don Murray's character Brig Anderson, it is a sad tale. Brig Anderson is a senator from Utah, a Mormon in the original book Advise and Consent, with a dark dark secret. Brig opposes the president's nomination of Robert Leffingwell for the state secretary when it's discovered Leffingwell "flirted with communism" in his youth. Brig sees it as his personal duty to see that Leffingwell does not make it into office. But Leffingwell's main advocator, Fred Van Ackerman will not stand for Brig's defiance. Van Ackerman begins making threatening phone calls to the Anderson residence claiming he knows something about Brig's past and that they know about Ray. Brig's wife, Ellen, confronts him about this, asking if there is another woman in his life. She tells him, "I know I'm not what a wife should be. I know we haven't had an exciting marriage." Brig cannot comfort her though, and we see the first subtle indication that Brig Anderson may in fact be a homosexual. His marriage isn't working and his wife is unhappy. She suspects that Brig is getting blackmailed through another woman. He never says there isn't someone else, but the viewer can see how uncomfortable Brig is with the situation. After the scene with his wife, he bolts from the house and goes straight to New York to find the mysterious Ray.

The most fascinating scene of the movie takes place in New York. After Brig meets with Manuel, a man living in a strange shady apartment filled with cats and feminine decorations, he goes to Club 602. This is the first gay club to appear in film. The club is playing Frank Sinatra's Heart of Hearts. It is a tiny dimly lit basement with no women in sight. Here we meet Ray. Brig, who runs out of the club looking disgusted, is dry heaving outside when Ray approaches him and starts yelling about how Brig wouldn't take his calls and he just needed money. Brig can't even bring himself to say anything. He hails a taxi, gets in and shoves Ray into a dirty puddle. This would have been the only acceptable ending for a character like Ray. Otherwise perfectly happy, Ray was obviously homosexual and enjoying the homosexual life. So clearly the film makers had to ruin his image somehow, and what better what to do it then to shove the poor guy into a puddle of filth on the side of the road. Brig, however, flees back to his office in Washington, gets a real purposeful look in his eyes and aptly commits suicide. Brig was so utterly disgusted with the memory of being with a man, he had to take his own life to stop the rumors from hurting him or his family. But, this could potentially be seen as heroic. With Brig dead, the blackmailers would stop and end the threatening calls. So the filmmakers made sure that Van Ackerman, still hard at work blackmailing, sends a copy of a photograph with Ray and Brig and the last letter between them to Brig's wife. In the letter Brig tells Ray not to write him again. He blames "what happened between us (Brig and Ray)" on the war and Brig's exhaustion and loneliness. Brig claimed to have a normal life with his wife and that he hoped to forget Ray. Ellen Anderson had completely devoted herself to Brig, but now she had to find out that Brig was a liar and a deviant. The memory of her husband was forever ruined with that letter.

Up until this point in the movie, the homosexual has not had one win. But, in the last scene we find out that the president died and ultimately, his nomination of Leffingwell died with him. That meant that Brig's ultimate goal of stopping the communist Leffingwell from getting into office was achieved. There is one small win for the homosexual.

Rebecca (1940 Film) is an especially fascinating movie. A case can be made for two lesbian characters. The first and more obvious would be Ms. Danverse, the head maid of Manderley played by Judith Anderson. In the movie, Ms. Danverse is made to be rather obviously obsessed with Rebecca, The first wife of Maxim De Winter. In a conversation with the second Mrs. De Winter, Maxim's sister tells us that Ms. Danverse "simply adored Rebecca." And the second Mrs. De Winter herself says she's "never met anyone quite like her (Mrs. Danverse) before." Hitchcock, the director, seemed to make a conscious decision to have Ms. Danverse as unsettling and creepy as possible, the only acceptable form lesbians could take on screen. Ms. Danverse gives the second Mrs. De Winter a tour of Rebecca's room in one scene and we see just how obsessed Danverse is. She keeps everything in Rebecca's room just the way it was when she died, as if she expects her to return any minute. In fact, everything in the house that used to be Rebecca's is left exactly the same thanks to Mrs. Danverse. But the scene in Rebecca's room is especially unsettling. She says, "Everything is kept just as Mrs. De Winter liked it. Nothing has been altered since that last night." Danverse shows the second Mrs. De Winter Rebecca's furs, rubbing the sleeve against both of their faces. Danverse leans against her dresser telling the audience, "I always used to wait up for her no matter how late...everyone loved her." Danverse continues to show the second Mrs. De Winter the nightgown Rebecca would wear. She sticks her hand in it and says, "Look. You can see my hand through it." An obviously disturbed Mrs. De Winter exits the room quickly.

The object of Ms. Danverse's obsession Rebecca could very well have been a lesbian as well. Rebecca never makes an appearance on screen, not even in a flashback, so it's easier to depict her as a deviant. Maxim, Rebecca's husband tells Mrs. De Winter that Rebecca was incapable of love, tenderness or decency. He goes on to say she "told me about herself. Everything. Things I'll never tell a living soul." He calls Rebecca the devil. And, of all those terrible things he claims Rebecca has done, he tells the second Mrs. De Winter that Rebecca and her cousin Jack were having an affair, but there are still more terrible things. What could be more terrible than incest? Ms. Danverse gives light to this question when she has a sort of break down and tells Jack that "She had a right to amuse herself...Love was a game to her, only a game." This is brought up when Jack claims Rebecca loved him. The line could be taken to say that she thought loving men was a game. Rebecca was a unique character. She was independent. She lived exactly how she wanted to, no matter what everyone thought of her. And, as it turns out, she died exactly how she wanted. She is described in the movie as a terrible woman who did despicable things, so it only makes sense that she was a lesbian. But, to anyone who chooses to think of Rebecca as a feminist character, her story is nearly inspiring.

Both Rebecca and Ms. Danverse commit suicide in this movie. This only solidifies their stereotypical screen dipiction. Rebecca was controlling and terrible. Ms. Danverse was creepy and disturbing. Rebecca's suicide is ultimately thwarted. She set out to make Maxim kill her but he only hits her and she stumbles, falls and hits her head on something. Ms. Danverse though sets Manderley on fire and locks herself in Rebecca's room. Reminiscent of the burning of a witch, Ms. Danverse dies in the last scene of the movie surrounded by the last of Rebecca's earthly possessions.

Yet another character that we never meet, Sebastian Venable's face is never shown throughout the whole film and he is only seen in flashbacks. Sebastian is dead when the film begins, but we meet his mother Violet, played by Katherine Hepburn who has surrounded herself with the memory of her son. She seems quite shaken by the event, but she has completely dedicated herself to preserving his good memory. So, when her niece Katherine started trashing Sebastian's name, Violet had Katherine committed to a mental institution. Violet hires a doctor who specializes in giving lobotomies to "hopeless" cases. Violet describes Katherine's condition as simple madness. Violet wants to stop her babblings of "hideous attacks on the moral character of my son, Sebastian." Violet will do anything to protect her son, even lobotomize her own niece to stop her from accusing him of anything.

In a fascinating monologue by Katherine, played by Elizabeth Taylor, she talks about how "blondes were next on the menu. All last summer Sebastian was famished for blondes. Fed up with the dark ones...It's the way he talked about people, as if they were items on a menu. That one's delicious looking. That one's appetizing...I think really cause he was half starved from living on pills and salads..." This could be interpreted several ways. Perhaps Sebastian was just kind of strange. Violet does tell us he was a poet. Or perhaps there was something more sinister. At the end of the movie we find out that Sebastian met his end at the hands of a bunch of cannibals. Perhaps Sebastian was a cannibal himself, thinking of everyone as items on a menu. Maybe it was more of a devious thing.

This story is continued when Katherine tells a story about the day Sebastian died. They were at a public beach. Sebastian had bought Katherine a scandalous white bathing suit. We see in her flashback all the men from the fenced off beach staring at her. Sebastian drags his cousin into the water which causes her suit to turn transparent. All the men are staring at her. The doctor asks Katherine why Sebastian did that and she responds, "To attract attention...I was procuring for him. Sebastian was lonely, Doctor." Sebastian uses his attraction cousin to lure other men over from the free beach. His mother was too old and had lost her ability to attract young men, so he replaced her with his young cousin, but he met his end at the hands of crazy native cannibals, nearly driving his cousin mad. Sebastian follows a similar story line as the character of Rebecca from the film Rebecca. He is never seen on film. At first, the audience only hears how everyone who knew him loved him. Then slowly, his character is revealed as, less than appealing until we find out he was nothing but a deviant who used everyone around him. Though Sebastian does not commit suicide, he is indeed murdered, and it is a gruesome end.

It is thought that the two murderers in this film, Philip and Brandon, were supposed to be gay. The people that they are based off in real life, Leopold and Loeb, were homosexual. The article on Rope (film) has a thourough discussion of the homosexual themes.

To the top

Eric Johnston

Eric Allen Johnston (December 21, 1896 – August 22, 1963) was a business owner, president of the United States Chamber of Commerce, a moderate Republican Party activist, president of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), and a U.S. government special projects administrator and envoy for both Democratic and Republican administrations. As president of the MPAA he abbreviated the organization's name, convened the closed-door meeting of motion picture company executives at New York City's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel that led to Waldorf Statement in 1947 and the Hollywood blacklist, and discretely liberalized the production code while he served as president of the MPAA until his death in 1963.

He attended the University of Washington, graduating in 1917 and joining the Theta Delta Chi fraternity. During this time, he worked as a stevedore, newspaper sports columnist, library clerk and shoe salesman.

When the United States entered World War I, Johnston enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He was commissioned a second lieutenant, and became a ROTC commander at the University of Washington in 1918. Then, he was promoted to captain, fought with the American Expeditionary Force Siberia in the Russian Revolution, and was named military attache in Peking. Johnston's learned some Mandarin, traveled widely in Asia, and successfully speculated in Chinese currency.

Johnston was assaulted by an unknown person in Peking. His skull was fractured, which led to sinus infections, lung ailments, and his discharged from the Corps in 1922 for medical reasons. Johnston returned to Spokane for its dry climate, and married his long-time girlfriend, Ina Hughes. He became a vacuum-cleaner salesman, and bought the Power Brown Co., the Pacific Northwest's largest independent appliance distribution business. In 1924, the newly-renamed Brown-Johnston Company purchased the Doerr-Mitchell Electric Co., a manufacturer of electrical appliances, ironwork and glassware.

Johnston was elected president of the Spokane Chamber of Commerce in 1931. He became managing trustee of the bankrupt Washington Brick and Lime Co., led it out of bankruptcy, and became its chairman. Johnston also became president of the Wayne-Burnaby Company, a regional electrical contractor.

Johnston became active in the national Chamber of Commerce. He was appointed to its tax committee in 1933, elected a director in 1934, and elected vice president in 1941. Johnston became head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce after a revolt by younger, moderate business executives pushed several older, powerful conservative candidates aside. He refused to antagonize the American Federation of Labor or the Congress of Industrial Organizations, and advocated labor-management cooperation. Johnston persuaded the labor federations to make a no-strike pledge during World War II.

In 1940, Johnston ran in the Republican primary for Senator from Washington state, but placed a distant 2nd place at 18%.

Johnston served on several wartime commissions for President Franklin D. Roosevelt, including the Committee for Economic Development, the War Manpower Commission, and the War Mobilization and Reconversion Committee.

In 1943, President Roosevelt named him chairman of the United States Commission on InterAmerican Development. He traveled widely in Latin America, reassuring heads of state that the United States intended to protect them in the event of war.

Soviet leader Joseph Stalin invited Johnston to tour Russia in 1944. Johnston agreed, and Roosevelt named him his emissary. Johnston spent nearly a month in the Soviet Union, and was the first American diplomat to tour the Central Asian SSRs. He met with Stalin in a three hour long meeting when Ambassador W. Averell Harriman had yet to meet the Soviet premier.

Johnston retired as Chamber of Commerce president in 1945. He was awarded the Presidential Medal for Merit in 1947.

Johnston was named president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors Association (MPPDAA) in 1946. He immediately changed the name of the organization to its current title, the Motion Picture Association of America, or MPAA.

In September 1947, the motion picture industry came under sharp criticism by the House Un-American Activities Committee for allegedly permitting known communist sympathizers to include anti-capitalist, anti-democratic, pro-communist messages in motion pictures. Spurred by Red-baiting members of the MPAA as well as a fear of government censorship, Johnston agreed to institute a blacklist.

During his tenure at the MPAA, Johnston quietly liberalized the production code. He also engaged in major initiatives to secure a significant American market share of the overseas motion picture market, and to reduce restrictions on the screening of American films in foreign markets.

In January 1951, he was appointed by President Harry S. Truman as administrator of the Economic Stabilization Agency, replacing Alan Valentine. He lasted only a few months in the job.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed Johnston a "Special Representative of the President of the United States" to deal with the water conflict between Israel and Arab countries, mainly Jordan and Syria) in 1953. He worked to solve the Middle East's water problems negotiating the Jordan Valley Unified Water Plan until 1956.

Johnston traveled to the U.S.S.R. and met Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in 1958. The following year, he hosted the Party Secretary in both Washington, D.C., and California during Khrushchev's famous 18-day visit to the United States in 1959.

Eric Johnston served as president of the MPAA until his death in 1963. He suffered a stroke in Washington, D.C., on June 17. He was hospitalized at George Washington University Hospital, and suffered a second stroke on July 4. He entered a coma on August 5, and died on August 22. He was succeeded at the MPAA by Jack Valenti in 1966 after a three-year search.

Johnston is a key character in the play "The Waldorf Conference," written by Nat Segaloff, Daniel M. Kimmel and Arnie Reisman. The play is a fictionalized account of the Waldorf Conference of 1947, and the beginning of the blacklist.

To the top

Lucky and Flo

Lucky and Flo are a pair of black labrador retrievers, notable for being the first animals trained to detect optical discs by scent. They are sponsored by the MPAA and FACT, as part of an initiative to combat copyright infringement relating to motion pictures and DVD discs.

Although the dogs are sponsored and publicized on the premise that they can detect counterfeit DVDs, they have no ability to distinguish between counterfeit DVDs and any other polycarbonate optical disc.

The dogs' abilities were first demonstrated in May 2006 at the FedEx shipping hub at London Stansted Airport, though inspectors found all the discs the dogs detected that day to be legitimate. Another demonstration was held at the MPAA's Washington, D.C. office on September 26, 2006. In March 2007 the two dogs were sent to Malaysia to help sniff out DVDs. After a raid on a pirate DVD ring in Johor Bahru on March 20, reports said that the dogs were now targeted by the DVD pirates and that a bounty had been put on their heads.

In March 2008 the MPAA, along with children's magazine the Weekly Reader, released a curriculum for grades 5 to 7 featuring Lucky and Flo to be distributed to nearly 60,000 classrooms in 20,000 schools across 10 U.S. states and designed to "educate children about the importance of respecting copyrights while presenting it in a fun and exciting way," according to MPAA chairman and CEO Dan Glickman.

To the top

Source : Wikipedia