Film and TV

Bully Ratings Controversy Sparks Criticism of MPAA System

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How did we get here? 

It starts in the 1930s: Under mounting pressure following more than a decade of scandalously "immoral" Hollywood cinema, the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (later renamed the Motion Picture Association of America, the MPAA we know today) adopted what was popularly called the "Hays Code," after well-known censor Will H. Hays.

 This code, which prohibited things like "ridicule of the clergy" and "sex hygiene and venereal diseases," was around until 1968, when the MPAA adopted the ratings system (centered around protecting those under 17) we know today.

If producer Harvey Weinstein has his way, 2012 may be the new 1968: The next shift forward in how we rate and censor Hollywood. Weinstein has been skillfully stoking the flames of this controversy -- and that hasn't exactly hurt the film -- but in this case, he's absolutely right.


The R-rating is based on a handful of swear words used by students in the film who, by the MPAA's standards, wouldn't be allowed to watch recordings of themselves, with a side of popcorn, without the company of an adult.

Alex Libby, the student bullied during this scene, spoke at the rating's appeal hearing, when it failed to be overturned by a single vote. His message was simple: Once my reality has been filtered through a camera lens, I'm not allowed to see it?

This is the strange truth behind the MPAA system: Isn't real life filled with violence, language, and sexual content? Why does turning this reality into art or entertainment suddenly render it unsafe for underage eyes?

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Amanda Kehrberg
Contact: Amanda Kehrberg