8/26/2012

When I am King: The Rating Game

When I am King...

Movie ratings will be clearer.




Warning: This blog has been rated by the Malicious Blogger Association of America (MBAA):









I've always found movie ratings so helpful. They take two hours of complex content and boil it down into a single letter that tells me exactly how appropriate it is for my children. Were the rating any more involved, or any closer linked to the actual material in the movie, then I would have to read and think about it to decide what to do. But the fact that it's such a simplistic measure of the maturity level needed to enjoy the film means that I can quickly ignore it.

Rating are not about providing real information. They're about making us feel just slightly guiltier about things we're going to do anyway.

I was particularly pleased with the rating of The King's Speech, which I saw when it came out in 2010. It was a serious film, well executed, that provided that perfect mix of drama, history, education, and entertainment. It was a film that I enjoyed for myself, and enjoyed taking the kids to as a cultural and historical lesson. Or at least I would have, except that the film was rated R.

I had to watch the film again to determine why it got this adult rating, checking the several obvious categories:
  • Nudity: This was Englad in the early 20th century. All of the characters were at least 5 layers of clothing away from naked.
  • Violence: True, the climactic speech was on the eve of a horrific war. But they only showed the speech itself, not the fighting. No blood, no shooting, no punches. Not even a hearty backslap.
  • Swearing: Oooooh, that's right. He drops the F-bomb a handful of times.
So it turns out that I'm advised to not take my kids to this excellent movie because they might hear a bad word. My kids hear worse language in my house when I stub my toe; what possible reason would I have for sheltering them from it in the movie theater? More significantly, how can the rating agency possibly put that kind of language on the same footing as, say, the gruesome death scenes or graphic sex acts in other R films?

When I am King, ratings will be more meaningful. Instead of obscure references like "inappropriate language" and "adult situations", the ratings will have concrete information about why the film got this rating, to help the responsible parent make the right decision. Or at least to make the wrong decision for the right reasons.

Here are some example ratings for existing films:


Space Buddies: A film that I was subjected to because of my youngest kid's abject love for anything related to dogs:


Star Trek: The Motion Picture: This film was pretty darn exciting when it came out, because it was the first Star Trek thing to come out since the original "5 year mission" was killed in its third season. But it only got a G rating, which is pretty a-typical for action movies. In hindsight, a better rating description would give some helpful information to the unwary moviegoer:



I enjoyed watching Airplane! with the kids last year. The hairstyles are totally dated, but the comedy still works. But some parents might want to know why Parental Guidance is avised:



The Hunger Games is an interesting series of books, now movies, delving into the loving and under-served genre of child genocide. Here is a more helpful rating:



We watched The Blues Brothers again recently, and were curious about the rating. Blues songs can be racy, but not quite enough to get an R rating, or so we thought. Maybe a more descriptive rating would have helped:



And finally, here's a more accurate rating for The King's Speech:



Maybe when I am King, I'll even make a speech about it. And I'll throw in a few bad words, just to get a juicy rating.
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