Sunday, April 6, 2008

Rhetorical Analysis - Research

Culturally, the U.S. came late to rating its movies, as most all other countries already had been rating their cinema for decades. The MPAA's film-ratings were instituted on 1 November 1968, in response to religiously-motivated complaints about the sexual, violent, and profane content of American cinema, after the MPAA's 1966 revision of the Production Code of America.

Before July 1, 1984a 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. In summer of 1982, Poltergeist (1982) was re-rated PG on appeal, although originally rated R for strong supernatural violence and marijuana-smoking parents. Disney's PG-rated Dragonslayer (1982) alarmed parents with explicit fantasy violence and blood-letting.

Because of such successful appeals, based upon artistic intent, many mild, mainstream movies were rated PG instead of R because of 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 Spielberg, director of Temple of Doom, to suggest a new rating, PG-14, to MPAA president Mr. Valetini. Instead, on conferring with cinema owners, Mr Valenti and the MPAA on,
July 1, 1984 introduced the PG-13 rating, allowing in children older than 13 years of age without a parent or an adult guardian, but warning parents about potentially shocking violence, cursing, and mature subject matter; though weaker than an R rating, PG-13 is the strongest unrestricted rating. The first widely-distributed PG-13 movie was Red Dawn followed by Dreamscape (1984), and The Flamingo Kid (1984), although The Flamingo Kid was the first film so rated by the board.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Technical Application

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).

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 if it were not 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, contained "explicit sexual content and dialogue" and received an NC-17. On the other hand, the studio distributed film The Passion of the Christ received an R rating despite graphic depictions 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 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 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.That study found this when they noticed that an R-rated movie released in 1992 had the exact same content levels as a PG-13 rated film released in 2003.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Free Write - "Britain, Britain, Britain"

I have recently become infatuated with the BBC television show Little Britain, a character-based sketch show written and starring Matt Lucas and David Williams. While some British-humor shows go over a lot of people’s heads, this show’s targets are almost invariably the easiest, cheapest groups to mock: the disabled, poor, elderly, gay or fat. Even though the humor sounds simple and maybe trite, it’s incredibly creative and fresh. Some of the show’s repeat sketches feature a group called “Fat Fighters,” The Kelsey Grammar School, Lou and Andy, and Daffyd Thomas, a man who claims to be the only gay in the village.

Another feature of this show, which continually amuses me is the narration from Tom Baker, the fourth Dr. Who. To me the most amusing portion of his narration comes in the opening credits of the show, which is different every time. He has said things like "Britain...We've had running water for over 10 years, an underground tunnel linking us to Peru, and we invented the cat", or "Unlike other countries, Britain has people of two genders: women and men."

If you haven’t seen this show, you must do all that is in your power and means to do so! It will change your life forever.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Rhetorical Analysis - Research MPAA Rating System

What is the purpose of the rating system? The movie rating system is a voluntary system sponsored by the Motion Picture Association of America and the National Association of Theatre Owners to provide parents with advance information on films, enabling the parent to make judgments on movies they want or don't want their children to see.

Do the ratings indicate if a movie is good or bad? No, the system is not designed to serve the function of "critic." The ratings do not determine or reflect whether a film is "good" or "bad." The system is not intended to approve, disapprove or censor any film; it merely assigns a rating for guidance -- leaving the decision-making responsibilities to the parents.

Who gives movies their ratings? Parents give the movies their ratings - men and women just like you. They are part of a specially designed committee called the film rating board of Classification and Rating Administration. As a group they view each film, and, after a group discussion, vote on its rating, making an educated estimate as to which rating most American parents will consider the most appropriate.

What criteria do they use? The rating board uses the criteria you as a parent use when deciding what is suitable viewing for your child. Theme, language, violence, nudity, sex and drug use are among those content areas considered in the decision-making process. Also assessed is how each of these elements is employed in the context of each individual film. The rating board places no special emphasis on any of these elements; all are considered and examined before a rating is given.

Is the rating system a law? No, the rating system is strictly voluntary and carries no force of law.
Can a rating be changed? Yes, the rules permit movie producers to re-edit their films and re-submit them in hopes of receiving another rating. Producers may also appeal a rating decision to the Rating Appeals Board, which is composed of men and women from the industry organizations that sponsor the rating system. A two-thirds secret ballot vote of those present on the Appeals Board may overturn a rating board decision.

Do all movies have to be rated? No. Submitting a film is purely a voluntary decision made by the filmmakers. However, the overwhelming majority of producers creating entertaining, responsible films submit them for ratings. All five Classification and Rating Administration rating symbols have been trademarked and may not be self-applied.

Who enforces the ratings? While the decision to enforce the rating system is purely voluntary, the overwhelming majority of theaters follow the Classification and Rating Administration's guidelines and diligently enforce its provisions.

How do you get more information about a rating? For additional information about the voluntary movie rating system and ratings for new releases, visit the Motion Picture Association of America's home page on the World Wide Web. The address is Or, in select cities, you may use the interactive phone guide, MovieFone.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Free Write - My Baby Brother part deux

As my baby brother has grown older his lexicon of bizarre sayings and phrases has grown as well. If anyone has read my first posting on this blog, you would have learned about his “silver tongue,” discovered some of his favorite sayings, and had a small taste of his maniacal outbursts. I’m here today to share with you a little bit more.

From an early age he would frequently ask us questions about life in general. These were simple queries when he was young. Once during Sunday school, a teacher had given a particularly spiritual lesson that prompted many of the children in the class to become more interested in the life of Jesus. They asked the teacher many questions ranging from his birth to his death. My brother decided to participate in the Q and A as well and raised his hand. When the teacher called on him he asked, “How much birdseed do you think a goat could eat before it blew up?” Later in life I guess my brother was still interested in religious matters because one day at the dinner table he asked my father, “Are we Jew bastards?” At another point in my brother’s life he became fixated on “what if” questions. My other brother, who is just a few years younger than myself, would frequently talk about owning a Mercedes Benz after he grew up and got a respectable job. My baby brother would then ask, “What would you do if I bought a Hummer and rammed your Mercedes while you slept?” The other brother would respond with something like, “I’m always going to park it in the garage so you couldn’t do it!” My baby brother would then respond by saying, “Well, I just blow off the front of the garage with some dynamite that I’m going to buy and then I’ll run it over with my Hummer and then maybe your wife too. What would you do then?”

A sensitive subject has emerged in my brother’s life in the past few months – his girlfriend. He seems to be very protective of her and will do anything to defend her honor if he feels it being threatened. If I ever ask general questions about her, he always responds, “I don’t know.” Where does your girlfriend live? I don’t know. What’s your girlfriend’s name? I don’t know. Have you kissed your girlfriend yet? “SHUT UP!” One time my wife, other brother and I were asking some questions about the girlfriend on a rare occasion when my baby brother began to open up a little about his personal life. One of us, I can’t remember who it was now, had the audacity to ask my baby brother “So are you going to make out with your girlfriend tonight?” To which my brother responded, “SHE’S NOT MY WHORE!!” Once right before church began my mother decided to probe into my brother’s personal life as well. She saw an attractive looking girl and jokingly whispered to my brother, “She cute, why don’t you ask her out?” My baby brother then replied, “I HAVE A GIRLFRIEND MOM!!! SHE LIVES IN SCAPPOOSE!!!” in the loudest voice anyone had ever heard. The entire church congregation obviously turned to see what the commotion was all about and began staring and silently judging my family. My other brother then whispered, “Nice going, idiot.” My brother then mustered all his strength and yelled out at the top of voice, “WHY DON’T YOU SHUT UP?!”

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Rhetorical Analysis - Research

Couples in the United States who live together before marrying may be more likely to consider divorce than those who do not, according to a study released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's health statistics division.
The report on marriage, divorce, remarriage and cohabitation said 75 percent of American women have been married by age 30 and about half have lived with their partner outside of marriage.
The study's findings are based on interviews conducted in 1995 with about 11,000 women ages 15 to 44.
Couples who did not live together before marrying had a 31 percent chance of splitting up after 10 years, compared with a 40 percent chance for couples who cohabited before marriage, the study found.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Technical Application

An “R-card,” a parent permission slip issued by the GKC Theaters chain, which has theaters in 24 cities, including Bloomington, in five Midwestern states.

The R-card costs $2 and allows youth to attend R-rated films unaccompanied by a parent or guardian, as would otherwise be the case for anyone 17 or younger.

So far the chain has sold about 700 R-cards at 10 of its theaters, said James Whitman, vice president for theater operations and marketing at GKC, who dreamed up the card. The company's theater in Elkhart, Ind., began offering it yesterday, and its theater in Traverse City, Mich., a popular family resort area, will make it available next month.

But critics are denouncing the R-card as both a maneuver around the movie rating system — which was set up to help parents sort out which movies were appropriate for their children — and an abdication of parental responsibilities.

"It distorts it and disfigures" the rating system, said Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America, which administers the ratings program. In a telephone interview from his Washington office. Mr. Valenti continued: "Not all R movies are alike. There are some R movies that children should not see."

Yet as long as the ratings have been administered, young people have found ways to get around them, like the generations-old practice of buying tickets for one movie and sneaking in to another. Ticket sellers and takers at many theaters are barely old enough to see R-rated movies themselves and occasionally encounter peer pressure not to bar their friends.

Ratings themselves manage to remain in dispute: Michael Moore loudly complained when his new picture, “Fahrenheit 9/11,” received an R rating, which means it will be seen only by an adult audience or young people accompanied by a parent or guardian.

And also by the relatively modest number of youngsters who have R-cards.

The R-card came about this spring. Mr. Whitman said he was simply trying to serve a customer need: parents who were tired of sitting through ear-splitting pictures with their action-film-loving teenagers. "It was parents who were coming to the box office and saying, `You're forcing me to see a movie that I don't want to see,' " Mr. Whitman said.

He added, "You can't say it's a parental guideline and then say the parents have no choice."

Movies are an important way for parents to guide their children's development, some critics of the R-card argue. "I lump movies and entertainment in the same category as drugs and alcohol," said Rodney Gustafson, a syndicated columnist and creator of GradingtheMovies .com, a Web site that gives details about movies' content, including sex, violence and profanity.

"You have not only the opportunity but the responsibility to be able to teach and guide your children according to your own values," he said. By giving a teenager an R-card, "you've decided, `I'm not going to do that,' " said Mr. Gustafson, whose column appears in 60 newspapers in the United States and Canada.

Kirsten, reached by telephone, did not see it that way.

"I already rent rated-R movies, so going to see them isn't a big difference," said Kirsten, whose parents previously gave her permission to check out R-rated films from local video stores like Blockbuster.

The movie sale and rental chain, which has a policy against renting R-rated movies to those younger than 18, will make an exception as long as the parent makes a notation on the account, said Randy Hargrove, a Blockbuster spokesman. Sydni's mother, Maureen Norris, who called a reporter after her daughter was interviewed, said she trusted her daughter to choose movies that she was mature enough to watch, either in theaters or at video stores.