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.