Appealing an MPAA Rating Is Pointless (But Studios Should Do It Anyway)

This article is from the archive of our partner .

The Motion Picture Association of America has seen a big increase in the number of films asking for an appeal of their R or NC-17 ratings, but the group has no inclination to ever change its mind. According to The Los Angeles Times, the MPAA has heard eight appeals so far this year (including one for Haywire, pictured above) after hearing only four in all of 2011 and just seven in 2010. Despite the uptick, the trade group has altered its original decision only once. (The Perks of Being a Wallflower was downgraded from an R to a PG-13.) Even the anti-bullying documentary, Bully — which stars and should presumably be seen by actual teenagers — was not immune, being unable to shed an R rating.

However, buried at the end of the Times story is an interesting nugget about the wisdom of appealing such an arbitrary process that is particularly unfavorable to studios that aren't members of the MPAA. The appeal is good publicity, both for the movie and the ridiculousness of the process. Even if you have no shot at winning the appeal, the only hope of changing the MPAA's system is to make people notice how dumb it is, so there's no harm other than wasting time and some lawyer fees.

More importantly, nothing draws attention (and curiosity) to a film like controversy. Or the implicit promise of content that's too hot to handle! That may not be necessary for a movie like The Hunger Games or The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, but if you're an independent filmmaker who needs some free buzz, complaining about censorship never hurts ticket sales.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.