This Post Is Rated PG-13

by Conor Friedersdorf

Earlier today, I was half-watching a documentary about the people who rate Hollywood movies. It pointed out that by the absurd logic of the MPAA, brief frontal nudity in a scene where a husband and wife are having procreative sex is deemed more desserving of an NC-17 rating than a mass murder scene in a shoot 'em up movie. I suppose there are people out there who concur with the value judgment implied in that decision.

I am not one of them.

America's diversity of moral beliefs makes me think we'd be better off if a bunch of different organizations rated movies, rather than relying on the current system. Another alternative would be to do it HBO style: instead of a catch-all rating, there'd be bullet points that described the various things in a film that parents might want to know about, allowing them to weight the objectionable content independently.

For more thoughts on parenting and how value judgments about these things differ widely, check out ACT 4 in this episode of This American Life.

Here's the synopsis:

Dan Savage, a syndicated sex columnist with possibly the filthiest mouth of anyone you could ever meet, finds a TV program so dirty, so weird, and so perverted that he won't let his son watch iteven though it's a kids' show, made for kids, and broadcast on a network for kids.

To me, the current rating system does more harm than good by giving parents the illusion that our society has a shared set of values. Better that they critically watch films prior to or alongside their children, or rely on a niche group they trust to do so.