The ultra-violent “Saw 3D” gets an R. The ultra-explicit and disgusting “Jackass 3D” gets an R. But how does “The King’s Speech” get an R? This is an acclaimed historical drama about the King of England (Colin Firth) who has to have speech therapy to help his stutter. As a vocal exercise, he has to say some bad words. And so it gets an R rating. The LA Times’ Patrick Goldstein has an excellent article about the arbitrariness of the MPAA’s rules and the outrageous results.
To call the decision crazy and unhinged would be to let the MPAA off too lightly. Its ratings decisions, which frown on almost any sort of sex, frontal nudity or bad language but have allowed increasing amounts of violence over the years, are horribly out of touch with mainstream America, where families everywhere are disturbed by the amount of violence freely portrayed in movies, video games and hip-hop music.
He quotes Tom Hooper, director of “The King’s Speech.”
“What I take away from that decision,” says Hooper, “is that violence and torture is OK, but bad language isn’t. I can’t think of a single film I’ve ever seen where the swear words had haunted me forever, the way a scene of violence or torture has, yet the ratings board only worries about the bad language.”
And he quotes me:
[T]he ratings board judges violence on a far more amorphous and clearly subjective sense of overall tone. That discrepancy sets up the MPAA for all sorts of criticism, much of which has come from Nell Minow, a corporate governance expert whose must-read Movie Mom blog has frequently taken the MPAA to task for its inconsistencies.
“The ratings decision on ‘The King’s Speech’ is just another example of how completely out of touch and useless the guidance is that we get from the MPAA,” Minow told me Monday. “The one thing we want from them is a general sense of where a movie fits into our family values. But by putting ‘The King’s Speech’ in the same ratings category as ‘Kill Bill’ or ‘Scarface’ or ‘Saw,’ then it really makes a mockery of the whole system.”