I am honored to be mentioned in Roger Ebert’s outstanding op-ed about the MPAA ratings, and thrilled with his support for what I do. Last week, on appeal, the MPAA lowered the rating of “Blue Valentine,” a searing portrait of a deteriorating marriage, to an R. Its explicit sexual material had given it an NC-17, which meant that many newspapers would not accept ads and many theaters would not show it.
The MPAA should have changed its standards long ago, taking into account the context and tone of a movie instead of holding fast to rigid checklists….It’s time to get pragmatic about this. The current ratings system is useful primarily for the parents of small children who are concerned that images or situations may be disturbing for young minds. They know a G film is harmless and a PG almost certainly is, and a PG-13 may or may not be. It’s an open secret that some naturally PG movies have an element or two thrown in to earn a PG-13, so teenagers aren’t scared off. That’s not a step forward.
Obviously, what parents really want is an evaluation, exactly what Mr. Valenti said the MPAA could not provide. When they’re informed that a PG-13 contains “language, some intense situations and smoking,” what have they learned? On the Internet, useful guides to content are everywhere. Critics like Nell Minow, the “Movie Mom,” write intelligently for parents about the content and context of films.