Movie Mom

Movie Mom

MPAA Asks Parents What They Think About the F-Word

posted by Nell Minow

One of the most unfathomably boneheaded policies of the MPAA ratings boards is its position that a PG-13 film can have one or two uses of the f-word as long as it does not refer to sex.

Even a PhD in semiotics could not make sense of that rule.  Either the word is fit for the ears of middle schoolers or it isn’t.  If it is, it makes no sense to allow it to be used in a hostile or threatening way but not in reference to its actual meaning.  If it isn’t, then allowing it once or twice is too much.

Now it appears that the MPAA has a new survey on the topic, which the ratings board cited in ruling against a  PG-13 rating for the documentary, “Bully,” but which they have not released.

Parents and educators who would like to share their views on this subject with the MPAA can reach them here:


Joan Graves,
MPAA Ratings Board
15301 Ventura Blvd., Building E
Sherman Oaks, California 91403
(818) 995-6600


  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment LYNN

    Thank you. I have fired off a letter to the MPAA.

    • Nell Minow

      Thanks, Lynn!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Andreas Ulanowsky

    To be honest, I think parents need ro loosen up with the foul language. If a film is released in Sweden with just foul language, it’ll be rated for all audiences.. a G rating. Kids are more likely to have heard that anyways at school from their peers by the tine they are in middle school. U’d be nore concerned with the violent aspects of a film, and sex, if it’s the actual act. partial nudiry is fine, I think.

    The film Scarface was shown on a network here in Sweden without cencurship at all. It’s a violent film and contains 200 or more swears..

    I’m surpeised that today parents respond to just swearing more than violence or sex..Oh well.. I guess some things never change.

    • Nell Minow

      Andreas, I am not as offended as some by language. My objection is to the inconsistency and hypocrisy of the MPAA and their failure to do the one thing they purport to do, which is give parents a clear enough idea of the content of movies that they can be confident that they are making a decision that is right for their families.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Elman

    I’m a little frustrated in the way you phrase your objection. The f-word doesn’t have to be sexual OR hostile/threatening. ‘Oh f***, I’m going to be late’ would be an example. In that context, one or two seems acceptable in later teen oriented movies like Something Borrowed and Crazy Stupid Love. In a kid’s movie like Super 8 with kid actors I would have been very stern with the director – you’ll get a PG13 from scary scenes, and a few s-words but no f-words. (I admit that this would require a reasonably competent MPAA that we don’t have.)

    One of my worries is the transition from PG13 to R. When a teen turns 17 they aren’t going to want to watch The King’s Speech. They’ll go straight to Project X or Superbad. Wouldn’t it seem strange to go from never hearing a theatrical f-word to hearing 150+ used in the most sexually explicit way possible?

    • Nell Minow

      Thanks, Elman. I see your point, but I think the MPAA’s rule is ridiculously arbitrary. Either the word is okay for a 10 year old or it isn’t. As the rule is now, it is used by studios to manipulate the MPAA for marketing purposes.

      I’m not at all worried that a 17 year old will be new to the word or flustered by hearing it in films.

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