Movie Mom

Movie Mom


MPAA’s New Check the Box Ratings

posted by Nell Minow

The MPAA ratings board announced some new “check the box” enhancements to the movie ratings system to give parents better and clearer information about the content of the movies, along with an ad campaign, an updated website for checking ratings, and some revisions to the rules about trailers.

I am in favor of any improvement in the information available to parents.  If this means the end of the dreaded, “Rated PG-for thematic elements,” which required a degree in semiotics to parse, that’s very good news.  As I told The Christian Science Monitor,

It is a step, says Nell Minow, film critic for Movie Mom, a website for family entertainment guidance. “But a very small one,” she says, adding that what parents really want is reliable and consistent information about films. The arbitrariness of a ratings system that allocates a PG-13 to a comedy and then an R rating to a drama with essentially the same content “leaves parents not knowing what to trust,” she says.

However, there are inherent limits to an industry-run rating system that defiantly refuses to consider the expertise of child development specialists or teachers in assigning the ratings.  I do not see anything in these announcements that makes me feel any more confident that the arbitrariness so compellingly examined in the Kirby Dick documentary, “This Film is Not Yet Rated” has been addressed.  The MPAA’s absurd view that one or two f-words are permitted in a PG-13 movie as long as they do not refer to sex, the inconsistent standards applied to independent films and documentaries, the appeals process that gives film-makers a chance to ask for reconsideration but not parent groups, and the inclusion of material in a PG-13 comedy that would get an R in a drama are problems that are not addressed by these changes.

It is worth noting that the two key elements of the Boston Marathon bombs were both features of recent movies.  “Four Lions” was about a terrorist attack at a marathon. “Act of Valor” explained how ball bearings could increase the damage from a simple, cheap, easy to make bomb exponentially.  Both movies had strong anti-terrorist messages, but that doesn’t mean that was how they were received by all viewers.

We don’t know if the person or people who planted the bombs in Boston saw those films.  But we do know that there is a multi-billion dollar industry called advertising devoted to the idea that people’s ideas and behavior are influenced by messages in the media.  The MPAA should be a part of the conversation about the best way for parents and moviegoers to understand the context as well as the content of films and make wise decisions about what they want to see.



  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Elman

    I don’t totally agree with your 1 or 2 f-words equal an automatic R argument, because currently that would make the R range huge and therefore have less meaning.

    This idea might make us both happy:

    Drop the PG13 (maybe), add an R15. This would mean 17 to get in alone, 15 with an adult. The otherwise wholesome 2 f-word movie could get a restricted rating, where as the raunchy comedy would more likely get an R15.

    I’ve got so many problems with the MPAA, but right now my biggest concern is that people can (and do) bring 8 year olds to see movies like Spring Breakers.

    • Nell Minow

      That wasn’t exactly my point, Elman. I was just addressing the hypocrisy and artificiality of the f-word rule, which is constantly being manipulated. I can’t think of a single use of the word that was so necessary to a PG-13 film that it would make a difference to take it out, however.

Previous Posts

Trailer -- Exodus: Gods and Kings, The Story of Moses with Christian Bale
[iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/t-8YsulfxVI?rel=0" frameborder="0"] Christian Bale and Sir Ben Kingsley star in "Exodus: Gods and Kings," the story of Moses and the exodus of the Jews from Egypt. It opens this December.

posted 8:00:26pm Oct. 01, 2014 | read full post »

October 2014: Movies This Month
Happy October! This month is when we start to get the big, award-hopeful fall releases. Some of the highlights of what's ahead this month include: October 3: "Gone Girl," with Ben Affle

posted 3:42:45pm Oct. 01, 2014 | read full post »

The Inside Story of "The Princess Bride" by Cary Elwes: As You Wish
Fans of The Princess Bride, which means pretty much everyone, will love the new book from Cary Elwes (Wesley), who takes us behind the scenes for the inside story of the making of the film, from his nervous audition (his imitation of Fat Albert saved the day) to the most dedicated fans (one had "As

posted 8:00:44am Oct. 01, 2014 | read full post »

Believe Me
Will Bakke has followed his two thought-provoking documentaries on faith with a remarkably smart, funny, brave, and heartfelt first feature film that explores religion and values without ever falling

posted 11:06:16am Sep. 30, 2014 | read full post »

Gone Girl's Rosamund Pike
Rosamund Pike delivers a stunning breakthrough performance in this week's "Gone Girl." She's been a favorite of mine for a long time, for her elegant voice and precise acting choices. It's a good

posted 8:00:23am Sep. 30, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.