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This Film is Not Yet Rated

November 30, 2010

Admittedly, this has nothing to do with the worship life of our congregation but is really more of an interest inquiry on pop culture, which has a curious intersection with the Episcopal Church.

How many of you have seen the documentary, “This Film is Not Yet Rated”?  I’ve just finished watching it.

It is a documentary about the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America), the body of anonymous individuals who are responsible for determining what rating a film receives, whether it be a “G” rating for general audiences through to an “NC-17” rating for highly restricted audiences.  The documentary is critical of the MPAA and their ratings work, especially their secret nature.

This documentary includes clips from films that depict graphic sex and violent acts, so, fair warning.

What I found most interesting about the documentary, and I highly recommend it, is that if a film receives a rating that the film makers are upset about (this usually only happens if a movie gets an “NC-17” rating, primarily because that means a tremendous loss of potential revenue to the film maker – watch the movie for more info) they are able to appeal that decision to an appeals board.

On this appeals board are individuals that have the power to uphold the rating or overturn including two members of the clergy.  The appeals board apparently has one catholic priest and one EPISCOPALIAN priest on it. I found that absolutely fascinating at the same time it made the “artsy, I was an actor in college and appreciate and support the arts” part of me pretty nauseous.

So, I am curious, what do y’all think of that?  Of the MPAA ratings system in general or the appeals process in general, or the fact that a member of the Episcopalian clergy sits on that appeals board in specific?  And I guess the more focused question is what is the role of the church, in the public/civic sphere, to sit in judgment on pieces of culture or art, such as films, in an official capacity?  I am fascinated by this!  And with apologies to my Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania colleagues, with whom I am participating currently in the diocesan clergy retreat, I have to say this is by far the most intriguing thing I’ve learned today!

Fr. Ryan+



2 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike Fox permalink
    December 1, 2010 9:49 am

    I think it was the Catholic League of Decency that was responsible for the Hayes Office and their Hayes Code in the 1930’s – depriving us of the best of Mae West and Jean Harlow. I don’t like censorship in any form. It’s OK to rate films so that parents know what their kids are seeing, but it should be an advisory label, not a restriction.

    I’m just thankful that Pat Robertson and HIS crowd haven’t found their way onto the Board!

  2. Chris Butto permalink
    December 1, 2010 5:25 pm

    I don’t see a problem with clergy being on the appeals board, especially if it can add to the creditibility of the panel. I’m very happy that I’m not trying to raise children today. I see the pressures that my neices and their husbands struggle with in making the right decisions regarding their children. With the advances made in home theaters and the connection of the home TV to the internet, there is a stronger need for some type of guidelines. As always parents should be the ultimate gatekeeper for what comes into the home and, hopefully, with better parental controls they can do a good job. Right now, if you drop your kids off at the movie theater, you have kids that are seeing R and perhaps even NC17 movies. I would hope that the ratings would be better and more effectively used in our homes.

    As a kid I remember the Legion of Decency (does it still exist?) and the somewhat extreme classifications that it made. But I think those days of barring someone from seeing a movie are over and I think the Church or any other clergy including rabbis and imams should have a role in helping their faithful sort through the constant stream of imagery and entertainment that comes through our homes.


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