Posted in: Opinion

MPAA President Chris Dodd Says Organization Is Ready To Take Action In Light Of Newtown, Connecticut

The MPAA rating warning before a trailer.

Commentary | In one of the more ridiculous twists since the tragic and terrible shooting that took place in Newtown, Connecticut, the head of censorship organization the MPAA, Chris Dodd, has said his organization stands ready to be a part of the conversation regarding gun control in America.

Before anyone burns me at the stake, let me say this whole-heartedly; I believe in gun control. The Newton elementary school shooting is a tragedy that should never happen again. However, I don’t think the MPAA has any right getting involved in the conversation.

For anyone who does not know, MPAA stands for the Motion Picture Association of America. They are the organization that give movies their ratings. If you want to see an R-rated film, it’s only R-rated because the MPAA has decided there is too much blood, adult language, sex, or violence.

Here is a quote by MPAA president Chris Dodd from Entertainment Weekly:

As chairman of the MPAA and on behalf of the motion picture and television studios we represent, we join all Americans in expressing our sympathy as well as our horror and outrage at this senseless act of violence. Thus, I have reached out to the Administration to express our support for the President’s efforts in the wake of the Newtown tragedy. Those of us in the motion picture and television industry want to do our part to help America heal. We stand ready to be part of the national conversation.”

Personally, I read a lot of subtext into this statement. The MPAA is a very conservative organization with a lot of ties to the government. At the bottom of this article, I have posted a link for the trailer of brilliant documentary about the MPAA called This Film Is Not Yet Rated.

This Film Is Not Yet Rated is about one man’s search for who exactly the members of the MPAA are and how they function to oppressively rate movies. Without saying too much, the film is one of the best investigations into censorship I have ever seen.

I am currently in graduate school studying screenwriting at Chapman University. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Chapman University is the number 13 film school in the world. As passionate filmmakers, we spend a lot of time discussing the MPAA and what it stands for and hopes to accomplish.

The problem with the MPAA is that we have an organization that has become industry standard when, in actuality, studios have the choice whether to submit their films to be rated. Yes, it is a voluntary submission!

The disturbing problem is that, without an MPAA rating, most theaters will not show a movie.

Again, this is an organization that a studio submits movies to voluntarily! Does that really sound very voluntary?

And what about the ratings themselves? They couldn’t be more confusing! According to the MPAA, a film can say the f-word more than once, depending on the context (is it a sex reference or an insult?). And a movie can show as much violence as it wants to get a PG-13 rating as long as the violence is not depicted realistically. Isn’t violence well, violent? Is there honestly a difference when someone dies on screen regardless of the exaggeration of blood?

Unfortunately, it appears that the MPAA may be posturing to use the current massacre to justify tighter Hollywood controls. After all, why else would the MPAA get involved in an event for which it has no authority? Palin and simple the Newtown school shooting should not effect, in anyway, what rating a movie is given, which directly effects what kind of audience can and will see a movie.

I am strongly in the camp that the majority of people go to movies understanding that they are just unrealistic movies, and I believe and hope that most people can separate onscreen action from reality and what is acceptable in reality. This assumption is logical to me, but I understand it is not logical to everyone.

Because conversation needs to be created regarding censorship, I will say this: The Newtown shooting is an exception. There is a high probability the shooter had a personality disorder. Should we therefore assume that every person in America has a personality disorder? In that case, we should studios only produce and release G to PG rated movies?

Again, let me be clear. I support gun control. I don’t support the MPAA and what sounds to me like a drastic reaction resulting from on the spot emotion and not logical thought. A reaction that will likely be used to justify tightening control of movie ratings based on political pandering at the hands of dead children.

I love film and the artistic expression it allows directors, writers, actors, and anyone else involved. Film is a language that can be used politically, socially, or even for pure escapism. It’s a beautiful medium. Unfortunately, the MPAA limits the possibility for widespread artistic expression. Call me whatever you want, but it is for these reason that I so strongly believe that films should not be censored.

The statement released by the MPAA scares me. This is an organization that practices unethical censorship and now has what they consider a reason to further censor what we can see as an audience. Furthermore, they are attempting to spread their authority by attaching themselves to a haunting massacre of innocent people. It is unfair, and I don’t stand for it. No “voluntary” organization should be seen as legitimate when they can directly influence where an artist’s film gets seen and who sees it by how many times the f-word is used! Especially when they attempt to align themselves with such tragedy to spread their agenda.

I know that I cannot make you believe me. But, as promised, I can show you the trailer for This Film Is Not Yet Rated:

I urge to you watch it.

What’s your opinion? Am I reading too deeply into the MPAA’s statement in regards to future censorship as a result of the Newtown elementary school shooting?

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