Regulations in the Motion Picture Association of America


The thing that stuck with me from the readings this week was behavioral regulations.  In particular, the movie rating system…this system seems to me to be in a constant state of flux that varies upon the cultural climates of the times.  I think back to such pre-code classics as the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan film, which had artfully done sequence of Jane swimming with Tarzan.  Yes, this sequence revealed the feminine form but it was no worse than marble statue in a museum depicting the feminine form.  Yet after the first film in this series, the censors made sure that Jane was fully clad for every shot.  Other films that met with extremity from the censors of the time are the cult classics: “Freaks” and “The Island of Lost Souls”.  Both of these films are tame by today’s standards yet they were banned for decades in most countries.  I have only been around for thirty some odd years but in that time, I have noticed these slackening of these regulatory restrictions.

I have seen the change from a time, where Television could not exhibit films with curse words without redubbing the dialogue yet now, you hear “damn” and “fuck” on more of a regular basis.  “If you think major profanity is becoming more prevalent…” the fact is that, “…you’re not imagining things or morphing into your mother. It’s happening.”1 The Motion Picture Association of America allows a PG-13 movie to use “fuck” one time in a film.  ““Filmmakers are certainly using it more often, taking advantage of it,” says Joan Graves, head of the Motion Picture Association of America’s Classification and Rating Administration. Examples cited include “The Social Network” and “The Tourist.””2

The rating system has been put in place for, “ the protection of children from adult content…”3 Why the change?  That is difficult to answer.  “MPAA rating boards are made up of parents who are supposed to represent what other parents would consider appropriate. The language may be spaced far enough apart in the movie to be considered innocuous. That parents have changed over the years may be an even bigger factor.”1 I am not advocating for nor against the rating system but it makes me consider if the behavioral regulations that are in place today are effective?

Russell McGee

1 S. Kirk, Motion picture watchdogs weaken limits on swearing, WWW Document,—pg-13_profanity/

2 D. Farmer, The Farmer File: Does the movie rating system get an ‘F’?, WWW Document,

3M. Deuze, Managing MediaWork, (SAGE Publications, Inc., Thousand Oaks, CA, 2011), pp. 74.


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