This Film is Not Yet Rated

So, last night we ended up watching “This Film is Not Yet Rated” which is kind of a boring documentary about a guy’s strange obsession with trying to find out who the people on the MPAA ratings board are, in which is hidden the hints of a very interesting feminist film.

The thing that stood out for me in the film the most was how explicit it is who the real busybodies in our culture are.  And when I say “busybodies” I mean, who are the people who believe that they have the right… no, more than that… that they have an obligation to impose their will on you.  And those three busybody groups–and the three most closely aligned with the MPAA ratings board are 1. Politicians, 2.  “Parents”*, and 3.  The Church.  Growing up in it, especially with a pastor/father who’s not that big into trying to dictate what the whole world is up to (at least not from any “And I’m a pastor, so I know” perspective), I’m often taken aback by the audacity of someone from a religion that is not mine (and, often from a denomination that is not yours) thinking that he needs to help the motion picture industry figure out what is appropriate for people to view.  If you have that urge, it sure must be nice to be able to find a job that will let you act on it in clear conscience.

But the other thing I found really interesting was that it actually went a little farther than I’ve seen most folks go in arguing that it’s easier to get an R rating or a PG-13 rating if your film is violent than it is if it’s sexual.  Because, in this movie, Kevin Smith points out that it seems to be much easier to get an R rating if your film shows violent sexual acts against women than if your film shows women taking part in pleasurable consensual sexual acts.  And then they show clip after clip of women being chased down and assaulted and them screaming and crying or laying there very still from movies all with R ratings juxtaposed against clip after clip of women having pleasurable sex in movies where the Board told the filmmakers to recut it to reduce the time of those scenes on-screen.

It’s really shocking to see it compiled like that.

And John Waters is in it and I love him.

But the best part was Maria Bello talking about them objecting to her pubic hair in The Cooler and I about died, it’s so great.  I mean, folks, every day, I wish I had the grace and poise and confidence in my own body that I could sit here and discuss with you, say, my pubic hair without it feeling, for me, transgressive.  To see her talking so matter-of-factly about her body like that was pretty damn awesome.

*And I put “parents” in quotes because a great many people in our culture are parents and most of them do not give a shit about what you’re doing right now, but a small, vocal group believes that they have the right–for the children–to dictate how your life is shaped.  I mean the second group.

42 thoughts on “This Film is Not Yet Rated

  1. A while back I read an article discussing another group close to the MPAA; the deep-pocketed American film studios. the notion was that the MPAA ratings board consists of people with financial ties to the US film companies. Therefore things more common to mainstream US films (violence, profanity, drug-use) aren’t rated as strictly to things more common in foriegn/indy films (sex, nudity, and anything even remotely homoerotic).

  2. Well, that’s obviously completely true, based on who they discover is on the board that reviews the appeals process–they’re all owners or buyers for movie chains.

    They were talking to Matt Stone and he was saying that, when they did Orgasmo (an independent film), the Board wouldn’t tell them what they had to do to get an R rating, but when they did South Park, they got a specific list of changes, and South Park was a major studio production.

    it was pretty funny when he talked about the sex scene in Team America, how they deliberately filmed it as long and gross as they could think of so that, when they were told to cut it, they could cut it down to what they originally wanted to show.

  3. We saw that film when it first came out, last year I think. We LOVED it.

    I think it’s fascinating to see the arbitrary standards that are applied to films, and the “regular people” who supposedly represent “community standards” and make that judgment call.

  4. I’m definitely going to have to put this in the Netflix queue.

    I remember being a kid and watching something on tv and my parents saying
    “don’t watch that, it will rot your brain” and they’d make me cut the tv off. Turns out,
    they were right — for example, I went to the movies to see “The Wrestler” and there was this preview for the new “Friday The 13th” – I’ve never seen any of the 342 versions of this movie. And sitting there watching the trailer interspersed with the actors talking about the 2009 version made me sick. One of the male leads was talking about how people are hacked to death and how “awesome” it is. Am I the only person outraged here? How is watching someone being murdered entertainment? That said, if someone wants to waste their money going to see that drivel, have at it. But personally, I’d rather fill my brain with a story that is enlightening and puts me toward learning something or being a better person — of course, I loved “Team America” – sometimes just need to laugh at stupid crap.

    Oh, & I’m glad you brought up that point about politicians and parents being the busybodies – my personal favorites are Al and Tipper “PMRC” Gore.

  5. Oh the PMRC! God, that made the Gores seem like such doofuses.

    Anyway, the movie is well worth it. The arbitrary standards part is just fascinating. If you make a movie that has, say, a cooter in it and they give it an NC-17 rating, when/if you appeal, you are not allowed to bring up other movies in your defense. So, you can’t say “But Sharon Stone…” or “But a guy fucks a pie!” to show that your movie fits in with stuff they’ve allowed in other R-rated moveis.

  6. I have to put in in my Netflix cue – the top – if only to hear Maria Bello talk about her pubic hair. I am a little in love with Maria Bello and only a little embarrassed about it.

  7. I’m rereading John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty” today. Very early on he says something that seems so fitting here: “Protection, therefore, again the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough: there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development, not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own. There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence: and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs, as protection against political despotism.”

  8. Check out a documentary series, made for the Independent Film Channel, called “Indie Sex.” 2 discs, available from NetFlix. You’ll really love John Waters in this one!

  9. Actually, Sarcastro, that’s not true. Although that is a common misreading of Mill.

    That’s not the overall message of “On Liberty” and Mill spends a great deal of time talking about the importance of communicating, of testing your opinions against those of others. He doesn’t think anyone can know much of anything alone and surely cannot do anything alone. In Chapter II: “The steady habit of correcting and completing his own opinion by collating it with those of others, so far from causing doubt and hesitation in carrying it into practice, is the only stable foundation for a just reliance on it.”

    He is quite vigilant against certainty and infallibility of opinions, even rare and apparently dangerous ones, and the exercise of that certainty in the form of silencing others. And, he says it is more harmful to the majority than the minority anyhow – well, especially if the minority are “those whose bread is already secured …” because it makes us intellectual cowards unwilling to take risks and develop new ideas.

  10. that’s cool. I can take a little personal ribbing for me tone when you have no response to my content.

  11. Oh, sorry. Didn’t realize you were the foremost authority on Mill. I should take your interpretation as the definitive one and slouch back amongst the plebes and discuss social tyranny.

    Rereading Chapter II, I must have also misunderstood “We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavouring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still.”

    A common mistake, I’m sure.

  12. Well, since she is a philosophy professor and you’re a guy that installs cable who used to be a building contractor, I’d wager she’s more of an authority on Mill scholarship than you are, Mr. Snottypants.

    Cherry-picking a passage of a text (as you’ve done) isn’t the same as describing the entire argument. It’s the difference between delivering a clever pick-up line and actually getting laid.

  13. Oooh! Appeal to Authority…very nice. How logical of you. Bet they teach that in them fancy schools.

    Funny, I have a copy of On Liberty right here and they didn’t ask for any ID when I bought it in order to prove that I had my GED or nuthin.

    Here’s another one I cherry-picked from the very next page:
    “There is the greatest difference between presuming an opinion to be true, because, with every opportunity for contesting it, it has not been refuted, and assuming its truth for the purpose of not permitting its refutation. Complete liberty of contradicting and disproving our opinion is the very condition which justifies us in assuming its truth for purposes of action; and on no other terms can a being with human faculties have any rational assurance of being right.”

  14. But bridgett, I only gave two quotes too, and not at the same time. Mill is quite accessible because he is such a clear thinker and such a good writer. And Sarcastro is a rather smart person. No specialty is needed to duke it out of the details. I like a moderate read of Mill that keeps things consistent with the political work, the ethical work, and the logic. Sarcastro likes to read the politics in the extreme. Lots of smart people do. I think my position is more defensible and I could put up a whole defense but it isn’t quite my subfield and I don’t blog myself. I just harass others here now and again.

  15. The book is titled “On Liberty” and is a serious defense of the individual against the tyranny of the majority as much as of a single powerful despot. With that I never disagreed. All I took issue with was the claim that individuals, according to Mill, are better off alone determining themselves for themselves. Or did you mean something different by “it takes a village…”? Mill has a developmental account of the human being and is a soft determinist, thinking that there are limits (some biological some environmental some social) to what we can (and should) do. And he doesn’t rail against all those limits.

    I think the MPAA are bad limits set by rigid assholes who presume they have true opinions without confronting others, as your last quote indicates. I think this is a good situation to look to the genius of Mill, and that’s why I brought him up in support of Aunt B’s analysis of the film. I also think you took him too far.

  16. As usual, we are bickering while agreeing.

    The village, in the case, meaning (in an oblique way) “community standards”.

    You had me until, “Sarcastro likes to read the politics in the extreme.” No. Not really. It’s a common misreading.

    You invoking of Mill neatly coincided with a book I’m reading now. Michael Shermer’s “The Science of Good and Evil”. He brings up Mill in his discussion of cooperation as an evolutionary step in the development of ethics and morality. Or something like that.

    Me no understand big wurds.

  17. Forget what I said about the Shermer book. Must have read a discussion of Mill somewhere else in the last 72 hours.

    Extremism in the defense of ‘On Liberty’ is no vice.

  18. since she is a philosophy professor and you’re a guy that installs cable

    Wow. Never would have expected that bit of classism from you bridgett.

  19. Not sure that that statement was a classist statement W.

    I mean, if we were discussing cable installation, she may well have told the Professor, “since he’s a guy that installs cable and you’re a philosophy professor…”

  20. Still a fallacy, dolphin.

    Alan Greenspan being chairman of the Fed may know more about economics than I do but it doesn’t mean he cannot be disagreed with based on that. he is not granted infallibility. by the sae token, neither the prof or I are infallible in our knowledge of our areas of expertise.

  21. Yep. Dolphin wins the prize. If we were talking routers or roofs, I’d bet on Sarcastro to have more experience and theoretical knowledge in that area.

    To paraphrase an old joke about the difference between a pizza and a philosophy professor, the difference between a cable guy and a philosophy professor is that the cable guy can feed a family of four. Or in his case, five.

  22. by the sae token, neither the prof or I are infallible in our knowledge of our areas of expertise.

    Nor did I see any such thing claimed. It was claimed that it was more probable that someone who built a career around philosophy would have greater expertise in philosophy than some who built a career around some other unrelated subject. I find the statement markedly uncontroversial.

  23. Well maybe it’s just me then. It sure came off to me as ‘the college professor knows better than some guy that works with his hands’.

  24. W, for what it’s worth, I am guessing you’d be more knowledgeable about civil engineering than Sarcastro too. (If he’s still burning to play Captain Underdog, the Insecure Auto-Didactic Intellectual, I’ve just given him another opportunity to don the tights.)

  25. That would make you Fallacia, sworn enemy of Reason, Logic and those without a .edu email address.

    Again, being ‘more knowledgeable’ is not the same as being right.

  26. Again, being ‘more knowledgeable’ is not the same as being right.

    true enough, but if I ever need heart surgery I think I’ll opt for the doctor over the guy who has an exacto blade and a book on anatomy and is pretty sure he knows the right way to do it…

  27. And while I’m being grouchy, let me just make clear my opinion that this discussion has taken a turn for the ludicrous. When I thought Bridgett was fighting dirty with Sarcastro because Sarcastro likes a good dirty fight, I thought this was a fine and hilarious fight.

    But now that it’s taken some kind of “well, Sarcastro is just a cable guy and the Professor has book learning, so Sarcastro should just defer to her” serious turn, I have to object.

    Let me be clear. Knowledge, especially liberal-artsy book learning is available to anyone who reads and thinks critically (the skills acquired getting a PhD and then working as a professional scholar are another matter and constitute the broad difference between smarts and training, but who has time to get into that now?). And anyone who reads and thinks critically is welcome here. And I expect that their opinions on materials they’ve read will be treated with the same respect regardless of whether they have an eighth grade education or 14 PhDs.

    Someone’s occupation does not give them more or less of a right to be taken seriously and to have their ideas given consideration.

    If you are fighting dirty, you can attempt to shut down a conversation with “well, you’re just a…” And, frankly, as long as everyone is clear that it’s a dirty fight and everyone walks away from it feeling like they had a challenging spar, I don’t care.

    But to see a bunch of people trying to argue that it was a fair fight? Come on, folks!

    Okay, I’ve vented. Carry on.

  28. I would still say that I wasn’t fighting dirty. I was stating the facts, jack. I’m a professor. You’re an editor. Sarcastro’s a cable guy. What in the fuck is so wrong with saying that in our “out loud” voices?

    If you (y’all) internalize some idea that these jobs have a knowable fixed level of prestige — professor “better than” cable guy, thinkies better than doies — you might get all hot and bothered because I had the gall to suggest that we’re not all equally positioned in the supposed great hierarchy of knowledge. However, in reality, work is work. If you have a hang-up about your job and its putative relationship to your smarts, that’s your hang-up to deal with and not mine. (You’re probably undervaluing what you do for a living as well, but that’s another matter.) To be clear, I was not a whit smarter when I was waiting tables, picking strawberries, wiping baby asses, or any of the dozens of other things I’ve done to make a living. But I did have a hell of a lot less time to read widely and think deeply.

    My work puts me in a position where I read a shitload of books about early America. I write about it and talk about it every day. I go to conferences with other people who write about it. I review their books. I teach the subject. You better bet that I will wager that probably I know more about what people write about early America than you do, by virtue of my work experience and professional training. We all have our skill set. Do I know about other things? Sure. I can chop time on a lot of things. I’m generally smart. But I’m specifically well-trained.

    What I said was exactly this: the Professor (who is a professor and wants to be identified as a professional intellectual — see her blog handle…while someone who doesn’t even fucking capitalize her real first name is getting shit for being an academic elitist) probably has a better grasp of the dominant interpretations of Mill than Sarcastro does. That’s still (probably) true. No mention was made of his smarts or his smartassitude, neither of which are in question. Anything else you (y’all) got out of the comment is a projection of intellectual insecurity, which again are not my problem.

  29. Okay, since I’m the one that started that line of discussion, here’s why I drew the conclusion I did. No judgement, just explaining.

    I think you would have been okay had you just stopped at ‘since she is a philosophy professor’. It’s not unreasonable to point out someone is knowledgeable about what they do for a living. The problem is when you mentioned his job, making it into a competition. What’s the point to that anyway? Is it a problem to let them both state their arguments and judge it based on that? There’s really no point to talking about either of their qualifications to talk about it.

    It also didn’t really help any that you were thrid party to that particular disagreement between Sar and The Professor.

    Since you said you didn’t mean it that way then I’m willing to buy that. But hopefully you can see why I went where I did.

    Anything else you (y’all) got out of the comment is a projection of intellectual insecurity, which again are not my problem.
    You weren’t talking about my profession, so how would my intellectual insecurity have anything to do with it? I know Sar can defend himself better than I can, I just thought it was an interesting comment coming from you after the shots I took the other day about a comment I made.

  30. And while we’re at it, let’s not be patronizing. While all opinions have validity as opinions, not all opinions are equally good. For an interpretation of a text to bear critical scrutiny, it has to be based on evidence from the text (so far, so good), be situated in an understanding of the text as a whole (not so much), and at least be aware of how others understand the text (not at all). Sarcastro can do the work; he chose to offer crummy cherry-picked bullshit instead and it’s not wrong of me to say so. I’m not going to treat him like he’s intellectually inferior because he’s not. I’m going to hold him to the same standard I hold others. When his argument sucks ass, I’ll say so. But I guess that’s somehow elitist of me. Next time, I’ll just pat him on the head for reading books with big wurdz.

  31. Someone’s occupation does not give them more or less of a right to be taken seriously and to have their ideas given consideration.

    Here’s the kicker though. Nobody has suggested such a thing. In fact, if Sarcastro stops playing victim long enough to offer more in depth explanation of his ideas, I think they would be given a great deal of consideration. Instead he’s contenting himself to be the boy who cried “fallacy” instead of offering up a real argument. Ironically, by doing do he’s offering up a fallacy himself.

  32. Just want to say that 1) I’m not yet technically a professor as I am still dissertating and 2) that’s not my blog handle (I don’t blog. I don’t really even comment other places). It’s B’s nickname for me from way back when when those-she-knows’ identities were “protected” from the big bad Internet at the early stages of this site.

  33. Listen, let’s not get me wrong. Sarcastro can act like a huge jackass and he does take contrary positions just to take contrary positions just to see if he can knock the person he’s taking the position contrary to off their game. He has earned, a million times over, any heat he takes for that.

    And, if the argument were “The Professor is a philosopher and you are just some jackass who stirs shit when he can for fun” I would have laughed and thought that someone had Sarcastro’s number and he would have made some sharp-witted comment and life would have gone on.

    I just don’t like dismissing him because of his profession, when the reason to dismiss him is because of his actions.

    And, frankly, Bridgett, I’m surprised to find you on this side of the fight because you are always (and are right now in the other thread where the guy is all like “I know because I’m a song writer”) the first person to throw back her head and laugh long and hard at people who claim they have to be listened to and deferred to because of their profession.

    You have always been the person most willing to say, in essence, “I don’t care what you say you do, put up or shut up.”

    I don’t expect anyone to be nice to Sarcastro or to coddle him. But I do hope that all commenters here (and authors here for that matter) are challenged on what they’re doing here, not on who they are.

    After all, if it comes down to who we are in real life, who am I to take up anyone’s time with this nonsense every day?

  34. We are getting into “whatever, motherfucker” land here.

    Sarcastro dismissed the Professor’s knowledge of Mill (because he was being an asshole, maybe, or drawing on a reservoir of goodwill and previous experience, or whatall…). What I then said, and I quote, was as follows:

    “Well, since she is a philosophy professor and you’re a guy that installs cable who used to be a building contractor, I’d wager she’s more of an authority on Mill scholarship than you are, Mr. Snottypants.”

    And I still think she knows more about Mill scholarship (not Mill…interpretations of Mill) than he does. This is where professional experience matters. He japed at her for providing an intelligent summary of interpretive context (something he himself did not do and still hasn’t done) and everyone has subsequently fallen over themselves to defend him for it. Let’s all celebrate the liberal arts ideal and breadth of reading and critical thinking except when someone actually does it.

    Then I told him he made a crap argument. And I still think so. But once we started talking about how mean I was, the half-assed argument he made was ignored in favor of crowning him King of the Autodidacts.

    So, yeah. I’m mean like that. I trust philosophy professors to know their shit and I think that half-assed arguments are half-assed no matter who makes them. Including cable guys.

  35. Can’t decide which is funnier: Bridgett using Appeal to Authority to claim my argument was “half-assed”, or Dolphin referring to someone other than himself as a victim.

  36. ok, so I watched this film tonight. Awesome.

    Here’s what struck me: these people supposedly only make around $30,000 per year. YET, they all drive luxury cars. And they live in California. Riddle me this, Batman, how is this possible? The math does NOT add up.

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