Warning: Rated R

Jacqueline LeBlanc

Film rating system proves unhelpful, bias

Art by Richard Sapp
On a Saturday night, my sister and I lay across my floor, eating popcorn, looking for something to watch.  Eventually, we stumbled upon Tom Six’s horror film, “The Human Centipede” on Netflix.
We looked at each other and nodded in agreement, deciding that we could handle the notoriously disgusting movie. An R-rated film can only encompass so much, otherwise it would be rated NC-17.
During the film, Dr. Heiter’s crazed face laughs as he watches his three joined victims crawl on all fours like a dog in his backyard.  The piercing screams of the defenseless victims fill the room when they discover their tragic demise. A trembling woman’s face cringes with horror as she gags when forced to swallow the attached man’s waste.
My sister and I shuddered, wishing we had never watched it.
The film is  graphic, gruesome and altogether repulsive.  The Motion Picture Association of America granted the 2009 Dutch film an R rating, which, judging by the content, is both predictable and unopposed.
The MPAA’s system of rating movies is based on a statistical approach.  According to the MPAA, if a movie uses a sexually derived word more than four times throughout the film or multiple times in one scene it receives an R rating.  Male and female nudity gives a film a PG-13 rating and is increased to an R rating once it is depicted in a sexual manner. The use of drugs usually receives a PG-13 rating.
However, the MPAA’s method for rating movies is inconsistent, misconceived and ineffective. The MPAA should not rate movies by mere statistics, but by content and the objective material in contrast to the entire film.
The R rating is too broad and encompasses too many aspects.  A film can receive an R because it portrays a gory, offensive scene and has objectionable content, while another R-rated film, for instance, may simply construe a flurry of profanities for a brief amount of time.
For this reason, movies such as  Lee Hirsch’s documentary “Bully,” an attempt to change children’s view and behavior in the schoolyard and online, received the same rating as films like
“The Human Centipede” — R.
How can “Bully” be rated the same level of inappropriateness as “The Human Centipede?”
“Bully,” a touching film documenting the lives of bullied teens, received an R rating from the MPAA because a lone scene incorporates five uses of the f-word, one over the limit.
In the United States, the majority of films planning on a widespread release send their film to the MPAA to be rated. Choosing not to have a movie rated is economic suicide in the movie world.  Movie theaters are more reluctant to show unrated films, and many television times do not advertise for unrated movies, which results in a limited release and publicity of the film and a lesser chance of receiving awards as well as an audience.  One moment on the silver screen can heavily affect  the movie’s fate.
Despite many attempts to change the rating to a PG-13, the MPAA refused to alter the rating of “Bully” unless the scene was either taken out or edited.
After a world-wide Facebook protest, online petitions and many letters written in, the MPAA still refused to change the rating.
Ultimately the makers of “Bully” cut the curse words and edited the guilty scene to get their desired PG-13 rating.  Alas, “Bully” was bullied by the MPAA.
The MPAA is too quick to grant an R-rating, and the range of films given the rating fall into different spectrums.
In no way do films like “Bully,” “The King’s Speech” and “Slumdog Millionaire” have equivalent objectionable content to films such as “The Human Centipede,” “Pulp Fiction” and “Borat.”  R-rated films are not necessarily offensive or pornographic, but the scope of the rating system is so broad it is hard to tell.
The MPAA sees its job as simply a guideline, but it focuses too much on what a movie encompasses. It is up to the viewer to remain informed.  Until the MPAA implements these changes, viewers should scour the Internet to find the true scoop on the freakycentipede or the soulful bully.
By Jacqueline LeBlanc