Picture this scenario in a world without the Motion Picture Association of America rating system: a group of elementary school kids arrive at their local movie theatre. Unfamiliar with the titles, they randomly pick what in today’s world would be considered an R-rated film full of foul language, violence and nudity. Confused, they go home and ask their parents to explain the meaning of certain derogatory terms. The parents reply in shock and anger before going to the movie theatre, asking why the box office cashiers would allow a ten year old into such a gruesome film. With no other answer to give, the cashier tells the angry parent how there is no rule system in place to stop kids from attending such a movie.
There are many misconceptions floating around about what the MPAA actually does. The Motion Picture Association of America does not censor films; they simply rate them and provide necessary guidelines for attendance. The only rules of the rating system involve R and NC-17 rated films. Due to violent nature/excessive language/ or extreme sexuality, the MPAA believes the film is not suitable for all ages and therefore the viewer must be seventeen or with an adult over the age of 21. In the case of an NC-17 film (which are rarely shown at movie theatres), the viewer must be over 17, no exceptions. Once again, the MPAA does not censor films; therefore, why do people have such a problem with the rating system?
The average parent would not be okay with his or her elementary school child waltzing into the movie theatre and watching the latest teen sex comedy nor would they be fine with their child seeing a gruesome murder filmed in the most glamorized manor. In fact, it has been proven that exposure to violent images at a young age has several negative side effects.
According to The Academy of Pediatrics, “More than one thousand scientific studies and reviews conclude that significant exposure to media violence increases the risk of aggressive behavior in certain children, desensitizes them to violence and makes them believe that the world is a ‘meaner and scarier’ place than it is.”
Fewer studies have been done on the effects of sex in the media as opposed to violence, but according to a recent survey, 53 percent of children use movies or television as a source of information about sex. Wouldn’t it be wiser for parents to be mindful of the reason a film is rated R for sexuality before children gain a misconstrued image of the world through media?
Many believe the MPAA is biased toward big Hollywood blockbusters, giving them PG-13 ratings, while the majority of independent films barely get by with an R rating. They have also been accused of being harder on sexual content while giving leniency to violence.
Although the MPAA is not perfect, why does it matter? They do a pretty good job with restricting, not censoring, content children are able to see without a parent or guardian present. If the parent is fine with exposing their child to these images, they are more than welcome to accompany the child to the film or wait a couple months for it to be available on Netflix.