Image designed by Victor Gimenez. Please use it in your post if you participate.

No, the title is not a typographical error. I announce a new blogathon: the “flogathon”. It’s a portmanteau of “flog” and “blogathon.” Here, I ask you to rant–sarcastically and exaggeratedly spew–about something film-related you just can’t stand; post the rant, with a link back to my blog included; and email me the link to your post so I can list it below. Be as excessive, absurd, informal, and/or comical as you want. I know today’s Thanksgiving (and I wish you all a happy one, if you celebrate it), but we should be giving thanks every day. Just please, don’t flog anyone, including yourself. It’s a fun word, but I use it in the most comical and kidding sense as possible, just like “lobotomy.”

My rant regards the MPAA, whose logic seems to enjoy a day by day plummet. Every time I see a trailer, it’s always prefaced with this green title card:

…for a mere six seconds. Of course, the MPAA rating always differs in the most frivolous possible ways. Contrary to what the MPAA likely believes, that’s impossible to read word-for-word in such a short amount of time, especially with people crunching on popcorn and sipping soda in the background. So I always dart my eyes toward the MPAA rating itself. I’ll honor them for one thing: writing with a professional tone. They couldn’t do it back in the ’90s, when North was rated PG “for a few words” and Twister PG-13 for “intense depiction of very bad weather.” Clap–slowly and facetiously–for their improvement! Whenever I see a trailer prefaced with “rated R for strong sexual content, pervasive language, nudity, graphic violence and a scene of drug use” (just imitating their tone), I want to shout, “WHY DON’T YOU JUST WATERMARK WITH THE TRAILER ‘OFFENSIVE AND UNHOLY’!?” To which they would also take offense, as shouting is perhaps “mild violence” and the word “unholy” can be associated with religion.

Another pet peeve I have as far as the MPAA is concerned is how they’re able to pick up on nuances that the average, intelligible parent probably would not show much concern about. In Planes, Trains and Automobiles (a classic Thanksgiving movie, by the way), Steve Martin lets out a minute-long tirade that contain 17 or 18 words beginning with the letter “f”. The film earned the equivalents of PG and PG-13 ratings in most other countries, but because the “f-bombs” exceeded the MPAA’s limits (3 at most in a PG-13), they slapped it with an R rating. Another example: The King’s Speech, one of the finest movies of 2010, and the one that took home the Best Picture Oscar. The film is a phenomenal dramatization of the life of King George VI, whose speech impediment was an obstacle in his rule over England. Don’t you think this would be a perfect film for teenagers, historical value, entertainment, the whole nine yards? Clearly, the MPAA didn’t. ONE SINGLE SCENE features the King dropping the “f-bomb” eleven times, and the film earned an R rating. I don’t endorse sneaking into theaters, but for a film like that, a splendid motion picture that should be available for “unaccompanied minors,” it’s hard to not promote sneaking in. You want another? Lost in Translation. The film is one of the most atmospheric, vivid I’ve ever seen. Furthermore, the vast majority of it is wholesome. The only real noticeable threat is the consumption of cigarettes, which would earn a PG rating “for smoking”. But oh, dear Lord! There’s a scene…it’s forty seconds long…it features a crass song…it’s set in a strip club…there’s partial nudity…forty seconds! I think I’m going into shock! Alert the media! Plug it with an R rating! Sometimes, the MPAA just seems more harm than the content they accuse films of having. And I could go on in this area. School of Rock was a perfectly enjoyable movie for the whole family, but due to one instance each of the words “groupies” and “tequilas,” it earned a PG-13. Last year’s Rio was deemed mildly crude and initially earned a PG rating; about ten seconds were cut in order to maintain the almost nonexistent G rating. ETC.

You know what else irks me? What the MPAA considers over-the-top. How is it that films as explicitly violent as The Passion of the Christ, The Raid: Redemption, and Saw–as horrendously and gruesomely graphic as they are–can only earn an R rating, as opposed to an NC-17? The Passion of the Christ features extensive scenes of Jesus Christ being tortured and nailed to a cross during the final twelve hours of his life. “Rated R for sequences of graphic violence.” Save for the opening five minutes, The Raid is NOTHING but violence, violence, and more violence. “Rated R for strong brutal bloody violence throughout, and language.” Saw is a film that bears no restraints as it tells a story of a sick psychopath who cleverly confines people to traps, and gives them exactly sixty minutes to find a certain appreciation in life before they die. “Rated R for strong grisly violence and language.” Now let’s look at films that DID earn the NC-17: Shame, Henry & June, and Showgirls. Films that never have a single strip of clothing onscreen, and characters that just can’t make an inch of space between them, for two hours. Isn’t the whole point of the MPAA ratings to keep minors (and as I am one, I speak on a somewhat personal level) from taking influence from questionable material? I don’t mean to sound like Bill Cosby or SNL‘s “Church Lady,” but I wonder if there would be significantly less violence from those under eighteen if they were just a bit more restricted from “torture porn.” Perhaps this is for marketing purposes. Nah, scratch that: the MPAA gave X ratings (the NC-17 precursor) to Last Tango in Paris and A Clockwork Orange (initially, at least), and those two are today considered landmark filmmaking.

So, what about movies do YOU hate? Rant. Blog. Mention me. Send me the link. Let’s try and start an irate revolution like this one:

NOTE: If you send me your submissions on Thanksgiving or Black Friday (11/22 or 11/23), please note that the link may not appear until that Saturday (11/24). I’m away for Thanksgiving.


21 thoughts on “Flogathon

  1. Great post! It’s dangerous to get me started on this subject — I have too many opinions. πŸ˜‰ First of all, I think ratings are useless. How does the MPAA know what my children’s sensitivities are or what concerns me as a parent? What business is it of theirs anyway? Where do they get off telling my kids what they should watch?

    Coincidentally, we were talking about this last night, because were were watching Planes, Trains & Automobiles, which you mentioned. My older daughter said something like, “this movie is rated R for f-bombs, while _____ is rated PG-13, and they brutally murdered a cat.”

    It doesn’t help that my standards are ass-backwards from the rest of society, at least here in the U.S.. I don’t care which swear words my kids hear — they know virtually all of them anyway. I don’t care if they see nudity or a little onscreen sex. They decide for themselves when nudity or sexuality invades their comfort level — if I know in advance that’s going to be an issue, I give them a heads up and trust their judgment.

    I’m much more concerned about the effects of gratuitous violence. Yet the MPAA slaps an R rating on an otherwise innocuous movie for use of “the f word” while allowing a surprising about of violence to be packed into a PG-13 film. BTW, I’ve read that European culture is more in line with my thinking on sex/language vs. violence.

    Now that we have easy access to sites like commonsense media, which give information that’s actually helpful, I think the time has come to scrap the MPAA rating system altogether. That will also spare us all this nonsense of filmmakers having to battle NC-17 ratings. Give us a heads-up about what we can expect, and let us adults decide for ourselves what’s good for us.


    • Wow, thanks for your thoughtful comment!!

      I’d say the ratings are useless also. They’re fun to read, but obviously that’s not what they’re meant for. It seems Americans are following the MPAA ratings less and less, while movies are (supposedly) getting more and more graphic. How many G-rated movies succeeded at the box office this year? One? Two? Three? How many were released total?

      Glad you and your daughter watched Planes, Trains and Automobiles last night. The movie is such a classic, and it’s directed by John Hughes, so regardless of the R rating, it’s appealing to a young audience. Still, you’re absolutely right. The MPAA claims to be made up of parents who rated based on content, not entertainment value, but they seem like they’re trying to censor the film industry! Planes got an R for a SCENE that featured repeated F-bombs, yet there’s some sort of bias toward certain films, for whatever bizarre reason. I remember going to see Marley & Me when I was in fifth grade. I was offended by the number of times the characters mentioned and discussed sex (not graphically, but frequently, and it is what it is) in a PG-rated movie.

      If MPAA ratings were a huge deal, I would probably have moved to Europe. You’re right that their decisions are more agreeable and rational.

      I must disagree with you on one thing: your points about Common Sense Media. The name makes me shudder. My mother first discovered it when I was in fifth grade and used it like a laid-down law. Whenever I wanted to listen to a certain album or watch a certain movie, she’d always check at make sure it said “OK for 12+” (the one year leeway did almost nothing). I wanted to listen to U2’s new (or back then, at least) album, which they said “OK for 15+” due to a suggestive song called “Get on Your Boots”, for example. It turned into a household war of sorts, and eventually the decision was that I could only listen to “The Joshua Tree”, and a few of their other older albums. Gradually, it became more of a guide for her, and now it’s gone from her memory, it seems. With just a bit of exaggeration, she often tells her friends, “The only movies I WON’T let him watch are Quentin Tarantino films and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”

      I’d appreciate if you’d participate! Thanks a bunch.

      • *Smile* I stand by my recommendation of Common Sense Media, but I understand where you’re coming from. I think it’s all a matter of how it’s used. It doesn’t help much if a busy parent uses it as gospel like your mom did (not judging — I know how tough parenting can be :-)) I think it should be used more as a springboard for discussion between parent and child about the reasons a book/movie/song may or may not be a good choice. For the most part my teens do their own censoring, because they know what’s disturbing for them, and my daughter uses Common Sense Media, on her own, to make decisions about what to watch.

        One thing I like about CSM is that it doesn’t just post age guidelines, it gives specifics about what parents and kids might be concerned about. And it mentions possible discussion topics. If my teens are going to watch an “inappropriate” movies, 9 times out of 10 I’d rather watch it *with* them and discuss sensitive issues that come up instead of banning it.

        Anyway, all this is pretty much becoming a moot point — my teens are getting older (14 and 18) and they can handle more movie violence than *I* can. πŸ™‚ Glad you and your mom are finding a reasonable middle ground.

        • Haha. My mother feels the same way about how I can handle more movie violence than her. For example, we were watching Braveheart a few months ago, and (slight spoiler if you haven’t seen it, but it’s historical fact also) she turned away when William Wallace was being beheaded in the end. Nothing was shown onscreen, but SHE asked ME when SHE could look.

  2. Hahaha, great rant! Ratings are always very weird, in the Netherlands they are the other way around. I’m sometimes watching movies with the kids which have things in them which are not suitable for them. For example a couple of months back we watched a movie which had a rating of 6 (an age rating is used here), yet there was a scene in that movie in which one of the characters was cheating on his girlfriend and went to this sex event to buy a vibrator…try to explain that to your kids. They didn’t ask questions, but as a parent these are awkward moments πŸ™‚

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