Kirby Dick’s documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated explores the hypocrisy in determining what films are R and what are NC-17. But what about the PG-13 debate? Is The Matrix really more violent than The Fast and the Furious?
Kirby Dick on PG-13 Ratings and This Film is Not Yet Rated
“I do know that Terry Webb who is this researcher associated with UCLA did this study on how films are rated for violence and she found out that there’s really no consistency whatsoever,” said Dick. “Some R rated films have less violence in than some PG rated films. And it’s just all over the map and the reason is there’s no written standards. There’s no experts on the board, there’s no media experts or child psychology experts. So it’s almost like an impressionistic response. I think part of it could be they just maybe they saw it at a different time of day. Who knows, it could be that perhaps there was a hearing in Congress over violence and they decided that perhaps they should rate something more restrictively. We know that if there are stars associated with a film that especially in the appeals process, they can come in and swing a rating. So it’s not really a professionally developed system. It’s a system that’s set up to benefit the studios and they have a sort of fudge factor that they can work with.”
An R rating can hurt studios and filmmakers by limiting audiences, though not as restrictively as the NC-17, but the point is still the same as the one Dick makes in the film. “Again, I think that there’s a variety of factors. I think the important thing here you’re asking the question and there really isn’t an answer for that. If it was in Europe, everything is done out in the open. Everybody knows who the raters are. It’s interesting, even on the NC-17 level, all the filmmakers we interviewed about NC-17 ratings thought they’d made films that were R. They thought they’d made R films. They were trying to. Because there’s no standards published and there’s no information about the process or the people doing it, who can figure it out?”
Ultimately, Dick doesn’t want to nitpick on the rating itself. He wants more complete information. “Personally, I would prefer a rating system where there weren’t these restrictions. I’m all for information getting out. I think that an extensive description of what’s in a film in terms of sex, violence, drug use, whatever, theme, anything so that people and parents can make a decision, I think that’s important. I think that the idea that 10 anonymous parents in Los Angeles make the decision for all the parents and all the people in the country is pretty absurd.”
This Film Is Not Yet Rated opens Friday, September 1st.