Monday, June 25, 2007

Blog Ratings

Online Dating

This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:

* missionary (6x)
* dead (2x)
* pain (1x)

Now, I don't disagree that my blog might deserve an R rating. However, it certainly shouldn't receive an "R" for the use of the word "missionary" 6 times, or the words "dead" and "pain" one time each.

I don't trust the American Film Rating Board any more than I trust the computerized site which gave my blog it's rating. Do you know that films are rated by a group of parents--men and women just like you? They are part of a specially designed committee called the film rating board of the Classification and Rating Administration. As a group they view each film and, after a group discussion, vote on its rating, making an educated estimate as to which rating most American parents would consider the most appropriate. Theme, language, violence, nudity, sex and drug use are among those content areas considered in the decision-making process. Also assessed is how each of these elements is employed in the context of each individual film. The rating board places no special emphasis on any of these elements; all are considered and examined before a rating is given.

Film ratings can be changed. The rules permit movie producers to re-submit their films in hopes of receiving another rating. Producers may also appeal a rating decision to the Rating Appeals Board, which is composed of men and women from the industry organizations that sponsor the rating system. A two-thirds secret ballot vote of those present on the Appeals Board may overturn a rating board decision.

In light of this information, I find it extremely arbitrary that members of the Church are given the counsel not to view R rated movies. There are several problems with this approach.

1. Although members are told that movies with G or PG ratings might also be inappropriate for viewing, The "R cutoff" is applied to all members of the Church, giving implied approval of G and PG movies regardless of age, maturity level, or life experience. For example, I find myself as a parent quite likely to ask my children the rating of a movie they are planning to see. If the movie is G or PG I send them off without a qualm and without viewing the movie myself first to ascertain if it is indeed appropriate. I freely admit that this is my failing as a parent, however it is exacerbated by the Church's emphasis on the R rating as a cut-off point.

2. Rather than using our own intelligence and discernment to decide if a movie should be viewed, we mindlessly follow the nameless and faceless "American Film Rating Board." Where a film such as "Schindler's List," "Passion of the Christ," or "The Patriot" might be tasteful and valuable--even educational, the R rating will preclude most LDS members from watching. (In my children's Houston high school "The Patriot" was regularly shown in American History classes. Mormon students were well-known for bringing in notes exempting them from watching the film due to its R rating.)

3. In spite of advice to simply walk out of a movie if it is found to be offensive, some members will continue to watch, simply because the movie has gained the desired G or PG rating. This label gives it legitimacy that its subject matter might not if we were using our own brains to judge it.

4. Obedience to this inconstant "standard" is sometimes used as a determiner of personal righteousness. Members may view themselves or others as more or less righteous based on their adherence to the R-rated movie standard.

With this post, I am not suggesting that members lower their standards or participate in the viewing of violence, gratuitous sex, or banal and debasing themes. On the contrary, we should be discerning what is appropriate for ourselves and our families. We might use ratings as part of our decision-making, as well as reading reviews and using our good judgment and common sense to determine which movies we will see.

For the interest of inquiring minds, I give you the electronic ratings for some popular blogs in the Bloggernacle:

FMH--Rated PG
T&S--Rated PG13
BCC--Rated PG13
The Cultural Hall--Rated G
Exponent Blog--Rated G
Mormanity--Rated PG
Tales From the Crib--Rated PG
Straight and Narrow by Jettboy--Rated NC17



Eric Russell said...

I don't know that the church disagrees with you. It's been 20 years now since a prophet said anything about R-rated movies and Cecil Samuelson, acting as head of the Aaronic Priesthood committee, said a few years ago that the church will not align itself with any ratings system.

By the way, the MPAA is no longer fully nameless and faceless – see the documentary "This Film is Not Yet Rated," which is all about the MPAA raters.

Bored in Vernal said...

Eric, Thanks for bringing up this documentary. I have not seen it, but here is a link to Rotten Tomatoes' page on it. Interesting.

Now, about the 20 years...really? I can't believe that. If it's really true that a prophet hasn't spoken on R rated movies in 20 years, the same cannot be said about local leaders, YM/YW Presidents, and Seminary Teachers. I'm going to look for further info on this.

I applaud Cecil Samuelson. Do you have a link to his statement?

jana said...

Even with all of my sextalk, I'm a rated G blog. How weird is that?? :)

C. L. Hanson said...

I got an R rating too, mostly for talking about death. I think this program only looks at what's on the top page -- it doesn't appear to analyze the archives.

Kullervo said...

I particularly agree with the silliness of the no-R-ratings "commandment."

1. Exactly like you said, the MPAA decides what a movie gets rated, not God, or the prophet, or anything like that. It doesn't make sense for that kind of arbitrary "civilian" decision to change the eternal consequences of a decision.

2. International ratings systems are different, and the Church is global. What gets an R rating might get a lighter rating in another country that uses different criteria or that has different sensibilities. Again, if this is the kind of decision that has eternal import, why is it different based on what country you watch the movie in?

3. Even if the Church is True(tm), which I don;t think it is, there really is a difference between the counsel of a prophet and a commandment from God. Seriously, people. (By "people" I mean all of the dumb missionaries I argued with over this one when I was on my mission).

Jo said...

Don't take the rater seriously, it is just a silly little widget, not anything meaningful.
And with that in mind, Bored, it is a great post! Good points and honey I need to confess, I am just too tired anymore to care about any ratings under R. If it has something R in it, I KNOW it is not up to even my previously higher standards. My hubby and I like to watch movies, but we are pretty picky about what we watch, I can't remember the last time we picked a dud at the theatre. Easier for dvds, we just don't finish them.
By the way. Evan Almighty?? It was sooo good! Great message and UPLIFTING! Wow, were we surprised. Expected cotton candy and got a savory mouthful instead.

onelowerlight said...

Ha! Mine was rated R too! I had "missionary" 10x, "gay" 2x, and "steal" 1x! Maybe that's why the show Firefly always referred to their missionary character as a "shephard," not a "missionary." That's just g*y.

Although, I've got to say, of all the reasons you list for why R ratings are not so good, the only semi-convincing argument was the last one, about how it creates an artificial line independent of church teachings by which members stigmatize other members. There are many PG-13 movies that I'd rather just not see, because of excessive immorality, and a handful of R-rated moves that I think are worth watching. And R rated blogs, too.

Alison Moore Smith said...

Stink. I can't get it to work on any of my sites. I'm jealous.

sarah k. said...

I loved this post. I got a G rating on mine. I was looking at your rating, wondering aloud how "missionary" could have gotten you the R rating, when my husband walked by and giggled. The position, not the person. Because no one could possibly be talking about an actual human spending her/his time teaching about Christ. It must be about $ex.

SL said...

HA! jettboy's rating is so hilarious. I needed that laugh.

Mine's rated R too, due to my excessive use of the words breasts and rape. :)I won't dispute that.

littlemissattitude said...

It rated my blog PG-13. That makes me feel like I'm not doing my blogging correctly. :P

As far as the MPAA goes, I've never been a fan. I can remember when the ratings system first went into operation - I was in about 7th grade. I thought ratings were silly then, and I think they're silly now. I've seen movies that were rated PG (M back in the old days) that I thought should have been rated at least R (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie comes to mind), and I've seen R rated films that I couldn't figure out what had earned such a tough rating.

Other than the fact that I used to get carded for R-rated movies until I was about 25, once I turned 17 and could get into pretty much anything, I've never even looked at the ratings. Now, that might have something to do with the fact that I don't have kids, but still...I have never found them all that useful.

J G-W said...

Wow, mine is NC-17, for:

gay (35x)
lesbian (3x)
hell (2x)
sex (1x)

Obviously, I'm not giving lesbians equal coverage.