Who Creates Movie Ratings?

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The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has controlled the film industry, including movie ratings, since its advent in 1922. The ratings system itself was not organized until the late 1960’s however. This organization is the national lobbying and interest group for the major American movie production companies of Paramount Pictures Corporation, Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc., Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Universal City Studios LLLP, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Recently, the MPAA and their international offshoot, the MPA, has commended the successful efforts of the U.S. Trademark office to break the state-owned monopoly power of the Chinese government’s film industry through the contractual agreement the Chinese admittance in to the World Trade Organization. The power of this movie organization is exemplified in their obviously massive monetary backing of the major production studios.

In 1922 their mission was to internally regulate the film content that was being shown in the silent films of that era. Their mission statement evolved from then and eventually brought about the current version of the MPAA movie ratings. The rating system followed a survey of what parents and the public wanted. It turned out that they desired a two part system. One part a static age group threshold, the second a content warning, both parts completely impartial and understanding of the complexities of the entertainment industry and the desire of parents to keep their children shielded by some of the influences that are shown, at times graphically, on the big screen with the intended audience of independent adults.

The age system is straightforward. It utilizes letters that represent the age groups a film is deemed suitable for. From child oriented to adult restricted their system spans the spectrum from G, PG, PG-13, R, and finally to NC-17. One of these grades is given to every movie that the major production companies put out. Directors, producers, and writers typically have a target rating that they are aiming for, as the companies know that PG-13 movies net the largest sums of money. Along with the grades, the MPAA also issues a contextual warning about the potentially disturbing subject material. These warnings are intended to inform parents why a film received the rating that it did. For example: if the film was rated PG-13 for violent action; that differs from a film that is rated PG-13 for adult situations. A parent can then make a more educated decision on which films to allow their children to see.

Since the MPAA is an internal to the industry organization, and it is directly tied to the major film producers and recognized as a Washington lobby group, a certain grain of salt should be taken when considering what it stands for. It is important to understand it voices the wellbeing of the film industry and their profits. This is not to discredit their rating of the average movie, because the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) oversees the MPAA’s movie rating system to ensure compliance with federal standards. Therefore the MPAA can be best understood as an independent organization subject to governmental control.


Source by Jennifer R Scott

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