Happy Birthday to the MPAA’s Rating System

by Katie Ginnane

What is the MPAA you may ask? Well, the Motion Picture Association of America establishes the rating standards we so frequently use while attending movies, among other things. The modern rating system was enacted in order to counter extreme limitations placed on freedom of expression inherent in federal and state laws prior to 1968. With the advent of the modern rating system, rather than preventing movies from even making it to theaters, the founders of the rating system simply wanted to inform decisions of movie-goers, particularly parents.

Although the original ratings were somewhat different, the current ratings are comprised of G, PG, PG-13, R and NC-17, with G being the least controversial and NC-17 being the most.  According to the MPAA’s website, the rating of NC-17 should not be seen as a negative; however, according to an article published by CNN, the actual effects of an NC-17 rating make the rating inherently negative.

According to the article, growing pressure on the MPAA for a change in the system began with Stanley Kubrick’s Eye’s Wide Shut.  The film, originally given an NC-17 rating, had scenes cut in order to assure an R rating.  If the film studio had adhered to the original film and settled with its original NC-17 rating, advertisements of the film would not have been allowed on network television and many newspapers and certain theaters even would have refused to play it.

For more information on the film industry and censorship, check out these great resources and articles:

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