Here’s some lame-ass trivia about me: the first time I was ever on television (besides being in the audience for the Bozo the Clown Show) was as a caller on some third tier cable show – it may have been CNBC or MSNBC before it became the home of Lockup. The subject: the MPAA, and the guest was Richard Stanley, talking about the ratings board tribulations of his movie Hardware. I was all righteously pissed off. And now, 20 years later, I’m still appearing on third tier cable. Same as it ever was.
At the time – and still today – my beef with the MPAA was the hypocrisy. Small movies get shit on, as do movies with explicit sexuality. So little has changed in the ensuing decades that it’s kind of extremely depressing. We still don’t have a working rating for adult films, which is insane.
I bring all of this up because, until three minutes ago, I assumed Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian was a PG-13 movie. I didn’t even question it – the film is packed with violence, and not just violence visited on fairy animals but on real people. There are more kills in this film than most Friday the 13th movies, and while there’s barely a drop of blood in the film (just like Friday the 13th Part VII!), it’s generally the same kind of ‘epic’ violence that got The Lord of the Rings movies their deserved PG-13s.
But Prince Caspian is a PG film.
This, my friends, is bullshit. Eric D Snider at Cinematical is the guy who brought this to my attention with his Fan Rant, and I think he’s right on the money with this: ‘I’d like to give the MPAA the benefit of the doubt, but I would bet money that this is the result of Disney “suggesting” to the ratings board that they’d really, really like the family-oriented PG rating. Disney is one of the six major studios that comprise the Motion Picture Association of America, and it’s absurd to think that the ratings board is immune from influence from those member studios, especially when things like this happen.’
This is exactly what I was so mad about with Hardware. The member studios have the ability to waltz in and get one through the system because… well, they are the system. The MPAA is funded by the studios. It’s a tool of the studios, an in-house police force that exists to keep the government out of the movie business. Which I completely endorse, obviously, as does the First Amendment. But the problem is that the MPAA plays favorites again and again, and here is an obvious case. We’re going to see it again in July, when The Dark Knight, a film that is by all accounts extraordinarily hard edged, gets a PG-13 rating where it probably should get an R.
Frankly, the whole thing is shameful, especially with a movie that contains religious messages. I have no problem with the level of violence in Prince Caspian (although, as I said in my review, I am curious how the family audience will react to it), but I am deeply troubled by the continued way the unfair MPAA bows to the studios. This system is irreparably broken at this point, and the idea of having confidence in the fairness and impartiality of the ratings system is a joke. The only bright spot here is that this could be the summer of the next Temple of Doom, a summer when parental outrage at films that have been given patently ludicrous ratings forces the MPAA’s hand and some changes get made.