R You Serious?

The MPAA, despite all its missteps, has done one thing very well: It has kept film as a business, as an art, and as an entertainment medium out of the hands of the government.

In the 1930's, The Hays Code went into effect in order to keep film deregulated. Essentially, The Hays Code was a strict ban on material that could be deemed offensive to the potential audience, including sex, drug use, foul language, and any form of racism (quite progressive, given the era.)

Before and After The Hays Code. Ruining the lives of shoulder fetishists everywhere.

But times change, and begrudgingly, so does protocol. In the 1960s, the comically outdated Hays Code was phased out in favor of the MPAA rating system, allowing for more controversial material to a willing, receptive, and most important, appropriate audience.

The rating system has changed a bunch since then, but one thing has remained constant: The R-Rating has restricted content from those under the age of 17.

Why? Because. The MPAA rating system exists to warn and alert parents of questionable content. It's censorship, but it's self-censorship. The MPAA and the National Association of Theater Owners both agree this is the best possible policy. If this was not the case, the government would intervene, and force mandatory regulation. Don't believe me? Look at TV. Look at radio. The FCC's got its tentacles all over them, and they'll never break free.

National Association of Theater Owners. Good thing nobody else has that acronym.

Now let me be clear. I don't agree with censorship. But it's a necessary evil. No matter how much I bitch and moan and whine and complain, Prudence Dogood and the Lady's Auxillary of Smallburg, USA will raise a much bigger fuss. They have to do something while their casseroles are in the oven. If we restrict admission to vulgar, racy and violent films, we can literally say 'We have done everything we can.' The children are safe, and sheltered children make the best adults (it's a self-perpetuating fallacy).

Movies are not being censored. They are not being altered. They are not being butchered or outlawed. They are simply being dangled above the head of high school sophomores.

If you don't like it, make your voice heard. Not at theater, of course. There's nothing the box office clerk can do about it except you you a look of dismay. And don't rebel either. I speak from experience, there is nothing a theater usher likes better than kicking a 14 year-old out of 'Fart Academy 5.'

You're just going to do this anyways. Can't you do it in the new Dreamworks movie?

I mean it. If you ever scream at a box-office clerk over a 40 year-old, nationwide ordinance, you deserve to have your Friday night ruined. Go ice skating or something. You also deserve to have your tires slashed and your mailbox knocked over, but I have no power over that (mechanics and mailmen of America, let's make a deal...)

No, make it clear that the content of R-Rated movies is a non-issue that doesn't require an enforceable rule. That you could care less if your sixteen year-old daughter saw a provocative social drama about heroin and AIDS. That your freshman son is certainly mature enough to handle a movie about three stoners who befriend a gorilla and teach it to smoke. That if your kids are old enough to drive themselves to the theater and pay with their own credit cards, they should see a bunch of Martians ruthlessly shoot up a stranded batallion of space marines if they so desire.

Protocol has changed before to reflect a changing audience. The MPAA and NATO needs to know its time to change again.