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Revealed: Christian Religious Monitors Sit In on Movie Ratings Boards

Tucked away in this New York Times cultural review are the following paragraphs:

Director pals told him what he suspected already: the secretive, too-powerful Motion Picture Association of America was hammering independent filmmakers with tough ratings while letting the major studios off easy. You couldn’t reason with the ratings board, the indies bleated; it wouldn’t even let you argue, on appeal, that your new movie was tamer than a film that got an R or a PG-13 rating the year before.

The ratings board’s anonymous members had few clear standards for evaluating movies, his indie friends whispered. Small wonder, they griped, that movies with gay sex scenes, or even lingering female orgasms – like scenes cut from Kimberly Peirce’s “Boys Don’t Cry” and “The Cooler” by Wayne Kramer – were verboten, while gore fests and straight-sex scenes seldom got as much of a reaction out of the board.

It didn’t take long for word to come back: “This Film Is Not Yet Rated” was rated NC-17, for “some graphic sexual content.”

Mr. Dick’s movie did not stop there. He appealed the board’s ruling to another supersecret body, the Classification and Rating Appeals Board, whose members are mainly theater-chain and studio executives. They were not sympathetic. On Dec. 21 they rejected his appeal, 10-0.

Finally, Mr. Dick, whose last documentary, “Twist of Faith,” was nominated for an Academy Award in 2004, also reveals, somewhat ominously, that representatives from the Roman Catholic Church and from the National Council of Churches sit in on the appeals process.

Does the privileged access of these religious institutions to the ratings process have anything to do with the ratings that result?

12 comments to Revealed: Christian Religious Monitors Sit In on Movie Ratings Boards

  • Indeed. How come religious authorities, not elected by any voters, get special censorship privileges over what we Americans see in movie theaters. It’s like we’re living in Iran or something. Get these people off the MPAA!

  • Sarge

    Well, isn’t this what Ra;ph Reed andsome of the others said they were going to do? Infiltrate just about every organisation they could, you’d wake up some day and find that guess who was in charge now and making the rules…and enforcing them.

  • Tom

    I never understood the critics either: who gives a care about what they think of the film – i can form my own opinion! Hollywood, the media, the government – it’s all screwed up!

  • Yes, it’s as if the right wing censors don’t trust parents to make their own decisions about what’s good for their families, and need to establish some kind of Official Family Tribunal.

    It’s kind of socialist of them, if you think about it. Ironic.

  • It’s kind of socialist of them, if you think about it. Ironic.

    What’s ironic about it? Socialism and religion are both based on the thesis that people can’t be trusted to make decisions for themselves.

  • I demand equal opportunity to censor what Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Dobson and Tony Perkins say. They’re lying, theofascist abominations who give actual christians a bad name.

  • Juniper

    Howsaboutthis: No censorship for anybody. Worth a shot?

  • randy ray haugen

    good answer, christianlibrul. and jerry’s way fat too!
    i mean way too fat! i mean a real fat head!
    you know what i mean.
    but, with these guys on the ratings board you can
    bet we will see no decline in violence and no decline in sex.
    as long as the sex is used to sell something, that is.

  • Let’s not hang a bad rap on the National Council of Churches.
    They’re the “liberal” mainstream churches and no relation to
    Falwell, Robertson, and friends.

  • Jim

    No, that’s right, but despite the fact that they’re quite liberal in politics they’re sitting in on an effectively censorious activity. What’s up with that?

  • Juniper

    Yes, how liberal is it of the National Council of Churches to say that, just because they’re religious and powerful, they get to have a special say over what movies different Americans of different ages are allowed to see?

    Sounds like their liberal ayatollahs, and there’s no such thing as a liberal ayatollah.

  • HareTrinity

    Do they ask for proof of age and such in the US too?

    I don’t mind the ratings being there as guidelines (though, let’s face it, they’re pretty crap for that too), but I don’t like having them forced upon me.

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