We all know the movie rating system is super broken, but the fact remains that we do need something to categorize the content of the films getting released, right? Movies are a huge part of our lives, and not only do parents need some sort of indication of whether or not a film is going to be appropriate for their kids but I need a clean, clinical signal letting me know whether or not an upcoming horror film is going to give me an erection.
"Good to go."
But even aside from the weirdly idiosyncratic values that the Motion Picture Association of America espouses, I'd argue that their entire approach is flawed: there are far more disturbing things in movies than sex and violence. And this is why I think that, in the interest of stimulating and preserving one of our biggest industries and our most important national export, I suggest we replace the traditional G, PG, PG-13, and R with a more nuanced rating system that tells us ...
5If the Writer Has a Weird Political Ax to Grind
Worst Offenders: Star Trek Into Darkness, The Dark Knight Trilogy, Ghostbusters, Most Michael Bay Movies
It's usually pretty stupid when we hear people complaining about secret messages hidden in movies, generally because those people are Rush Limbaugh and their theories are nonsensical. But even if the theories we hear about are crazy, it's not exactly unheard-of for weird-ass political messages to climb inside our favorite movies and start dry-humping our eyeballs from behind the projection screen.
Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images
Image rated R.
Sometimes this shit is obvious (I'm pretty sure no one is surprised that The Day After Tomorrow has a heavy-handed environmental message) but other times, it's out of nowhere. Who expected Ghostbusters to be violently anti-big-government? Or the Saw movies to endorse Obamacare? Or that Avatar -- a sci-fi adventure about blue-space-alien sex set in a space-jungle and filmed entirely with space-cameras -- would name-check the War on Terror? Or -- possibly weirdest of all -- that Star Trek: Into Darkness (Fuck you, J.J. Abrams, that title needs a colon) is secretly about 9/11 Trutherism?
If we're worried about depictions of violence making kids more violent or references to sex making kids more ... whatever it is people think that'll do to kids ... surely we can spare some concern for them being politically brainwashed, right? What meeting did we have where we decided that dropping the F-bomb was more damaging to a young'n's mind than being implicitly told that supporting American military action in the Middle East will kill weirdly colored space-babes?
Walt Disney Pictures
Shit, sorry. Wrong Zoe Saldana.
And if you're worried this'll spoil the picture, then jeez, just don't read the rating. Also, why did you refer to a movie as a "picture"? This isn't 1943. Get with the times, dog.
4If the Production Went to Hell
Worst Offenders: The Wolfman, Alien 3, Babylon A.D., Heaven's Gate
I saw Alien 3 at age 6, because my cousin came to visit and she promised my mom that it was "no worse than anything else I had already seen." Which was technically true, because my cousin had already secretly shown me Alien, Aliens, and The Terminator. I'm telling you this because Alien 3 really messed up my development as a person. Not because I had my heart broken by watching Ripley, the baddest-ass ever launched into space, get killed off in an obnoxiously Jesusy way.
20th Century Fox
Weird Jesus Imagery would go in the last entry too.
And not because we lost Hicks and Newt off-screen, even though that was such a disastrously terrible decision that the simple act of trying to fix it sank the game Aliens: Colonial Marines (that may have had other problems as well). No, that movie messed up my development because for years I thought David Fincher was a shitty director. When I saw Se7en, I assumed it was a fluke, and probably more due to the performances by the lead actors than the director. And when I saw Fight Club, I was surprised that Fincher had stumbled into two great movies, because in my eyes his work on Alien 3 was irredeemable, because I had no idea that Alien 3 was not his fault.
Alien 3 was such a disaster that the "making of" feature was originally called "Wreckage and Rape," with the "rape" part being an implicit reference to not only what the alien does to its victims, but what the studio did to the movie: when Fincher was hired, $7 million of the budget had already been spent, and despite there being virtually no script, he already had a monastery set that he somehow had to work into his movie about dick-headed space monsters. Oh -- and this was his first feature film.
20th Century Fox
Another example of how crazy this production was: the movie was at one point set
on a wooden death star populated by space monks.
That's a particularly extreme example, but it's far from the only one: Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth) went through something similar with his first big Hollywood movie, Mimic. Mathieu Kassovitz has made an entire documentary about how he wasn't allowed to make a movie out of Babylon A.D. Compare the theatrical release of Kingdom of Heaven with the director's cut to get another good sense of how big a difference this can make. The Wolfman (directed by Joe Johnston, who took over for Mark Romanek) actually makes more sense when you read about how there were two totally different visions from two completely different directors. Because at least then it becomes clear that you're watching two halves of two completely different movies.
My point is, an H-rated movie isn't the movie that anyone involved wanted to make, and we as the audience should probably know that. Hell, if we're big enough fans of the people involved, maybe we'll go see it anyway. Out of the goodness of our hearts, say. Or because we're suckers.
Walt Disney Pictures