Reflections columns

 

 

Personal Opinion From Our Blog

 

 

Bullying and Violence

 

" The MPAA film ratings system bans young people from seeing a highly praised* documentary, Bully, intended to shine the light on the major problem of bullying and it’s consequences, while approving films with ever-more grotesque and graphic violence."


Just so you don’t think the above this is an isolated example, let’s consider the film that won the Academy Award for best picture in 2010,The King's Speech.

Although it represents an important piece of history, young people can’t see it without dragging a parent along. However, the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) ratings system gave it the same “R” rating as Saw 3D, the seventh installment of the torture-porn horror film series.

Death As Entertainment 

 The other day I was sitting in McDonalds having my usual fruit&yogert when I couldn't help but overhear a rather loud conversation at a nearby table.

A man was describing a video to his friend which consisted of a collection of actual death scenes.  As this man recounted in detail the people dying he was laughing, as if it was all great fun.

As he was describing one man dying, I was temped to say (just as loudly), "I bet his wife and kids thought that was pretty funny too."

However, considering the type of person he was, I figured he would immediately get in my face with a "let's take this outside" invitation.

Instead, I wondered what kind of society we're fostering where seeing violence and death is a major form of entertainment.

" One of the few good things about modern times: If you die horribly on television, you will not have died in vain. You will have entertained us."

-Kurt Vonnegut, famous U.S writer.

I put part of the blame on the MPAA film rating system that lumps together ever-more grotesque and graphic violence with films that have redeeming social value but contain four-letter words — the kind young people hear every day.

 If the MPAA judges put scientific findings before existing personal and social biases, they would know that, based on a preponderance of studies, they seem to have the whole thing backwards. Major studies showing the relative harm of media violence and sex are covered in two articles here: TV and Film Violence, and Sex Research, Censorship and the Law. 

" I think MPAA ratings approach, which the industry has long thought of being somewhat arbitrary and capricious, needs to be replaced by a sociologically and psychologically aware panel of people that are thoroughly insulated from the financial interests of the major studios."**

 >>In referring to the effects of the ever-increasing violence in our media a well-known film and television producer, said, "We are destroying ourselves."

However, right now when money is to be made by a further debasing the audiences' interests and tastes, saying this is like shouting into the wind.

Unfortunately, we'll probably only "get it" when this country's social epitaph is written.

-Ron Whittaker


A campaign for the value of the film, Bullying, to young people has enlisted the support of Meryl Streep, Drew Brees, Justin Bieber, Johnny Depp, Martha Stewart, Ellen DeGeneres and nearly 500,000 other people.

It also made an overnight media celebrity out of 17-year-old Katy Butler, a self-described victim of bullying who started an on line petition.

Among the media outlets that are giving advertising space to promote the film are: Social Vibe, AOL, Entertainment Weekly, Fandango, HitFix, The Huffington Post, IMDb, Maker Studios, Mediaite, Movie Tickets, MSN, New York Magazine, Rotten Tomatoes, Queerty, SocialTyze, Vulture, and WeeWorld.

According to Bladimiar Norman, Senior Vice President of Marketing for The Weinstein Company that produced the film, “We faced challenges from the MPAA to restrict the audience of a documentary that has the ability to change lives. These influential sites (listed above) will help to promote this film simply because they know the urgency of the issue and, like us, they care deeply about the lives impacted by bullying."

Since the MPAA would not change the rating, the producers released the film "Unrated." However, this restricts advertising and keeps many young people from seeing the film -- the very audience that most need to see it and the audience that the film was designed to reach.

** Although the aim of the well-intended MPPA is to represent "the typical parent," I doubt if many parents who knew the content of the popular (and money-making) R-rated torture porn films would want their 17-year olds to see them.

 >> The man's reaction cited in McDonalds is hardly an isolated example.  When a class was taken to see the widely-acclaimed Oscar-winning film, Schindler's List, depicting World War II Holocaust events, many students, apparently knowing little of history's atrocities or possibly assuming that all films were designed as entertainment, laughed at the true, nightmarish events.

 >> Although the decisions of ratings boards will invariably end up being difficult and controversial, especially with millions of dollars in box office revenue typically existing between PG, PG-13 and R ratings, we now seem to have a system that leaves producers only able to guess at how their work will be rated by the MPPA. 

 Nor are producers given any explanation as to why the NPPA rated their film R instead of PG-13, for example. They can only guess as to what needs to be done in re-editing to get a more favorable rating.

At the same time, it seems that films from the major studios are judged more leniently than films from independent producers.


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