Monday, February 13, 2006
DVD Renders MPAA Ratings Obsolete
Many people many not realize that an X-rated film won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1969. It wasn't pornographic. It was a brilliant study of the friendship of two disenfranchised men named Joe Buck and Ratso Rizzo. Midnight Cowboy was made in a time when the MPAA ratings had yet to become the censorship tool they are today. After years of the X rating being bastardized by the porn industry as "XXX," the MPAA replaced it with the much less sexy NC-17. But given the zeitgeist of the country, the NC-17 didn't stand a chance. Soon, films granted an NC-17 by the MPAA were refused newspaper ads (back when newspaper ads really mattered). Theater chains, in turn, refused to carry the films. So, studios began to insist that all NC-17 films be edited to receive an R rating before being released. This amounted to tolerated censorship. For years, this worked. Then came the dawn of DVD. Suddenly, unrated "director's cuts" were a draw for customers trying out the new format. Now, well entrenched, the DVD format has provided an easily accessed venue for people to view unrated versions of films the MPAA tried to censor. With films now available (even in Blockbuster) unrated, what's the point of the MPAA ratings? Perhaps when the industry realizes that this does not bring the end of Western civilization as we know it, NC-17 films will be allowed (in a practical way) back into theaters. Or better yet, perhaps people will be intelligent enough to judge for themselves which films are best seen by them or their children. Hmmm. Well, good thing for DVD!