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William Friedkin attacks the MPAA

Director criticises the rating process

As reported before, William Friedkin's movie Killer Joe has only received the infamous NC-17 rating and kept it for its theatrical release. Last weekend, the film started with three copies in cinemas.

RopeofSilicon sat down with Friedkin and they talked about Killer Joe. Here, the director also spoke about possible cuts for the R rating.

Friedkin: "Cutting it would have been the equivalent of what members of the United States government and military leaders said about the Vietnam War. They said, "We have to destroy Vietnam in order to save it," and that's what I would have done to Killer Joe. To get an R rating I would have had to destroy it in order to save it and I wasn't interested in doing that."

He also, like so many others, criticises the system of the MPAA.

Friedkin: "The ratings board is a phony organization. They're a self-governing body of the major studios. They have no legal standing whatsoever. The fact they say no one under the age of 17 can come into a theater, even with a parent is not legally enforceable. They're not going to fine somebody. They're not going to put them in jail. It's all, again, a subjective judgment on the part of the ratings board."

However, it should be kept in mind that the MPAA ratings replaced the considerably stricter Hays Code, which determined previously what was good and bad for American cinemagoers. CARA (Classification & Rating Administration, responsible for the ratings within the MPAA) checks films for their appropriateness for adolescents and children. The only alternative would have been another governmental censor system, possibly with different rules in each of the 50 US states (as it is applied e.g. in Austria, Switzerland or Australia). The examiners of the CARA are unknown but are for the most part parents since the MPAA ratings serve as a guidance for other parents who asks themselves what they can and cannot show their kids. For that, the benchmark can't be only the possibly more liberal metropolises on the coasts. The ratings have to be applicable in the flyover states in the midst of the US, as well. The R or NC-17 rating is not supposed to be a punishment and adults are free to see them. So much for the theory.

In practice, especially the NC-17 is a stigma that also drives away many adult viewers from watching the film. Mostly, the cinema decides not to screen such titles beforehand, no matter if the reason for the rating is justified or not. With so few films per year that get such a rating, many think that it's not even worth questioning. Film is commerce and therefore, the NC-17 is hindering. But not only the cinemas think like that but many viewers also deliberately avoid films with high ratings because that decreases the chance that they get to see something they don't want to see. Everyone has his own perception of entertainment and borders that should not be crossed. While unrated, NC-17 or R ratings are no big deal in big cities (at least for cinemas since the public is large enough here), the flyover states draw a different picture. Film lovers living there just have bad luck. That deserves critic. But normally, the parents that are supposed to decide for other parents and not for adults, aren't to blame here.

William Friedkin only sees the negative aspects for himself, his film and interested viewers, but not the advantages this system brings for the Americans that do not want governmental censorship and just ask for guidance for their own children.

Release: Aug 06, 2012 - Author: Imbor Ed - Translator: Mike Lowrey - Source: RopesofSilicon

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