This Film Is Not Yet Rated: Kirby Dick Follows the Money, Not the Sex

More interesting for what it says than how it says it, this documentary about the Motion Picture Association of America's ratings system has all the visual pizzazz of a handicam accidentally left on the roof of your car during a day of errands. To reveal the secret membership of the MPAA ratings committee, director Kirby Dick (see interview below) tools around L.A. with a couple of private eyes, giving us the somewhat shamefully delicious sense of being among the stalkarazzi—following cars, scribbling down license plates, snapping photos, and hacking phone trees. What they find—try to contain your surprise—is that these paid cultural arbiters are ordinary, unqualified schmoes with no particular taste or insight about movies. And they're in the pocket of the studios. Shocker, I know. Too much time is also spent belaboring the obvious with filmmakers understandably upset about having had to cut their films to meet the delicate R or PG-13 threshold and avoid the dreaded NC-17, thus keeping the multiplexes safe for soccer moms and Adam Sandler fans. So we have Kevin Smith, Matt Stone, Darren Aronofsky, Atom Egoyan, and company grousing about their artistic freedom versus the crass dictates of the marketplace. Left unsaid is the fact that most of their movies wind up with an NR rating in those art-house cinemas precisely favored by cosmopolitan viewers—that means you, gentle reader—who don't give a flying fuck about some middlebrow's evaluation of a movie's language, violence, or sexual content. Besides, there's always the DVD for the unexpurgated cut, right? In our digital world, there's never a final version of anything. Still, while the filmmakers' complaints are familiar and well-founded, the conversation is about more than just movies. Not Yet Rated becomes a valuable cultural discussion with Dick (Twist of Faith) as moderator. The MPAA system, with all its evident flaws, speaks to the way we Americans squirm about sex (particularly gay sex) yet "violence is fine" as entertainment, per John Waters. And while the MPAA rigidly clings to a scheme invented in 1968, supposedly for parents to protect their children from indecency, time and technology have passed it by. As Waters notes, "All teens have seen, have gone deep into, porn sites." Thus the MPAA is finally exposed—beyond its anonymous minions—to be fighting a symbolic rearguard action against modernity. An R or a PG-13 provides a necessary fig leaf for cultural conservatives—never mind what's happening online or at adult video stores or on hotel pay-per-view channels—in red states across America. And one extra bonus worth mentioning: The puppet sex outtakes from Team America are pure hilarious filth.

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