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The MPAA makes good on 'Blue Valentine,' but the board's subjective rating system still baffles

Blue Valentine

The Weinstein Co. received good news Wednesday when the MPAA agreed to downgrade its rating for "Blue Valentine" from NC-17 to R, reports Steve Zeitchik on 24 Frames. Why the MPAA originally gave "Blue Valentine" an NC-17 rating when it gave "Black Swan" an R rating for a similar sex scene demonstrates the subjective nature of the board. But, is there a better solution?

From an editorial on the topic in Wednesday's pages:

"For all the complaints about the MPAA's process, we're hard-pressed to come up with a better way. The ratings board is made up not of experts or filmmakers or members of the Moral Majority but of eight to 13 parents, who must move to L.A. but are recruited from across the country. That's a pretty good way of assessing parental opinion for a voluntary rating intended not to measure the artistic quality of a film but to give guidance to parents based on contemporary values. The board does make bad calls -- sometimes egregiously so -- and we think it could stand to stop counting curse words, overreacting to depictions of casual drug use and treating sex more harshly than violence. But there will never be universal agreement about something as subjective as onscreen offensiveness, and the system works far more often than it doesn't."

The Weinstein Co. didn't have the same luck with its appeal to downgrade the R rating given to "The King's Speech" for a totally benign scene that includes repetitive use of the F word within the context of helping King George VI overcome a speech impediment so that he can communicate with the community via radio during World War II. You'd think parents would want their children to see an easy-to-digest historical drama. In some cases, such as with "The King's Speech," protecting our children from so-called offensive material could do more harm than good, especially among children who could find inspiration from a film about overcoming adversity.

 -- Alexandra Le Tellier


A too-blue 'Blue Valentine?"

Photo: Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling in ''Blue Valentine." Credit: The Weinstein Co.


Comments () | Archives (2)

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Eric Harbin

The MPAA rating system is extremely subjective and sometimes does not represent the actual rating of a movie, and we need to create more standard and uniform processes for moving ratings. A few years ago, a movie called “The Hammer” was released with an R rating. I bought the movie when it came out on DVD because I was only 16 at the time it was released and couldn’t see it in theaters, and was shocked that the movie received an R rating. It was a family-oriented, romantic comedy movie about a boxer that was deserving of a PG-13 rating at the most. That same week, I rented a movie called “The Ring”, which was filled with horrific images, terrifying scenes, and graphic depictions of death. To say the least, I couldn’t sleep for a week, yet this movie received a lower rating then the romantic comedy “The Hammer”. Are movies about boxing and comedy really on the same level that other R-rated movies, such as the “Saw” series?

This shows the random and subjective nature of movie ratings. The article points out that ‘Blue Valentine’ depicts the same acts as ‘Black Swan’, but Blue Valentine received the rating of NC-17. This will hurt the movie financially and critically, all because of the subjectivity of the rating systems. We need more uniform rating systems to remove personal opinion out of the ratings as much as possible.


The MPAA rating system is deeply flawed. I agree with Eric Harbin when he says the rating that the MPAA gives to a certain movie is not always accurate. How can a panel of 13 people represent the rest of the population? Their judgement is bound to be subjective. This panel of 13 individuals may find something wrong with a certain aspect of a movie, but the larger population may have no problem with the issue in question. I can recall a certain movie which recieved an inaccurate rating: Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. When released, this movie received a PG-13 rating by the MPAA. When I first saw this movie in 2005. I could find nothing in the movie that would warrant such a rating. It was no more violent than the previous 5 Star Wars films, did not contain any suggestive situations, or any bad language. As I stated before, movie ratings made by the MPAA are highly subjective, and are not always accurate.



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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

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