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Saturday, July 2, 2022

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Film ratings are straight-up sexist


This year marked the debut of MPAA’s use of the phrase “male nudity” as a criterion for rating films. This disclaimer was used thus far in the ratings of three films in 2010: “Jackass 3D,” “Eat Pray Love,” and “Grown Ups.”

The ratings given to these three recent films reveal that the Motion Picture Association of America — the supposed moral bastion of Hollywood — is totally defunct.

The MPAA has a long history of promoting male hegemony through their rating system, and the addition of this phrase to their repertoire is an indication of that. However, it is rather hard to work out just why this is so.

Now let’s look at the new, and less humorous addition to the MPAA’s ridiculous rating’s repertoire.

By creating the disclaimer “male nudity,” the MPAA has acknowledged that in our culture male nudity only applies from the waist down. However, female nudity seems to encompass the entire female body.

However, before delving into the details of these ratings, let’s take some time to reflect on the MPAA’s history of ridiculous ratings.

In 2004, “Team America” was given an R rating for, “graphic crude and sexual humor, violent images and strong language — all involving puppets.”

Don’t you like the disclaimer at the end of the rating? It’s unfortunate that the MPAA didn’t build upon this rating and give “Twilight: New Moon” a PG-13 for, “the promotion of self-indulgent behavior—all involving human teens, vampire teens, and werewolf teens.”

The seminal children’s classic “Alice in Wonderland” received a PG rating for, “fantasy action/violence involving scary images and situations, and for a smoking caterpillar.” While the MPAA should be credited for the creativity of this rating, why not just say that the film included smoking, instead of pointlessly maligning the caterpillar. It’s not his fault he was written that way.

Another children’s film that received an interesting rating is “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” which was given a PG rating for, “quirky situations, action and mild language.” It’s important not to expose children to quirky behavior too early — they’ll stop playing group sports and spend all of their time knitting tea cozies and hanging out in thrift shops if you don’t monitor their exposure to quirky situations.

In 1996, the MPAA released the penultimate of ridiculous ratings when Twister received a PG-13 rating for the, “intense depiction of very bad weather.”

While the weather in the film was rather poor, should the weather really be part of the criteria the MPAA uses when rating a film? They could have just rated the film PG-13 for, “the portrayal of a cow in its unnatural environment, and for portraying tornado hunting as a viable lifestyle choice.”

The majority of female nudity in films is used in a sexual manner, but male nudity is often used as a joke; hence “Jackass 3D.” The cause of this discrepancy is the fact that the most nudity in films is catered towards men. Furthermore, the MPAA is sending the message to filmmakers that women can be objectified in films as long as they recognize that they will receive a harsher rating for “nudity or sexuality.”

If they include full frontal male nudity in their film, however, they will have the disclaimer “male nudity” tacked onto their film. In other words, the MPAA has acknowledged that when they include a disclaimer warning of nudity or sexuality in a film that warning is focused on women. They have placed “male nudity” in a category of its own, to be treated differently. They are saying that men deserve special protection from viewing something different or potentially more offensive.

The MPAA needs to either replace their newest sexist disclaimer with “full frontal nudity,” or start warning people when a film contains “female nudity.” It is time for the MPAA to start taking their job seriously, and to think about the underlying messages they are sending to viewers through the disclaimers they tack onto films.

Daniel Renfrow is an Anthropology junior and may be reached at [email protected]


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