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Kim Roberts Freedom Group

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Rated R



The Motion Picture Association film rating system is used in the United States and its territories to rate a motion picture's suitability for certain audiences based on its content. The system and the ratings applied to individual motion pictures are the responsibility of the Motion Picture Association (MPA), previously known as the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) from 1945 to 2019. The MPA rating system is a voluntary scheme that is not enforced by law; films can be exhibited without a rating, although most theaters refuse to exhibit non-rated or NC-17 rated films. Non-members of the MPA may also submit films for rating.[1] Other media, such as television programs, music and video games, are rated by other entities such as the TV Parental Guidelines, the RIAA and the ESRB, respectively.




Rated R



Film ratings often have accompanying brief descriptions of the specifics behind the film's content and why it received a certain rating. They are displayed in trailers, posters, and on the backside of home video releases. Film rating content descriptors are exclusively used for films rated from PG to NC-17; they are not used for G-rated films because the content in them is suitable for all audiences even if containing mild objectionable content.[6]


If a film has not been submitted for a rating or is an uncut version of a film that was submitted, the labels Not Rated (NR) or Unrated (UR) are often used. Uncut/extended versions of films that are labeled "Unrated" also contain warnings saying that the uncut version of the film contains content that differs from the theatrical release and might not be suitable for minors.


On November 1, 1968, the voluntary MPAA film rating system took effect,[2] with three organizations serving as its monitoring and guiding groups: the MPAA, the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), and the International Film Importers & Distributors of America (IFIDA).[11] Only films that premiered in the United States after that date were affected by this.[12] Walter Reade was the only one of 75 top U.S. exhibitors who refused to use the ratings.[12] Warner Bros.-Seven Arts' The Girl on a Motorcycle was the first film to receive the X rating, and was distributed by their Claridge Pictures subsidiary.[13] Two other films were rated X by the time the MPAA published their first weekly bulletin listing ratings: Paramount's Sin With a Stranger and Universal's Birds in Peru. Both films were subsequently released by subsidiaries.[14]


In 1970, the ages for "R" and "X" were raised from 16 to 17.[17] Also, due to confusion over whether "M"-rated films were suitable for children,[17] "M" was renamed to "GP" (for General audiences, Parental guidance suggested),[18][19] and in 1971, the MPAA added the content advisory "Some material not generally suitable for pre-teenagers".[20] On February 11, 1972,[21] "GP" was revised to "PG".[17]


In 1989, Tennessee state law set the minimum age to view a theatrically exhibited R-rated film without adult accompaniment at 18, instead of 17, and categorized the admission of minors to X-rated films as a misdemeanor. The statute remained in force until 2013, when it was ruled to be in violation of the First Amendment. The law was amended in 2013 as to prohibit persons under the age of 18 only if the film was considered "harmful to minors".[30][31]


In the rating system's early years, "X"-rated films such as Midnight Cowboy (1969) and A Clockwork Orange (1971) were understood to be unsuitable for children, but non-pornographic and intended for the general public. However, pornographic films often self-applied the non-trademarked "X" rating, and it soon became synonymous with pornography in American culture.[32] In late 1989 and early 1990, respectively, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, two critically acclaimed art films featuring strong adult content, were released. Neither film was approved for an MPAA rating, limiting their commercial distribution and prompting criticism of the rating system's lack of a designation for such films.[33][34]


In September 1990, the MPAA introduced the rating NC-17 ("No Children Under 17 Admitted").[35] Henry & June, previously to be assigned an X rating, was the first film to receive the NC-17 rating instead.[35][36] Although films with an NC-17 rating had more mainstream distribution opportunities than X-rated films, many theaters refused to screen them, most entertainment media did not accept advertising for them, and many large video outlets refused to stock them.[37]


Depictions of violence are permitted under all ratings but must be moderated for the lower ones. Violence must be kept to a minimum in G-rated films and must not be intense in PG-rated films. Depictions of intense violence are permitted under the PG-13 rating, but violence that is both realistic and extreme or persistent will generally require at least an R rating.[3]


Snippets of language that go "beyond polite conversation" are permitted in G-rated films, but no stronger words are present. Profanity may be present in PG rated films, and use of one of the harsher "sexually-derived words" as an expletive will initially incur at least a PG-13 rating. More than one occurrence will usually incur an R rating as will the usage of such an expletive in a sexual context.[3] Known as the "automatic language rule", the rule has been applied differently depending on the subject matter of the film. For example, All the President's Men (1976) received a general rating on appeal, despite multiple instances of strong language, likely because of its historic subject matter. The automatic language rule is arguably the rule that can most often be successfully appealed.[47] The ratings board may award a PG-13 rating passed by a two-thirds majority if they believe the language is justified by the context or by the manner in which the words are used.[3]


Some forms of media are cut post-release so as to obtain a PG-13 rating for home media release or to feature on an Internet streaming service that will not carry films rated higher than PG-13. In 2020, a recording of Hamilton was released on Disney+ after cuts by Lin-Manuel Miranda to remove two of the three instances of fuck in the musical to qualify it as PG-13 under MPAA guidelines.[57]


A study of popular American teen-oriented films rated PG and PG-13 from 1980 to 2006 found that in those films, teenaged characters use more and stronger profanity than the adult characters in the same movies.[58] However, the study found that the overall amount of such language had declined somewhat since the 1980s.[58]


Drug use content is restricted to PG-13 and above.[3] An example of an otherwise PG film being assigned a PG-13 rating for a drug reference (momentary, along with brief language) is Whale Rider. The film contained only mild profanity, but was rated PG-13 because of a scene where drug paraphernalia were briefly visible. Critic Roger Ebert criticized the MPAA for the rating and called it "a wild overreaction".[59]


Prior to the release of The Exorcist at the end of 1973, CARA president Aaron Stern took the unusual step of calling director William Friedkin to tell him that since it was an "important film", it would be rated R and could be released without any cuts.[65] The film drew huge crowds upon its release, many of whom vomited and/or fainted;[66] a psychiatric journal would later document four cases of "cinematic neurosis" induced by the film.[67]


The NC-17 rating has been described as a "kiss of death" for any film that receives it.[69] Like the X rating it replaced, NC-17 limits a film's prospects of being marketed, screened in theaters and sold in major video outlets.[37] In 1995, United Artists released the big-budget film Showgirls (1995); it became the most widely distributed film with an NC-17 rating (showing in 1,388 cinemas simultaneously), but it was a financial failure that grossed only 45% of its $45 million budget.[70] Some modest successes can be found among NC-17 theatrical releases, however; Fox Searchlight Pictures released the original NC-17-rated American edition of the European film The Dreamers (2003) in theaters in the United States, and later released both the original NC-17 and the cut R-rated version on DVD. A Fox Searchlight spokesman said the NC-17 rating did not give them much trouble in releasing this film (they had no problem booking it, and only the Salt Lake City newspaper Deseret News refused to take the film's ad), and Fox Searchlight was satisfied with this film's United States box office result.[71] Another notable exception is Bad Education (2004), an NC-17 foreign-language film that grossed $5.2 million in the United States theatrically[72] (a moderate success for a foreign-language film[73]).


During the controversy about the MPAA's decision to give the film Blue Valentine (2010) an NC-17 rating (The Weinstein Company challenged this decision, and the MPAA ended up awarding the same cut an R rating on appeal). Actor Ryan Gosling, who stars in the film, noted that NC-17 films are not allowed wide advertisement and that, given the refusal of major cinema chains like AMC and Regal to show NC-17 rated movies, many such films will never be accessible to people who live in markets that do not have art house theatres.[77]


Starting in 2004, GKC Theatres (since absorbed into AMC Theatres) introduced "R-Cards", which parents could obtain for their children under 17 to see R-rated films without adult accompaniment. The cards generated much controversy; MPAA president Jack Valenti said in a news article: "I think it distorts and ruptures the intent of this voluntary film ratings system. All R-rated films are not alike."[79] John Fithian, the president of the National Association of Theatre Owners, also said that the cards can be harmful. He noted in a news article for the Christian Science Monitor that the R rating is "broad enough to include relatively family-friendly fare such as Billy Elliot and Erin Brockovich (which were both rated R for language) along with films that push the extremes of violence, including Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill."[80] 041b061a72


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