- MPAA ratings are ill-defined, subjective and inconsistently-applied. This makes them confusing for both film-goers and film-makers.
- The rules of ratings determinations and the details of the deliberation process are secret, as are the identities of members of the Ratings Board and Appeals Board.
- Raters have no special qualifications and receive no training. Professionals from fields such as education, media studies, sociology and psychology are not involved in the process and may even be intentionally excluded.
- Film ratings are not applied uniformly regardless of content and viewpoint. The disparity in treatment is especially apparent with regard to films dealing with sexual orientation.
- The NC- 17 rating deprives individual parents of their right to make choices for their own children and dramatically limits the ability of adults to see films.
The last statement refers to the fact that films with an NC-17 rating find it extremely hard to get screened in cinema theatres in the US. Many reputed stores will not stock DVDs of a film rated NC-17. This film is not yet rated was initially given an NC-17 rating by the MPAA. The filmmakers later surrendered the rating. As a result, it's now being screened at a very limited number of movie halls across the US. The filmmakers recommendations to fix these problems (as mentioned in the petition) are excerpted below.
- Objectivity: We ask that the MPAA develop and publicize objective guidelines for rating films.
- Transparency: We ask that the MPAA publicly identify all participants in the rating process and their qualifications, background or experience.
- Professionalism: We ask that the rating and appeals board be comprised of qualified individuals representing a broad cross-section of views and experiences, and that they receive training in the objective criteria for rating films.
- Fairness: We ask that the MPAA develop fair procedures for rating films and hearing appeals, which includes the right to be heard through a representative of one's choice, the right to present relevant evidence and arguments, the right to a majority vote and the right to a written decision specifying the grounds for the rating determination.
- Personal Choice and Responsibility: We ask that the NC-17 rating be replaced with a category that describes content fairly and accurately, but does not restrict the rights of individual parents to make their own decisions about what their minor children may see or limit the ability of adults to see films.
I recommend reading the comments of people who've signed the petition to give you an idea about public opinion on this matter. A good number of parents seem to feel that the rating system is arbitrary, and reduces their capability to make good decisions about what they should allow their children to watch. There are apparently a good number of movies that are rated R when they could have been just as easily rated PG-13, and if parents allow their children to watch these, then it's hard to justify not allowing them to watch other R rated movies.
Now read this interview (link courtesy Selective Amnesia) of Sharmila Tagore (Chairperson of the Indian Censor Board). The article is about the fact that she's in favour of allowing adult scenes in movies in India, and also getting rid of the ban on airing adult content on television. However, to quote her from the article, she
"... wouldn't endorse [her predecessor's proposal to permit pornographic films in the country]. I don't think society or the Indian people are ready for it. There's a cultural difference between India and the rest of the world."
"Indian people are not ready for pornographic films". I'm trying to understand what that statement means. Maybe the local VCD/DVD library owner will know. I wish I was back in India. I'd be able to ask him.
As to the obvious comparison between censorship related issues in the US and India, I'll let you draw your own conclusions.