In light of the new wave of horror films that appear to push the envelope: One has to wonder if the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is asleep at the wheel or if there is an esoteric influence pushing movies such as “Hostel” easily through the ratings lifecycle sans trepidation or anxiety.
According to the MPAA, “No one is forced to submit a film to the Board for rating, but the vast majority of producers/distributors opt to do so. Any producer/distributor who wants no part of any rating system is free to go to the market without any rating, or with any description or symbol they choose, as long as it is not confusingly similar to the G, PG, PG-13, R, and, NC-17. The rating symbols are federally registered certification marks of the MPAA and may not be self-applied.” What is questionable about this volunatry process, are the fees paid to the Classification and Ratings Administration, to view and vote on submissions. There appears to be a lack of transparency in this process.
The 13 member board who serve varying lengths of service, including the Chairman (appointed by the MPAA Chairman)rate submissions utilizing a ratings appraisal process and try to gauge what the public’s perception, by periodically conducting telephone surveys nationwide. Incidentally, the “R” rating means “In the opinion of the Rating Board, this film definitely contains some adult material. Parents are strongly urged to find out more about this film before they allow their children to accompany them. An R-rated film may include strong language, violence, nudity, drug abuse, other elements, or a combination of the above, so parents are counseled in advance to take this advisory rating very seriously” compared to the “NC-17”, “This rating declares that the Rating Board believes this is a film that most parents will consider patently too adult for their youngsters under 17. No children will be admitted. NC-17 does not necessarily mean obscene or pornographic; in the oft-accepted or legal meaning of those words. The Board does not and cannot mark films with those words. These are legal terms for courts to decide. The reasons for the application of an NC-17 rating can be excessive violence, sex, aberrational behavior, drug abuse or any other elements which, when present, most parents would consider too strong and therefore off-limits for viewing by their children.”
As we look forward to summer of block-busters, all eyes should be on the release of Eli Roth’s “Hostel” 2 (Lion Gate Films), wide release in June, 2007 and how the MPAA reacts. For those of you not familiar with this movie, the first installment involved three young male backpackers in Europe, who are lured away from “safety” to the lurking shadows awaiting them in Slovakia. Gradually, the tone of the movie becomes quite sinister (as evidenced by the color draining from the picture), as the young male backpakers in search of wild sex and drugs in Slovakia, are captured and tortured to death by priveleged and rich men. The first installment of “Hostel” received a “R” rating, a federally registered certification mark by the Classifications and Ratings Administration. Even though critical reviews were mixed about Eli Roth’s offering of how humanity be cruel: One has to wonder what the 13-member panel were thinking while they viewed this movie. If the MPAA has attempted to align their values with the movie-going public ( by conducting surveys), why have they already approved the poster for “Hostel” 2? The poster (LGF) resembles unwarranted scenery from a medical examiner’s office . Based on this lack of action, it appears that Eli Roth and Lion Gate Films may be unstoppable in terms meeting appropriate rating standards designed by the MPAA, to prevent any form of public or legislative backlash.
It is my opinion, that the MPAA should take a pause before granting a “Hostel” 2 another “R” rating. Based on the criteria and definitions provided by the MPAA classisfication system, this movie deserves a minimum rating of a “NC-17”, based on the torture element alone. It is also time for the MPAA to wake up and take their roles much more seriously, than bowing to the undue influence of producers and distributors, in this so called “free-market” system.
Lion Gate Films. [Online]. Hostel 2. Retrieved from http://www.lionsgate.com/index_flash.php on January 8, 2007.
Motion Picture Association. [Online]. Who Rates The Movies And How Does It Work? Retrieved from http://www.mpaa.org/Ratings_HowRated.asp on January 8, 2007.
Roth, E. (2007).Hostel 2. Retrieved from http://www.hostel2.com/ on January 8, 2007.
Rotten Tomatoes. [Online]. Critics Tomatometer. Retrieved from http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/hostel/ on January 8, 2007.