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Over 21 Only

December 21st, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools 6 comments

Film critic Roger Ebert is proposing that since today’s youth are regularly exposed to profanity, sex and violence, the Motion Picture Association of America should revamp the movie rating system. Aside from the easy availability of anything and everything on computers, he correctly says that with multiplex cinemas it is simple to buy a ticket for one PG-13 rated show and head to an R rated one instead. In his words, “It’s time to get pragmatic about this.”

Perhaps our reaction to these facts should be exactly the opposite. After all, I don’t see proposals floated to admit that we’ve lost the war on obesity and should stop trying to do anything about it. I haven’t seen the argument made that we should simply acknowledge that Americans do not have an educational system that compares with many other countries around the world and rather than try to improve, we should just change requirements for graduation. We certainly didn’t shrug our shoulders about cigarette consumption a few decades ago and let it be. 

Like obesity or illiteracy, being exposed to gratuitous sex, profanity and violence, particularly at a young age, causes damage. I dare say there are enough social scientists and studies that could supply data to support that claim. If that is the case, perhaps we should indeed change the ratings, but in the opposite direction of what Mr. Ebert suggests. Perhaps, like alcohol, more movies should be restricted to an over 21 group. Then, just as happens in stores that sell liquor, government agents could send minors to buy movie tickets and fine theaters that neglect to ask for ID. To stop multiplex hopping, we could legislate that theatres that want to cater to the under 21 crowd cannot at the same time offer any restricted movies. We could draw the lines more firmly, not less.

Actually, those are terrible ideas. I’d like to see less government intrusion in our lives, not more. However, I do think it is valid to ask why as a society, we’re supposed to “get pragmatic” about some things while micro-managing others. If government involvement is required so that you can’t buy a soda without knowing how many calories are in it, why should it be excluded from other areas? Somehow the movie industry is immune to government tinkering. When businesses outsource because costs are less, newspapers castigate them as selfish and evil. Do studios make movies in Canada to avoid paying union salaries? Silence reigns.

Factories use power in order to produce their goods and TV shows expose them as ‘evil polluter’ However, I never hear rebuke of TV and movie production which possess carbon footprints bigger than King Kong’s.

We seem eerily comfortable with government intrusion into our lives under the guise of protecting our bodies, but we are inexplicably uncomfortable when that protection touches a moral issue. If a fifteen year-old gets into a liquor store, you’d think the sky fell in. If the same child gets into an NC-17 movie theater, well; that’s just reality.

Teen pregnancies, eating disorders, cutting, bullying and assorted other ills are not unrelated to a culture that the entertainment industry promotes. These phenomena have real impact on people’s lives, just as diabetes or cancer do. They impact our economy as well. If legislation is valid to ban cigarette advertising in magazines or to get soft drinks out of high schools, then rather than saying, as Mr. Ebert does, “It’s time to admit we’ve lost our innocence,” maybe movies need to be targeted by the regulatory gun just as much as other businesses.

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6 comments

Michael Hopkins says:

While I think your assessment is brilliant,(your examples of obesity and education are “spot on”), I can’t say I agree with the all too pervasive notion that “regulation is the answer.”
I do think clear standards are necessary, but I believe they need to be set culturally, recognized individually, and not promulgated by bureaucrats.
As long as sex and violence can be considered under the category of “entertainment” — the mores of the society will remain wanting, irrespective of the “regulations.”
Outside of a substantial “religious revival” I don’t see any lasting answer.
Respectful Regards,
Michael

Michael Hopkins says:

While I think your assessment is brilliant,(your examples of obesity and education are “spot on”), I can’t say I agree with the all too pervasive notion that “regulation is the answer.”
I do think clear standards are necessary, but I believe they need to be set culturally, recognized individually, and not promulgated by bureaucrats.
As long as sex and violence can be considered under the category of “entertainment” — the mores of the society will remain wanting, irrespective of the “regulations.”
Outside of a substantial “religious revival” I don’t see any lasting answer.
Respectful Regards,
Michael

susan says:

Michael,
I totally agree with you that more regulation isn’t the answer. But I don’t think it’s the answer for obesity or the other areas where government is happy to regulate. I do object to the fact that “the common good” is translated as only relating to items that are important to the left.

susan says:

Michael,
I totally agree with you that more regulation isn’t the answer. But I don’t think it’s the answer for obesity or the other areas where government is happy to regulate. I do object to the fact that “the common good” is translated as only relating to items that are important to the left.

Paulette says:

I agree with you 100%. Just this morning on one of the major networks, they talked about a program called Teen Mom that airs on MTV. This young woman was physically abusing her ex-fiance in front of her 2 year old child – and the cameras from MTV. This is considered “entertainment” today. Until, we, as a society, say that this form of entertainment is unacceptable, it will continue to escalate with more and more reality shows of the same genre. If it takes a village to raise a child, then what has happened to the moral compass of our villages?
I really enjoy your columns.
Paulette

Paulette says:

I agree with you 100%. Just this morning on one of the major networks, they talked about a program called Teen Mom that airs on MTV. This young woman was physically abusing her ex-fiance in front of her 2 year old child – and the cameras from MTV. This is considered “entertainment” today. Until, we, as a society, say that this form of entertainment is unacceptable, it will continue to escalate with more and more reality shows of the same genre. If it takes a village to raise a child, then what has happened to the moral compass of our villages?
I really enjoy your columns.
Paulette

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