Thursday, December 14, 2006


I’ve never been one for R-rated movies. In fact, by the time I finished college, I don’t think I had ever seen a full R-rated film knowing that it was R-rated. Truthfully, there were a couple where although I didn’t know the rating for certain, I didn’t walk out even when things went sour, so I can’t pretend to be such a perfect little boy. (I’m resisting the urge to be glib about my concurrent refusal to watch R films but willingness to watch porn privately). But still—I steered clearer than most.

Apart from the prophetic prohibition of R films, I found it easier to just leave the responsibility for choosing what is acceptable to the faceless motion picture ratings group. But now I’m persuaded that that’s sort of a cop out. Putting aside the controversy over the inconsistency and arbitrary nature of the rating system in this country, it seems that for a thinking adult, ratings are inadequate. I’ve seen a fair amount of nudity in non-R-rated films (and that’s where I personally run into the most trouble). My inclination is to believe that NC-17 movies are downright bad. However, no children under 17 are admitted to the temple movie, so what’s the rating on that?

I’ve now watched a few R films, generally chosen for having an uplifting message and having a rating that is meant to protect children from being unnecessarily troubled rather than for being indecent. But I’m ambivalent because of the prophetic advice not to watch R-rated films—especially given the arbitrary and evolving nature of the ratings system in the U.S. It’s a conflict about the spirit vs. the letter of the law we’ve all been through before, and I was always taught the spirit of the law extends the letter rather than contradicts it. And as one who feels an urgency to hold on to all the spiritual strength I can, it should be a no-brainer. Now, if only there were a rating system for books… Censorship!!!


Jessie said...

A while ago I actually typed "R Rated movies" or something like that into the database on the church's website. For what it's worth, the last time a Prophet came out and said specifically "no R-rated movies" was President Benson in 1986, speaking to the youth of the church. But, plenty of other people before him and since him have spoken about the need to choose worthy entertainment, regardless of the rating. In fact, the most recent edition of "For the Strength of YOuth" took out the "no R-rated" that used to be in there and replaced it with guidance to choose good entertainment that meets church standards. In explaining the new guidelines, Richard G. Scott said (Ensign Mar. 2001)
"As another example, under “Entertainment and the Media” there is no specific mention of any rating system. This is not to be interpreted that the Church approves of R-rated or any other inappropriate movies. It is simply a recognition that there is increasingly great risk in tying ourselves to any rating system. Those that have been historically safe to use are not so anymore. Rating systems are constantly in a state of flux. Second, the rating system used in the United States does not apply to all parts of the world. As an international church, our people need to be taught principles they can apply no matter where they live."

One thing I don't like about people who adopt "No R-rated" as their rule, is that too often they watch plenty of PG-13 crap insted (not that you do, I'm just saying). The truth is, I probably watch too much stuff that I shouldn't. We recently watched "Brokeback Mountain", "Crash" and "Shakespeare in Love". I enjoyed them all, but they were all definitely adult in content and theme. Whether that's good or bad for me, I don't know. We try and be pretty picky about what we watch, and I really don't like a lot of violence, nudity or sex.

Last year I took a class that had film noir and literature as it's focus. I had to watch a ton of old movies from the 40s and 50s. The funny thing was, even though they didn't have any of that stuff that's in movies today, most weren't any more "uplifting". I did enjoy them, though, but I have a tendency to gravitate towards the dark and tragic for some reason. That's why I try and choose my entertainment wisely.

Anyways, now I've spent way too long on comments. If you want my six pages of "offical" counsel on movie ratings and entertainment, go ahead and email me. I've already done the research for you :)

Anonymous said...

'prophetic?' please...

i agree with jessie that we don't need to make ratings a litmus test of our faith. a lot of the crap that church-owned KSL broadcasts [including local news]is hardly spiritually-uplifting.

i have a relative that refused to see schindlers list for that reason but will gladly see a PG-13 movie that celebrates infidelity.

muscles strengthen with use; same goes for free agency.

Rebecca said...

Ratings are stupid and ineffectual. I'm sure you've read about it, but a man recently made a documentary ABOUT the ratings system and the people who rate movies - which is all very hush-hush stuff. It's called "This Film Is Not Yet Rated." Ironically, the ratings board gave it an NC-17 rating (at least initially - I haven't read anything lately). Retaliation? Hm...

-L- said...

I did hear about that. It ended up with no rating at all (rather than an NC-17 which severely limits venues).