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Movie ministry slams Hollywood ratings scale

‘Bruno’ actor Sacha Baron Cohen

Editor’s note: Some portions of this story are graphic in nature, and parental discretion is strongly advised.

When a graphically sexual film like “Brüno” receives only an R rating from the Motion Picture Association of America, claims the Christian Film & Television Commission, it’s time to reject the ratings system in favor of something better.

“The MPAA’s ratings system never worked really well, but it has gotten much worse since it added the ambiguous PG-13 rating,” says Dr. Ted Baehr, chairman of CFTVC, on the ministry’s MovieGuide website. “Parents … can no longer trust the ratings for movies, especially in light of the PG-13 ratings for movies like ‘The Love Guru’ and ‘Land of the Lost,’ and the R ratings for pornographic movies like ‘Brüno.'”

Instead of the MPAA system, Baehr is inviting parents and concerned Americans around the country to sign a petition urging the MPAA to end the ratings system and adopt a “Code of Decency,” a voluntary standard for content in films.

“It is clear that the entertainment industry must return to the kind of system it had during the Golden Age of Hollywood and the Golden Age of Television,” Baehr states, “when it was a wonderful life in America because Mr. Smith went to Washington, Ricky still loved Lucy, and the Bells of St. Mary’s rang out across the whole land.”

Sasha Baron Cohen’s recent “Brüno” film shocked audiences with full frontal male nudity and only slightly obscured depictions of homosexual acts – including pouring champagne from a bottle inserted in a man’s anus – among other explicit themes and imagery.

The film, however, carried only an R rating, rather than the stronger NC-17 rating, from the MPAA.

According to the MPAA website, “Brüno” was rated R “for pervasive strong and crude sexual content, graphic nudity and language,” whereas NC-17 is reserved for films that “most parents would consider patently too adult for their children 17 and under.”

Baehr commented on the ratings decision: “The MPAA has a jaded view of American parents if they think ‘most parents’ would not find the ‘pervasive strong and crude sexual content, graphic nudity and language’ in ‘Brüno’ to be ‘patently too adult for their children 17 and under.’ Most would find it too offensive for children under 170.”

Baehr and the CFTVC, therefore, are inviting Americans to reject the flawed rating system and demand voluntary content standards return to moviemaking.

From 1930 to 1966 the movie industry’s major studios abided by a voluntary standard that limited the use of profanity in film, forbade nudity and provided guidelines for violence, the treatment of animals and more.

But as the 1960s ushered in sweeping changes in America’s mores and customs, new MPAA President Jack Valenti believed the old system of do’s and don’ts in moviemaking stifled the creativity of the emerging new breed of filmmakers.

“I knew that the mix of new social currents, the irresistible force of creators determined to make ‘their’ films and the possible intrusion of government into the movie arena demanded my immediate action,” Valenti wrote on the MPAA website before his death in 2007.

In 1968, Valenti and the MPAA introduced the movie ratings system, which is still in place today.

Baehr, however, believes the ratings system did little more than grant permission for Hollywood to start flooding its films with filth.

“Valenti designed his rating system to protect the industry from the threat of government intervention,” Baehr said. “His ploy worked. There was no serious intervention. But, the cost of his switch from standards to ratings is being paid by every living American. … Valenti’s artistic freedom has become America’s nightmare and a few leaders in the entertainment industry want to increase the level of horror and depravity every year. They call it ‘cutting edge.'”

Furthermore, Baehr says, creativity isn’t necessarily stifled by reasonable standards.

“One of the heads of Walt Disney Studios recently stated: ‘We are putting Walt back into the Disney movies. We will have romance without sex, action without violence and dialogue without foul language,'” Baehr quoted, adding, “This is a voluntary standard. It helps build public trust in Disney movies. It certainly doesn’t stifle creativity. Disney pictures are famous for creativity. What it does stifle is profanity and obscenity.”

The CFTVC is proposing that instead of the MPAA ratings system, the movie industry adopt a voluntary standard the CFTVC calls “The Entertainment Code of Decency.” The organization is inviting people who agree to sign the following petition:

I call on the Motion Picture Association of America and the entertainment industry to end the Motion Picture Association of America’s authority to rate the content in each and every movie that comes out in theaters or that is released on home video formats such as VHS, DVD and Blue-Ray.

Furthermore, I call on the entertainment industry to reinstitute the
following Motion Picture and Television Code of Decency, to be administered by an outside group of government, church, synagogue, temple and parental groups.

The Motion Picture and Television Code of Decency

1. The basic dignity and value of human life shall be respected and upheld.

2. Restraint shall be exercised in portraying the taking of life.

3. Evil, sin, crime and wrongdoing shall not be justified.

4. Detailed, protracted and overly bloody or gory acts of brutality, cruelty, physical violence, torture and abuse shall not be presented.

5. Indecent or undue exposure of the human body shall not be presented.

6. Illicit sex relationships shall not be justified. Intimate sex scenes violating common standards of decency shall not be portrayed. Restraint and care shall be exercised in presentations dealing with sexual aberrations.

7. Obscene speech, gestures or movements shall not be presented. Undue obscenity and profanity shall not be presented.

8. Religion shall not be demeaned.

9. Words or symbols contemptuous of racial, religious or national groups shall not be used so as to incite bigotry or hatred.

10. Excessive cruelty to animals shall not be portrayed, and animals shall not be treated inhumanely.

Baehr said he will send the signed petitions to the Federal Trade Commission, which has been given the power to regulate trade in the United States, including the trade of the six major Hollywood studios that own the MPAA and run the ratings system.

“With ‘Brüno’ and the upcoming Lars von Trier movie ‘Antichrist,’ we must do this now,” Baehr told WND. ‘Together we can defeat the MPAA’s nefarious rating system.’

CFTVC is an international non-profit ministry that states it is dedicated to “redeeming the values of the entertainment industry by influencing industry executives and by informing and equipping the public about the influence of the entertainment media.”


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