Misleading movie ratings

By Joseph Farah

Long ago, in a journalistic universe far, far away from cyberspace, I actually covered Hollywood.

Back in those days, I wrote quite a bit about the movie ratings system. It has always fascinated me. What the average person doesn’t know about movie ratings could fill volumes. And I could write those volumes.

But I’m going to keep it to 750 words here and tell you everything you need to know about the Hollywood ratings system.

Basically, if you see a movie made before the institution of the Motion Picture Association of America’s ratings system in 1968, you can pretty much count on being able to watch that movie with your child or your grandmother and not be too embarrassed. If the movie was made in 1968 or later, watch with caution.

You see, the ratings system came into place in the 1960s to replace the movie code, a wonderful system of checks and balances in Hollywood developed between the studios and the major churches. That’s right. From 1933 until 1968, the Roman Catholic Church’s League of Decency along with the Protestant Film Office reviewed nearly every script before the major studios produced a movie.

They did this at the invitation of Hollywood, because the studio bosses understood if their pictures could pass muster with the churches, then their potential audiences were that much bigger.

All that came crashing down in 1968, but not because Hollywood dumped the churches. On the contrary, the churches abandoned Hollywood. I tell this story in some detail in my upcoming book, “Taking America Back,” because it is very instructive as to how cultural decay begins and how it is reversed.

As a result, you can safely use 1968 as a dividing line with Hollywood movies. Anything made prior is safe for the whole family. Anything made after is suspect. Try the test yourself some time.

But here’s the rub.

Lately, for about the last year, I have noticed American Movie Classics using MPAA-style ratings on movies made prior to 1968. You will see John Wayne westerns rated R. You will see family-friendly fare rated PG-13. In fact, nearly every old movie you see on this cable network is now rated R.

My wife and I puzzled over this. As old movie buffs, we couldn’t understand it. Why would AMC want to label movies that are perfectly acceptable for all audiences as somehow suitable only for adults?

I still haven’t figured out the answer. But it’s not for lack of effort. I have repeatedly called AMC executives. I have interviewed officials of the network’s public-relations department. I have left countless messages for people who should know the answers. But no one ever bothers to get back to me.

And, from my years in the news business, I can tell you that suggests they are hiding something. There is an agenda at work. There is a political and social crusade going on at AMC to which most people are oblivious.

Here’s my theory: It is a fact that R-rated movies do significantly worse at the box office on average than do movies with PG or G ratings. Nevertheless, despite that fact, Hollywood makes mostly R-rated movies. In other words, Hollywood disregards its own economic incentives to make wholesome, family-friendly movies in favor of making the kinds of movies people in Hollywood like. Therefore, if Hollywood can convince Americans that R ratings are “normal,” then that reality might change. What better way to desensitize Americans to R ratings than to start handing them out for no reason whatsoever to John Wayne westerns and other family-friendly movies that never faced an MPAA ratings board?

Amazing, isn’t it? But I think my theory is correct. If anyone has a better idea about why AMC would give unnecessarily and arbitrarily restrictive ratings to movies without cause, I’d like to hear.

Somebody is doing this for a reason. And, yet, there is no good reason. Which means there is a bad reason. And my educated guess is that AMC is now under the control of people who would like to revise Hollywood history the way the National Education Association has revised American history.