Sunday, December 17, 2006

Nothing wrong with the MPAA

There is a lot of buzz from critics about the level of brutality portrayed in “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning.”

Some critics are saying that the violence is too over the top and leaves nothing to the imagination. Others are saying that the MPAA needs to get its act together when it comes to rating violence.

I don’t understand what all the fuss is about.

The MPAA doesn’t need to make ratings stricter simply on account of brutality. There is a long history of brutal film violence, and “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning” looks fairly benign compared to some other mainstream movies that have been released in recent years.

Not all of these blood-drenched movies are just horror movies, either.

Mr. Disgusting, a critic from the horror movie website, bloody-disgusting.com, wondered about the sanity of the MPAA because of what he determined to be a lenient rating.

“Every scene appears to be shown in its entirety, which only makes me wonder what the hell is going on at the MPAA?” Mr. Disgusting wrote. “’Team America’ has an urination scene and gets an NC-17, a guy gets his face peeled off in TCMTB and it gets an ‘R’ [sic]? I’ll never quite get it.”

This is an awfully gruesome scene to endure, but to go so far as to suggest that the MPAA needs to start giving movies that show this kind of violence stricter ratings is unnecessary.

If the MPAA started giving horror movies with an analogous level of violence an NC-17 rating, people like Mr. Disgusting would probably be out of a job.

As to why Mr. Disgusting was so appalled by “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning,” I can’t figure out. Is it gory? Sure, but it’s not gory enough to require the MPAA’s most restrictive rating.

Yes, one character does get his face peeled off in “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning,” but it’s implied violence. The audience sees very little before the camera cuts away.

The MPAA understands the distinction between what the audience is shown and what the audience is led to believe through editing. The distinction, then, is between implied violence and actual violence. And there’s a huge difference.

Implied violence is not shown explicitly. It’s used to heighten suspense because it focuses on an act for a very little amount of time. It titillates, but it doesn’t show every detail of a violent act.

Actual violence is the stuff that is actually projected onto the screen. The MPAA has certainly lowered its standards for the amount of actual violence that can be seen in a movie before it gets slapped with an NC-17.

How else would audiences of 17 or younger be allowed to see such a blatantly graphic scene like Steven Spielberg’s famous D-Day sequence in “Saving Private Ryan?”

This is a sequence that shows the violent deaths of what seems like hundreds of actors, and it takes no prisoners. The realistic violence in this sequence is much more disturbing than a face getting peeled off. Yet, this movie got an R rating as well.

If “Saving Private Ryan” gets an R rating, then there’s no reason why “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning” should get an NC-17.

This is not to mention that a whole slew of horror movies that are much more violent have been released in the last couple of years that the MPAA hasn’t found necessary to give NC-17 ratings to.

George A. Romero’s zombie movie from last year, “Land of the Dead,” is so violent that Romero himself actually admitted that the MPAA was lenient with its R rating for the film. There’s a lot more actual violence in “Land of the Dead” than there is in “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning.”

It would have been silly, however, if “Land of the Dead” received an NC-17.

The same can be said about “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning.” It would have been an exercise in excess if the MPAA finally decided to bring the hammer down on a film that shows much less actual violence than a multitude of movies made in the past decade.

Mr. Disgusting isn’t acknowledging the sensibilities of audiences. Surely there will be a number of people that go to see “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning” that will be shocked by its depictions of violence.

Those people are likely a minority. The crowd at the theater I saw it in erupted in cheers when anything violent happened.

There’s very little in terms of violence that filmmakers can show audiences that they haven’t seen before. The MPAA probably realizes this. Likewise, they realize the futility in giving just another Halloween horror movie its most restrictive rating.

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