Pop quiz: what do Denzel Washington’s Antwone Fisher, Matt Ruskin and Chris Rolle’s documentary The Hip-Hop Project and James L. Brooks’ upcoming rom-com How Do You Know all have in common? Any guesses? Anyone? Okay, I’ll tell you: all three films, in their finished form, include over one use of the word “fuck” during the course of their running time. Yet oddly enough, despite the MPAA’s staunch ‘one ‘fuck’ per PG-13 film’ rule, two of these films–Antwone Fisher (three “fucks”) and The Hip Hop Project (seventeen)–somehow managed to avoid being slapped with an R-rating, and instead were deemed suitably appropriate for a PG-13.
How Do You Know, on the other hand, hasn’t been quite as lucky. Earlier this week Sony found their film slapped with an R-rating, on account of the film’s usage of the word ‘fuck’ three times. After losing an appeal to overturn the rating, Variety is now reporting that Sony will take the film back to the editing room in the hopes of securing a more audience-accessible rating for its December release. Hit the jump for some of my thoughts.
It’s getting to the point now, following the MPAA’s recent decisions to slap such projects as The Tillman Story and The King’s Speech with R-ratings (as well as the slap-to-the-face that was Blue Valentine’s NC-17), where I think we need to really pause and ask ourselves: is what the MPAA calls “protection” really free-flowing censorship?
Official MPAA policy states that only one use of the word “fuck” is allowed in a PG-13 rated film. But then how do you explain the three that got by in Antwone Fisher, or the seventeen that went unpunished by in The Hip-Hop Project? What makes those instances excusable, but other films like The King’s Speech and How Do You Know, despite having less usage of the exact same word, are somehow deemed unfit for wide audiences?
Ugh…just writing this makes my blood boil. I could go on and on–how is a film as graphically violent as Saw VII possibly on the same level content-wise as the near spick-and-span It’s Complicated? How come a piece of innuendo-stuffed garbage like The Love Guru can sneak by with a PG-13, but one of the most utterly wholesome films in recent years, Once gets slapped with an R? How is this in any way ‘protection’?
Whatever. The main takeaway from all is, How Do You Know will almost certainly end up with PG-13. The King’s Speech, unfortunately, will likely remain rated R. Blue Valentine will probably be stuck with its NC-17 rating. And the MPAA will continue to get away unpunished with censorship under the guise of ‘protection.’ There’s a word for this, I can’t quite place it…oh, right–