Fun with MPAA ratings: Non-stop Ninja Action!

Parental warning: Non-stop ninja action!

Since my last guestblogging stint, a few media things have happened that I thought might be worth sharing. One group often covered here, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), relaunched its film ratings website, making it even easier to find unintentionally hilarious movie rating rationales.

What rating capsules do your favorite movies have? What do you think would be a better one? More on the rating system after the break.

Image: screencap from 1995 trailer for 3 Ninjas Knuckle Up

Warning: Twister is "rated PG-13 for intense depiction of very bad weather." Screencap from CARA site.

It can be a bit of a competition among film geeks to find the best capsule rationales. The best ones tend to be the PG or PG-13 ratings. Right after the launch, Zach at Gunaxin rated his top 20 ratings. He cited the rationale almost unanimously deemed best by connoisseurs of the form: 1995's severely awesome kid flick 3 Ninjas Knuckle Up, "rated PG-13 for non-stop ninja action." I watched it just based on the capsule.

Ratings started as a film industry response to the restrictive government-backed Hays Code, which had enforced all kinds of morality on films from 1930 to 1967.

Many credit MPAA with helping usher in the golden age of cinema of the late 60s and early 70s. However, they have been mired in political controversies of their own. As Cory has blogged previously, the documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated is the best overview of the history and problems of the trade group's rating arm, now called the government-sounding Classification and Rating Administration (CARA). The ratings are tallied from a secretive group of everyday citizens who rate every film in the US.

Among the many complaints, one of the most common involves the relatively lax ratings for violence compared to language and sexuality. As Sheila Broflovski said of the MPAA, "Horrific, deplorable violence is okay, as long as people don't say any naughty words!" Things are even worse for sex, especially sex and gender minorities. Movies with lesbian/gay/bi/trans themes always get a harder rating than a non-LGBT equivalent. Brokeback Mountain would have been a PG-13 at best if the couple were straight, and the most ridiculous rating in my opinion is the R rating they gave Ma Vie En Rose, a sweet but sad story about a gender-variant child. They claim it's for "brief strong language," but a similar movie without the transgender aspect would have been PG, I bet.

Anyway, look forward to the comments!