Matt Stone on the corruption in the MPAA's ratings board

In this 2000 clip from a presentation at the Paley Center, South Park co-creator Matt Stone discusses his experience with the MPAA's ratings board, and explains how, as an independent, he found himself playing a kind of high-priced censorship guessing game with the board, who wouldn't tell him which scenes to change in order to go from an NC17 to an R rating. Once he signed up with a major studio, the ratings board began supplying explicit, frame-by-frame guidance on what to cut and how in order to salvage a better rating.

The MPAA ratings board has been in the news lately, thanks to its refusal to give the documentary Bully anything but an R rating, which would exclude the school-age children that are its intended audience. Kirby Dick's 2006 documentary This Film is Not Yet Rated exposes the lies behind the MPAA's ratings board, which go beyond the material covered by Stone here.

South Park - Matt Stone on Problems with the MPAA (Paley Center, 2000) (via Reddit)


    1. Oh, so an animated T-Rex  somehow more “dangerous”  to children’s nerves than footage from the landing in the Normandy or a public beheading in Saudi Arabia? 

      1. I don’t think that’s the point. I mean, as the parent of two children, I don’t really need a rating to help be figure out if a graphic documentary on Normandy (or capital punishment in Saudi Arabia) is suitable for a small child.

        The content of a documentary is usually evident from its subject, and if there is any question there are much more useful tools available. There are, for example, websites devoted to analyzing movies in scene-by-scene detail to detail for parents what they may find problematical. This is infinitely more useful than some opaque rating. It enables parents to make more informed parenting decisions, based on their values, not the MPAAs (I, for example, would rather have my children exposed to a little nudity than violence, but I guess I’m just funny that way, finding sexuality on a whole to be a positive thing, violence as a negative one).

        I admit that sometimes you screw up — like when I took my children, when small, to see March of the Penguins. Hopefully they will one day grow beyond the trauma.

        1.  By the way, March of the Penguins was rated G by the MPAA, and it was not particularly appropriate for small, sensitive children. Fuck, I bawled at it.

          Had it not been rated, I would have done a little research, and seen that it would have been best to wait a while before bringing my kids to it. Don’t get me wrong: it was a great documentary

        2. You control *all* your children’s’ movie goings? Because I see stuff like PG-13 and that’s years after I was allowed to go the cinema myself – but staff would turn you down, when you looked to young and couldn’t provide proof that you were allowed. 

          1. Well, yea, because how else are they going to go to a movie? My oldest is 11, and while the small town I live in has a one-screen, independent theater (owned by friends), the nearest “real” cinema is over 12 miles away.

            I’m not saying there shouldn’t be ratings (even though the system is very flawed). I’m just agreeing with the OP that ratings on Documentaries are somewhat useless, if not entirely useless.

        3. How to get a movie? By taking a bus, streetcar or riding a bike, of course.  The idea to play taxi for 10-year-olds is rather bizarre.

          1. I grew up ten miles from the nearest cinema and there was no public transportation. You seem to think that the US is much more like Europe than it actually is.

  1. Every time I feel exasperated by some decision of the BBFC (here in the UK), I just remind myself how lucky we really are.  We have people who genuinely know what they are doing and feel a proper sense of duty and public service.  Which is a rapidly diminishing feature of the modern world.  Yes, there are people out there who do put other things ahead of money, but they are no longer likely to be appointed to positions where that matters.  

    1.  And this duty and public service thing was deliberately attacked during Thacher, and the attack is still ongoing and has spread around the world.

  2. Cory — don’t you know better than to quote Matt Stone in the process of fighting for a cause you believe in? He’s going to turn you into a puppet suicide bomber in his next movie! 

  3. I WISH (hope, dream, monkey wearing a suit made of bacon)  that Parker & Stone would slide this by in a movie or SP, and get MORE MORE people realizing,  MPAA – satan

  4. Wanna know if a movie’s okay for kids? Common Sense Media.
    No stupid power tripping like the MPAA and Parents Television Council.

    1.  Or heaven forbid the parents of children actually function as parents and use that there interwebs thing and research what they are sending their kids off to see. 
      There are parents willing to hand their kid $40, drop them off at a theater, and assume they are just going to go see the rerelease of Bambi – because they can always sue the theater if their kid sees something different.

      Look at the stupid video game laws, parents suing and making STORES responsible for what their child buys.  Not the person who drove them there, or gave them the $60, or is supposed to be monitoring them.  It is the stores job to make sure my kid doesn’t buy a game where there are hookers.

      1. I’d like to point out that the position “it’s the parents’ responsibility that their kids don’t steal chocolate bunnies” wasn’t too popular in

        1. Poisoning chocolate makes you an ass and you belong in jail.
          The parents of the child should be beaten as well, they raised their kid to – steal & eat crap found in trees. 

          This kid was a white van with free candy spray painted on the side away from ending up on a milk carton.

          1. My parents raised me not to steal, that lesson got drummed into me plenty of times. Being a kid though, I did it on occasion. Chocolate especially. 

            The only person that deserves punishment in that instance is the jerk who put poisoned chocolate in his yard.

        2. What’s that got to do with the price of tea in China?

          A man (an idiot) was decorating his yard with chocolate. Chocolate for Fs sake. He knew kids were taking it. He then poisoned the chocolate and you’re comparing this to ratings systems for movies?

      2. Or heaven forbid the parents of children actually function as parents and use that there interwebs thing and research what they are sending their kids off to see.

        Um, isn’t that exactly what Common Sense Media is: a web resource that allows parents to see detailed, objective analyses of movies before they send their kids off to see it?

        I understand your soapbox — and agree with it — but unless I’m misreading your post, you chose the wrong place to put it. OP is calling for the same thing you are.

        1. I want them to move beyond trusting a single source.

          Once upon a time the MPAA wasn’t an evil thing, but over time you get what we have today.  The BBB still had a good reputation, and wasn’t caught selling grades.  Charities helped people rather than pay directors obscene amounts.

          To often we have parents in a panic because some talking head on a tv show said X will make their child a serial killer, they refuse to question how they arrived at that point.

          Raising a child requires more than a single source of information, while Common Sense Media might be a valuable resource a parent needs to do more than let someone else give them their cliff notes version of things.

    2.  Agreed, but that isn’t the point. The MPAA’s rating determines whether a movie gets into theaters; they can virtually kill a movie with a rating. Less so now, there are alternate channels of distribution, but they still have way too much power.

  5. I know an awful lot of rich people who could fix this rather quickly by releasing their movies as Unrated in protest, etc.  Studio won’t let them?  :world’s smallest violin playing:

      1. Theaters who screen unrated films get booted from NATO and distributors will blackball them.  It’s a racket.

      2. If it is a good film, people will find a way to pay to see it.  And if there is one thing I have zero sympathy or patience for, it is chicken shit millionaire artists. If the filmmakers wanted to fix the MPAA, they have plenty of resources to do it.

        1. The “millionaire artists” are in on the scam. They work for the studios, who work with the MPAA, who work with theatre chains (NATO). None of these groups has an incentive to rock the boat or “fix” the MPAA because it’s already working to their benefit.

          It’s the non-millionaire artists, the independents, who are left out in the cold.

        2. If it is a good film, people will find a way to pay to see it.

          There are parts of the US where you might have to drive 500 miles to see film that’s been blackballed by the multiplexes.

          1.  @boingboing-93f9f9a1e5ab0994053e5d05aadcf9d7:disqus

            Believe it or not, some people don’t have big TV’s/Screens to stream onto, some people don’t even have very fast internet connections, there are even some people that don’t have the internet, or computers.

            Also where exactly would you distribute this film on ‘the internet’?  It’s own site or via torrent?  Well that requires a bout of marketing.  Maybe on Netflix or similar?  Probably needs a rating.

            Your over simplification is mind boggling.

          2. I’m saying that successful, wealthy filmmakers could address these problems in the MPAA by refusing to have their work rated by the MPAA.  You are saying in response “boo hoo they wouldn’t have any place to release their films! they would get blacklisted! how would they make money!”

            I need to find my tiny little violin again.  I have no sympathy if they want to enjoy the status quo and their success rather than fix things for up and coming artists.

            And I find it rather ironic that you’re showing me connectivity charts and telling me people can’t afford computers and TVs.

            How do these facts justify a wealthy filmmaker doing nothing to change the MPAA?  Shouldn’t these things be exactly why they use their privilege in order to open up the theaters to a wider range of films?

            Yes… the brave artist who takes on the MPAA may release a film that some people can’t see because they aren’t near an indie cinema, or they don’t have a computer.  But that artist may create change at the MPAA that ultimately brings a wider variety of film to those same people.

            And that artist isn’t going to starve to death.  I don’t see Louis CK living on the streets with his internet release.

        3. “If it is a good film, people will find a way to pay to see it.”

          Not necessarily true; unless of course the film managed to land a giant marketing budget along with it’s no-rating.

        4. “I don’t see Louis CK living on the streets with his internet release.”

          Dude.  There is no way he would have been successful at his internet release if he wasn’t already a very popular, successful comic that had played “the game” for many, many, MANY years prior.  You do realize that, don’t you?

  6. This just in… Institutionally entitled, moralistic (as opposed to moral) jerks are up for sale to the highest bidder.  Details at 11.

  7. In a world…where blog entries are posted every second of every day…
    One man…will stand against the tide.

    Cory Doctorow is…
    Posting Shit from A Couple of Weeks Ago

    1. If the policies are the same as they were in 2000, what’s wrong with posting something that still applies?

      1. Oh you know, just joshing around. There is a definite rhythm to clips surfacing and dropping back into obscurity, and I saw this one flare up a few weeks ago. I’m not complaining; it definitely needs more eyeballs.

  8. Does the MPAA hate kids or love bullies or something? I honestly can’t think of any other reason to target this movie. Does anyone have any insight?

    1. The MPAA is pro-bullying.  The body has a number of Conservative members, and a lot of Conservatives have been vocally against any measure  that targets bullying, on the grounds that it would prevent righteous folk from engaging in their god-given duty to harass gays, sissies, artsy fartsy types, goths or anyone else who doesn’t conform.

      1. Your analysis works for me; sounds plausible enough, knowing what passes for a mind in that breed of insane vermin.

        Also, the MPAA is pro-bullying, because they are by definition, bullies.

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