Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein loves foul language – and ignoring the movie ratings system. In recent years, he has deliberately used the f-bomb in his films, then bullied the Motion Picture Association of America into changing R-ratings to PG-13. This week, Weinstein struck again.
This week, Hollywood boss Harvey Weinstein successfully pressured the MPAA into lowering the rating on his upcoming film Philomena from an R to a PG-13, despite the movie’s repeated use of the f-word.
This is the second time the MPAA has knuckled under to Weinstein. Last year, the producer bullied the ratings group into lowering the rating on his documentary Bully from R to PG-13, even though it contained multiple f-words. (The fact that Weinstein has a long-standing relationship with MPAA head Chris Dodd is surely a coincidence.)
It wasn’t always this way. In 2011, in the otherwise excellent and family-friendly film The King’s Speech, Weinstein deliberately inserted a sequence in which the king rattles off a string of f-bombs. Back then, the MPAA stood firm. After the movie won the Oscar for Best Picture, Weinstein re-released a PG-13 version with the profanity edited out, so that younger audiences could see it (and Weinstein could make more money).
In the case of Bully, Weinstein claimed that the subject matter of the film was relevant to and important for children, and that therefore the rating should be changed so kids could see it. But, as PTC President Tim Winter pointed out, that reasoning is ludicrous. If the film was so “important” for kids to see, why didn’t Weinstein simply leave the profanity out to begin with? Or, if he felt the language was a crucial part of the film, why didn’t he release Bully on the Internet as a public service, so kids could see it for free?
The entire reason a ratings system exists is to give parents an guide to a film’s content, and help them determine what is and is not appropriate viewing for their children. If the MPAA abandons its standards and knuckles under to every producer who whines that they can’t make as much money because the content they chose to put in a film causes it to receive an R rating, where will parents be?
Hollywood types like Weinstein hide behind “artistic choice” as their rationale for including vile language in their movies. But doing so is ridiculous, as a moment’s thought makes obvious. Are two f-words absolutely, totally, 100% crucial to telling the movie’s story? If Weinstein had taken them out, would the entire plot of the movie collapse? Would all the skilled acting, lighting, cinematography, and direction instantly become completely worthless? Obviously not.
This is not about overly-restrictive ratings rules and “artistic choice.” This is about the MPAA’s shameless capitulation to a producer who has been relentless in his repeated attempt to gut the movie ratings system. If the MPAA can be bullied into changing the rating of one film by a producer, it won’t be long before every producer demands the same treatment. The result will be a “ratings” system that is feeble at best…and totally meaningless at worst.