The MPAA’s rating system “is a racket, a way of saving face and assuaging public morality while making as much money as possible by showing sex and violence to cinema audiences,” writes David Thomson in the 8.27 Independent. It’s a piece worth reading because Thomson sums it all up very neatly.
“In practice, the MPPA has viewing panels that see a film, make their suggestion and then ‘negotiate’ with the filmmakers over what can and cannot be included. To this extent, the system is rigged. An NC-17 rating is still a killer because in the sedated and religious parts of America, an NC-17 film will not be shown, or even advertised. In other words, the provision for adult entertainment — and I don’t mean pornography, I mean material and ideas only for adults — is denied by the censoriousness of certain communities.
“In short, an NC-17 cannot make money, and so most production contracts require the director to deliver an R-rated picture. [And] independent films — in their nature,more dangerous, more subversive and less viable — do not get the same kind of treatment” — i.e., liberal and/or extended negotiations. “So the racket is that the ratings have ended up re-enforcing the commercial mainstream.”