Friday, June 09, 2006

The ratings game

In the world of entertainment and media, ratings are an important factor, causing either an intensified interest or acting as a warning label allowing people to shy away from something they may not like.

Take, for example, the recent advent of the "AO" rating for video games. This rating was spurred on, largely, because of the "Hot Coffee" patch to Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The "AO" rating, for those that may have been secluded away from learning about these things, is for "Adults Only", and includes the signifier 18+. It's basically an NC-17 for video games, where M for Mature is the industry's R. Now, GTA already had an M rating, due to the content, and the extreme levels of violence contained within. Under the M=R theory, nobody under 17 could purchase the game, and be exposed to this material. Understand that this is all theory, much the same way as the theory that nobody under 17 is watching R rated films. Well, once critics learned that there was a (unlockable, and not easily so) sex scene contained within the game, well, that got them up in arms and they panicked, crying out in the dark for the AO rating to be created and slapped all over the GTA title. Lesson learned? Sex is far more damaging to the psyche than excessive random violence.

But where has that led us? Well, it's led us right to the inevitable end, where there are now companies working on creating pornographic video games. Now, given that the average video game customer is a 25-year old male, porn games seem completely logical. The biggest reason why there are discussions about this? Pornographers have always been searching for new media to get their fingers into, and, by creating the Adults Only category of video games, they now have an opening to pry into the realm of video games. If the rating had stuck with the "Mature" label, the likelihood of this avenue being pursued isn't as high, because there would be too much risk involved towards censorship and decency laws. As long as they can market the product to Adults Only, these things have been circumvented, and the industry has found a new pie to nibble at for awhile.

But I mentioned the flip side, where certain ratings are not welcomed, but reviled. This, of course, varies from project to project, based on content. There is a history of films not receiving ratings because they were too graphic in content for one rating, and felt that the next higher rating would keep audiences away. The movie Facing the Giants, due out this fall, is part of that category. The odd thing is that Facing the Giants is upset that it has been plastered with a PG rating.

PG is the rating for "Parental Guidance suggested", which means that parents may not want their kids to see it, dependant upon how they feel discussing the issues. It's still only "PG", so it's not like their going to be stepping into territory better suited for teenagers than for younger children. It's also a football movie, so there may be some curiousity as to how it received anything other than a heartwarming and family-friendly "G". Turns out, the MPAA feels that large amounts of overt religious messaging is something that parents may want to know about in advance, the same way as they would probably be curious if there was foul language or sexual content. That's right, folks. Facing the Giants has, by some accounts, a large amount of overt Christian messaging, and that alone caused the MPAA to throw the PG rating onto the film. Naturally, the film's producers are upset, and feeling that they are being lumped in with sex and depravity. Nevermind that, if the religion that was being espoused in the film was anything other than Christianity, there would be a clamor for warning labels and, quite possibly, anger if it didn't receive at least a PG rating. Seems fair that anything that broaches such a sensitive subject as openly as this film is purported to do contain a notice to give parents what basically amounts to a "heads-up", and allow them to decide if the content is suitable for their children.

Then again, it may just be me, but I happen to stand firmly by the belief that all media should be considered PG. It might actually cause parents to spend some time with their families, as opposed to using the television as a babysitter.

But then there'd be no need for BabyFirstTV. Not that that's a bad thing, really.

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