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Sex And Violence In America


We’ve got our priorities in this country completely out of whack. Conservatives cry about the destruction of the institution of marriage because two people they feel threatened by want to get married, but support everyone’s right to shoot someone in the face if they feel threatened. They complain about sexuality being cheapened if we somehow glimpse the naked human body, but throw caution to the wind when it comes to marring off a man to a hoard of bimbos on reality television.

They say it’s about modesty but I call bullshit.

In 1968, the year I was born, the Chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), Jack Valenti, instituted a new ratings system for movies. According to Mr. Valenti, the system wasn’t designed for producers, major studios, directors or critics. “It was designed for parents,” he says. But the reality is, it was designed to fend off government oversight and censorship of the motion picture industry. There were those in Congress who felt that the Hollywood was getting out of control and was ready to step in.

The MPAA Rating System, as it is known, has evolved with a few twists and turns along the way, into the familiar G, PG-13, R and N-17 that appear in ads and movie reviews today.

Many parent invite the warnings, as they are often called, because they give parents some guidance as to what they can expect from a particular movie, and more specifically, if the movie is itself suitable for their children to see. For the more conservative adults in our midst, it may also inform them as to whether not the movie would be appropriate for them to see as well.

The ratings are completely voluntary and are paid for by the filmmakers. Little is known about the rating system, and they’re very secretive about who judges the films. What we’re told is that all the films are judged by a panel of seven adults who are parents and who live in the Los Angeles area. No criteria is given for the various ratings, so no one knows what rating a film will get until it’s been screened by the secret judges. The judges do give notes, however, to the filmmakers concerning any troubling or offensive scenes or material. The filmmakers, if they get a rating more severe than they would like, are welcome to cut the offending scenes, and resubmit the film for review.

This is, of course, censorship, and since the motion picture industry is no longer a few white men running several studios, filmmakers are at their mercy. For instance, it’s a general rule that a PG or PG-13 film can gross more than a rated R film, simply because they can appeal to a larger audience. A rating of NC-17 will surely kill almost any film and is nearly equated to pornography.

There is a lot not to like about the system, but for now most people would prefer to have some system than no system.

Here’s the problem.

Because of the prudish, gun-toting, conservative culture of America, we are far more accepting of violence in our entertainment than we are with sexuality or nudity. A movie where the hero kills men by the dozens might get away with a rating of PG-13 because there is no blood and the violence isn’t deemed gratuitous, but if you flash a woman’s naked breast, even for a few seconds, no matter ungratuitously, you will get an R rating. The message? Killing people is ok. Naked bodies, especially women, are not. This is what we teach our children in America.

We have handed over our culture and ability to parent to seven anonymous individuals in Los Angeles because we can’t be bothered, or don’t know how, to decide for ourselves what is appropriate for our children to watch.

The reality is the ratings have hurt parental consent rather than helped it. You think, “Oh, it’s rated PG. That’s ok.” You’re not going to watch it with them as suggested, but you know it’s not PG-13 or R, so it’s ok. In the past, you might have relied on a reviewer to tell you what the movie was about, who it was appropriate for, etc…

People complain about the violence in a Quentin Tarantino movie because it’s deemed as too realistic and graphic, but are fine with a movie where hoards of men, women and children perish in seconds, because they is no visible blood. It’s like drone strikes. As long as we don’t have to see the suffering, we seem to be quite fine with it.

Death is nothing. Life is cheap. Sex is dirty.

Sex, sexuality, or even just the sight of a naked body, especially the female body however, makes people lose their minds.

Youtube will gladly show you footage of teenagers beating a homeless man, drone strikes on Arabs, school fights, even shootings. But please don’t show any nudity.

Both Facebook and Instagram famously have a strict stance against showing the female nipple for some perverse reason. It’s not even the breast they object to you understand. You can show the entire breast as long as the nipple is obscured. It’s not just absurd. It’s sexist. Women are not equal. They must be covered. They must be protected. Men can’t control themselves. Who does that sound like now? ISIS would be proud.

The land of the free and the home of the brave. What a laugh. We are neither free nor brave. We are gripped with fear and imprisoned by ignorance.

Apparently, we don’t want reality in our violence or our sexuality. We liked it better when we didn’t talk about such things. Forget race. That’s a topic for another day. Let’s just all pretend we’re safe, white and babies come from hospitals.

It’s easier that way.

About the author

David Todd McCarty

David Todd McCarty is a writer, director, photographer and cinematographer. He writes fiction and nonfiction essays as well as journalism. You can see his commercial work at http://www.hoppingfrogstudios.com

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Writer | Journalist | Storyteller


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