Saturday, August 21, 2004

Movie and TV ratings - essay

There is much talk these days about rating movies and television programs. The industry suggested a system which many parents and others believe (not surprisingly) to be utterly useless. Suggestions have been made for new systems that would be more precise in delineating the actual content of programs. I feel duty bound to offer my own suggestions.
Let’s start with “A” for atrocious. Although this category could probably easily include at least ninety percent of all television programs I use it here in a more specialized sense, applying it only to movies. Seduced by Evil, Satan’s Bed, The Savage is Loose, would all be candidates for an “A”, and they are but the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.
Of course this is much too simple. Obviously a film can be both atrocious and something else at the same time. We need a system that is more precise. I suggest we be able to combine two or more ratings. For example, let’s take “V” for violent. There are lots of films that are both atrocious and violent simultaneously. They get a rating of “AV”. Although this type of film is virtually ubiquitous these days I should think that Wheels of Fire, The New York Ripper, Thunder Warrior, and Death Ring, are examples of the worst “AV’s”. As there is both violence and gratuitous violence I suggest we delineate the gratuitous variety by a lower case “g”, thus an “AgV” rating.
We mustn’t overlook sex here as this is a serious problem for many parents (and others). As in the case of violence, sex, too, is rampant in today’s films. Thus we have “AVS” films. It’s a prettly good bet that most “V” films will also be “S” films, and quite likely “A” films as well. However, I strive for precision. Some representative “AVS” films: Morturary, Salo: 120 Days of Sodom, Slumber Party Massacre, Forever Lulu, etc. Sex, I remind you, can also be gratuitous. “AgVgS” is a possibility.
Profanity, too, is a problem. Naturally there are many “P” films these days what with the free speech movement, constitutional rights and all that. Many “AVS” films also have “P” but it is easy enough to simply add the “P” if necessary and then you have “AVSP” films. I won’t bother to give examples as they are very easy to find. Profanity, too, can be gratuitous and, indeed, nowadays usually is.
I hope by now you are beginning to appreciate the precision and flexibility of this system. “AgVgSgP” still doesn’t exhaust the possibilities as there are further dimensions of film one might wish to know about. What about “B” for boring, for example. There are certainly lots of boring films these days. Or an “O” for outrageous. “T” for tedious springs to mind as does “R” for ridiculous. The problem arises, however, in that one letter could have multiple uses. “S”, for example, could also be the symbol for stupid. But let’s use “X” for stupid. “A” could also be the symbol for awful. So we need to use “Y” for awful. Thus it is theoretically possible to have an “AgVgSgPOTRXY” film. In fact, if we add a symbol for banal, say “Q” and another for obscene, say, “F” (I remind you that obscenity is not exhausted by sex, violence and profanity) the system becomes even more descriptive and useful.
You will have noticed by now that none of these symbols is positive.. That is probably as it should be when discussing TV and movies these days. However, once in a very great while a picture comes along that is at least passable and even more rarely one that is actually pretty good. Passable shall be denoted by a lower case “p”. Pretty good we’ll call “U” (for unusual). As not all violent films are necessarily terrible it is possible to have a “Vp” or “VU” film. Indeed, I guess it would be possible to have a “AgVgSgPOTRXYQFpU” film.
I realize this is more complicated than a mere “thumbs up” or “R” or “PG”, but it is more precise and should go a long way towards solving this momentous problem. The possibilities for this type of system are endless. Of course the whole problem could be solved by an exceedingly simple system: “H” for hopelessly awful, avoid, which would eliminate perhaps ninety eight percent of today’s movies, and “G” for go and enjoy. This might have some noticeable effect on an industry gone mad with greed and contempt for the public.

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