MPAA Hangs an 'R' Rating on 'Hating Breitbart'; Why?
Hollywood Reporter's Paul Bond is reporting that "Hating Breitbart," the Andrew Marcus film which was to hit theaters two days from now has been pushed back to October 19 in a dispute over the film's rating.
Marcus has pushed for PG-13, but the MPAA retained its R rating of the film even after the filmmaker deleted all F-bombs except a few delivered by Breitbart himself. So nine days from now, because time is running short, the film will be released with an R rating. Why MPAA is being so inconsistent? I think it would be useful to look at who is in charge of the organization and who runs the day-to-day ratings operation, and will do that after excerpting key paragraphs from Bond's report:
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Andrew Breitbart Documentary Release Delayed Over Rating War With MPAA
"Hating Breitbart," about the media reaction to the late conservative provocateur, was given an R for its harsh language. Director Andrew Marcus submitted an edited version to the MPAA but again was denied a PG-13.
The release of a documentary about deceased new-media provocateur Andrew Breitbart that was to open Friday has been delayed one week because of a rift between the filmmakers and the MPAA, which has rated the film R due to obscene language.
The movie, called Hating Breitbart, is largely about the subject's battles against the mainstream media over the way it allegedly unfairly maligns the Tea Party movement. Clips of Anderson Cooper, Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews, Bill Maher, Janeane Garofalo and others who call conservatives "teabaggers," "racists" and other disparaging terms are used throughout the film.
The movie originally contained several uses of the F-word, which was routinely hurled at Breitbart when he'd show up at liberal gatherings. Breitbart also uses the word a few times in the film. Under current MPAA guidelines, if a film uses "one of the harsher sexually derived words" -- such as the F-word -- more than a certain number of times, it receives an R rating. But the MPAA sometimes has made inconsistent rulings over language.
The MPAA gave Hating Breitbart an R rating last week, much to the dismay of director Andrew Marcus and distributors Rocky Mountain Pictures, who were hoping for a PG-13 rating. Marcus then cut out the offending word nine times but left in some that he deemed important to the integrity of the film. The MPAA still rated the film R.
One of the major disagreements comes near the beginning of the film and also can be seen in the film's online trailer, when Breitbart looks at the camera and says: "What the left has stood for with political correctness is to try and get those with whom they disagree to shut up. … You're gonna call us racist? You're gonna call us potential Timothy McVeighs? F--- you."
"I scrubbed everybody else's use of the word except for four by Andrew, because it's essential to who he was," Marcus tells The Hollywood Reporter. "He was passionate, and he wasn't polished."
Marcus ... stopped short of accusing the MPAA of a political agenda.
Political agenda or not, it's not exactly a secret that some pretty racy and smutty language-filled films get PG-13 ratings these days. Yet there's no sex and I suspect no direct violence in "Hating Breitbart," and it's getting an R. Hmm.
MPAA's Chairman just so happens to be former five-term U.S. Senator, two-time Democratic Party presidential candidate, and sweetheart mortgage loan recipient Christopher Dodd. Imagine that. Breitbart's web sites went after Dodd's Countrywide loan connections even after he left the Senate in early 2011. One would suppose there might be some leftover hard feelings.
Or perhaps it may be that the six members of the MPAA are exerting influence. They are:
- The Walt Disney Studios (The Walt Disney Company)
- Sony Pictures Entertainment (Sony)
- Paramount Pictures (Viacom)
- 20th Century Fox (News Corporation)
- Universal Studios (Comcast)
- Warner Bros. (Time Warner)
Well, Disney's ABC is still blocking the DVD release of "Path to 9/11" because it makes Bill Clinton look bad. I suspect readers can cite other studios' strange allegiance to leftism and Democratic Party protection.
The MPAA's web site says the following about where the ratings come from:
Who decides the ratings?
Parents decide the ratings. An independent board of parents rates each film. Their job is not to determine if a movie is "good" or "bad," but to rate each film as they believe a majority of their fellow parents would rate the film — taking into account sexuality, violence, language and other factors. The purpose of the ratings system is to provide clear, concise advance information to parents about film content so parents can determine what movies are appropriate for their kids while preserving freedom of expression for filmmakers and the film industry. To learn more about the ratings system, please visit www.filmratings.com.
From all appearances, not all of the "parents" on the independent board are currently parents with children under 18 currently living in their households.
In early 2011, Joan Graves, the chairwoman of the MPAA’s Classification and Rating Administration who has been involved with the rating system since 1988, submitted a defense of the current system to the Hollywood Reporter, part of which included the following:
When we assign ratings to films, we do not make qualitative judgments; we are not film critics or censors. We are parents who ask ourselves the same important question during every screening: What would I want to know about this film before I allow my child to see it? The board makes ratings decisions based on the film in its entirety, not by comparison to other films.
Decisions are guided by established criteria for each rating category, which include a few rules that trigger an automatic rating. For instance, any depiction of drug use results in at least a PG-13. The restrictive ratings, R and NC-17, are not a judgment or punishment. The ratings simply convey to parents that, in the case of an R, a film has elements strong enough that parents should learn more about them before taking their children. In the case of an NC-17, the rating is unequivocal: The movie is patently adult. We are not saying adults can’t and shouldn’t see these films.
Wikipedia, without a citation, claims that Graves is a Republican.
There seems to be an undercurrent of concern that independent films, of which Marcus's is one, are more likely to get (perceived) undeserved R and NC-17 ratings. Additionally, only four of the top ten grossing films in the Political Commentary genre, all of which are Michael Moore productions, have an R rating.
At the very least, The R rating for "Hating Breitbart," despite the likelihood that it won't significantly affect the film's box office performance, seems a bit harsh. Why that's the case remains an open question.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.