For my final paper I opt to write about the emergence of the MPAA and it’s head, Jack Valenti’s set of goals to rate American films. This essay explores three films for their contradictions in dealing with sex and violence. The Cooler (2003), Boys Don’t Cry (1999) and John Waters’ A Dirty Shame (2004), all which foreground sex and violence and uses these as realistic and spoof-like tools to comment on a larger and more vast spectrum of issues. I will emphasize that what these films have in common is trouble with the MPAA over content, but that individually these films are quite different from each other in many ways. The films politicize class struggle, gender bias, second chances and commercialization. They are all films that faced scrutiny from the MPAA due to minor and arguably strong content, some veteran filmmakers and others, like Director Kimberly Pierce, who faced sanctions on the brink of her directorial debut. The careers of each filmmaker were different levels of success at the time of the particular film’s release and subsequent trouble with the MPAA. Waters was already a very successful, and controversial, filmmaker, for decades, vs. Pierce who was releasing her first film. There is content within these examples that contradicts what the MPAA raters inflicted onto the film community and baffles the filmmakers, causing severe financial penalties. I will discuss the films and their statements by firstly mapping out an argument of what message the films strive to and succeed dealing with. Next, I will assess the MPAA and its set of codes and their counts to alter in order to achieve compliance to the standard of the rating. I will as lay out research done on the creation of the mysterious group of paid censors, the MPAA. I will finally discuss how these films deeply altered the success for these independent filmmakers and later whether or not ratings affect a film’s box office in today’s digital streaming age.
1) Not in Front of The Children (Journal) by M. Heins
2) THE NAKED TRUTH: WHY HOLLYWOOD DOESN’T MAKE X-RATED MOVIES Article by Kevin Sandler
3) Chick Flicks by B. Ruby Rich (book)
4) Feminist Auteurs: Reading Women’s Films by Geetha Ramanathan (book)
5) This Film is Not Yet Rated Dir. by Kirby Dick (documentary)
6) Censoring the Movie Censors Time Article http://content.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1531249,00.html
7) John Waters: Interviews edited by James Eagen: Jenny Stewart 157-172 Chapter A Dirty Shame
8) www.BrightLightsBigFilm.com/Boys Don’t Cry review Also check NYTIMES film reviews and THE NEW YORKER and SALON.COM
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