The MPAA vs. Gay Sexuality

I’m very upset that the ratings board of the Motion Picture Assocition of America has not issued a clear guideline to rate films with gay sexuality identically to the way they rate films with straight sexuality.   It’s especially appalling given how many gays and lesbians are a part of the industry and how important they are to its […]

I’m very upset that the ratings board of the Motion Picture Assocition of America has not issued a clear guideline to rate films with gay sexuality identically to the way they rate films with straight sexuality.

 

It’s especially appalling given how many gays and lesbians are a part of the industry and how important they are to its success.

 

Right now, the MPAA gives films with gay subject matter more restrictive ratings, most likely because it’s concerned about backlash from conservative America. Much of this concern has to do with the fact that the association is lobbying for its other concerns in Washington, D.C. and it doesn’t want powerful, conservative members of Congress upset.

 

By rating films with gay subject matter more harshly, the MPAA is clearly saying there is something objectionable about gay sexuality. And that’s a clear homophobic message that contributes to the continuing discrimination and violence against gays and lesbians in this country.

 

With state legislators around the country passing same sex marriage statutes around the country, it’s time the MPAA did the right thing and issued guidelines insuring that there rating system is not homophobic. And it’s time that all the other film organizations in this country – the FIND, IFP, DGA, WGA, IDA etc. demand a non-homophobic ratings system.

 

What if the film system rated African-American sexuality more harshly than other races? Perhaps at one time they did, but I don’t think that’s the case now. In doing research for “This Film Is Not Yet Rated,” I actually looked into the issue, and I couldn’t definitively say that there was a racist bias in their ratings.

 

But if it was clear that there was a bias, I think people would be outraged and there would be a call for the removal of that bias. The same should apply for the bias against films with gay sexuality.

 

If people are uncomfortable with gay sexuality,  they don’t have to go to see these films. I see nothing wrong with a descriptor informing viewers that there are scenes of gay sexuality (and straight sexuality, for that matter). But the ratings system itself should not show any bias.

 

I also feel that a studio film is in a much more advantageous position than an independent filmmaker. One of the independent filmmakers I spoke with was so clueless about the system that they thought the appeals process is the rating system.

 

They don’t understand the process, and there is nobody guiding them and showing them how it works.

 

With a studio film, executives and post production supervisors who have been had films go through the ratings process many times coach their filmmakers through the editing (and re-editing) process to get more favorable ratings. That’s why the MPAA has such a sweet deal — for their films, they’re actually in a position to negotiate the ratings system, whereas independent and foreign filmmakers don’t have that access.

 

Executives in the studio system have explained to me how they sit down with a filmmaker and other executives and say, “OK, this is how we’re going to get through the ratings system.”

 

But now that my film has come out, filmmakers who haven’t gone through the process have an idea of what they’re in for. I know many filmmakers have studied my film as preparation for submitting their film for a rating. And several have said they’re going to use the Scorcese strategy of putting much more sex (or violence) in than they intend to use just so they’ll have something to pull out when the ratings board asks for cuts.

 

But isn’t there a better system — one that’s transparent, with objective guidelines, and without bias against against independent films and adult sexuality?

 

Of course there is — let’s put in place.