GLAAD Says MPAA’s R-Rating for ‘3 Generations’ Sends ‘Dangerous Message’ to Transgender Youth

“A parent’s unconditional love for their child is not a story that should be restricted,” writes GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis

Last Updated: April 27, 2017 @ 11:56 AM

In a letter to the Motion Picture Association of America, GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis urged MPAA to reverse its decision to give the transgender coming of age drama “3 Generations” an R-rating.

The rating, said Ellis, “sends a dangerous message to this already marginalized community.”

Directed by Gaby Dellal and distributed by The Weinstein Company, “3 Generations” stars Elle Fanning as a transgender teenage boy named Ray. Naomi Watts plays his mother, and Susan Sarandon plays his grandmother, who is a lesbian. The MPAA rated the film “R” due to language, including sexual references, which The Weinstein Company plans to challenge.

Ellis wrote, “Hollywood desperately needs to share stories of transgender youth that fosters acceptance. A recent study by the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center found that 30 percent of transgender youth reported history of at least one suicide attempt and nearly 42 percent report a history of self-injury. A parent’s unconditional love for their child is not a story that should be restricted. In fact, it is a story that could help parents and young people across this country and around the world.”

About “3 Generations” in particular, she said that the film “will help undo some of the damage Hollywood has caused,” especially because “for over 50 years, transgender characters have been used as fodder in films where they were either psychopathic killers, deviant freaks, or pathetic victims.”

The letter also stated that “a transgender teenager has never been included in a mainstream film, despite dozens of television shows that have depicted stories in one-off episodes or as regular characters.”

“The film does not include graphic violence, drug use, or nudity – it merely portrays a modern family,” Ellis added.

“The Motion Picture Association of America should represent all Americans, including transgender youth. Your decision to designate ‘3 Generations’ as R / Restricted sends a dangerous message to this already marginalized community.”

The Weinstein Company previously enlisted Hollywood lawyer David Boies. Boies has consulted on numerous human rights issues for TWC including the censorship of Oscar-nominated film “Carol,” as well as the previous protest of the MPAA’s rating of the documentary “Bully.” “Bully” initially received an R-rating from the MPAA for similar reasons but eventually brought its rating down to PG-13.

A spokesperson for the MPAA said they had received the letter but details ratings of specific films cannot be discussed unless CARA (Classifications and Ratings Administration) gets written permission.

See the full letter below.

April 18, 2017

Dear Chairman Dodd & Chairman Graves,

As President and CEO of GLAAD, I lead our organization’s work with a range of top-tier entertainment, news, and social media outlets to advocate for fair, accurate and inclusive stories of LGBTQ people and families. For over 30 years, GLAAD has leveraged LGBTQ media images to create acceptance and understanding for our community. As you know, what people see in film, on TV, and in the news plays a huge role in how they vote, who they hire, who they bully on a playground, and how they generally perceive others.

The film industry has a shockingly awful history when it comes to telling the stories of transgender people. For over 50 years, transgender characters have been used as fodder in films where they were either psychopathic killers, deviant freaks, or pathetic victims. In GLAAD’s most recent report on the film industry, we counted just one transgender character in mainstream film in 2016 and that character existed simply to be laughed at and mocked. As television has moved forward with more multi-dimensional portrayals of transgender people in shows like Orange Is the New Black, Transparent, and The Fosters, film lags far behind.

A transgender teenager has never been included in a mainstream film, despite dozens of television shows that have depicted stories in one-off episodes or as regular characters.

The upcoming film 3 Generations, distributed by The Weinstein Co. and starring Elle Fanning, Naomi Watts, and Susan Sarandon, will help undo some of the damage Hollywood has caused. Elle Fanning plays Ray, a teenage boy who is also transgender. The powerful family drama allows audiences to get to know Ray’s mother and grandmother as they advocate for their trans child and grandchild. It’s a touching story about what really makes a family, and one that will not only provide transgender boys like Ray a character they can finally relate to, but parents of transgender youth a look into a family that deals with issues similar to ones they face. All that differentiates the film from other PG-13 films is five instances of strong language. The film does not include graphic violence, drug use, or nudity – it merely portrays a modern family. The Williams Institute at UCLA estimates that there are 150,000 transgender youth between the ages of 13 and 17 in the United States. These are families who deserve to have their story told in a way that’s accessible to those most affected.

The Motion Picture Association of America should represent all Americans, including transgender youth. Your decision to designate 3 Generations as R / Restricted sends a dangerous message to this already marginalized community. TV Parental Guidelines for television series that include regular characters who are transgender young men including The Fosters and Degrassi are TV-14 and TV-PG, respectively.

Hollywood desperately needs to share stories of transgender youth that foster acceptance. A recent study by the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center found that 30 percent of transgender youth report a history of at least one suicide attempt, and nearly 42 percent report a history of self-injury.

A parent’s unconditional love for their child is not a story that should be restricted. In fact, it is a story that could help parents and young people across this country and around the world.

I would welcome the opportunity to speak with you about 3 Generations and transgender images in mainstream film, and GLAAD implores you to reconsider your decision to restrict this important and powerful film.

Best Regards,

Sarah Kate Ellis
President & CEO of GLAAD

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